Zooniverse job at the University of Portsmouth

As part of the increased involvement in the Zooniverse at the University of Portsmouth, we are offering a two-year research position to work closely with the main Zooinverse development team and help foster local Zooniverse projects within Portsmouth and beyond. This new position is part of the official buy-in of Portsmouth into the Citizen Science Alliance and builds on past and present Zooniverse interest at the university. For example, researchers at the Institute of Cosmology and Gravitation were involved in getting the original Zooniverse project Galaxy Zoo off the ground in 2007, and they have also explored the subsequent data-set from this ground-breaking citizen science project. ICG researchers such as Karen Masters, Bob Nichol and Tom Melvin remain heavily involved in Zooniverse projects related to Galaxy Zoo. Also at Portsmouth, Joe Cox is PI of a funded EPSRC project entitled VOLCROWE, looking at the economics of online volunteering with particular interest in crowd-sourcing and crowd-funding. This project plans to study the motivations of citizen scientists and explore ways to optimise the breadth and depth of user involvement. The new developer would join this diverse team and help build a growing interest in all things Zooniverse at the University of Portsmouth and beyond.

Details of the job, including how to apply, can be found at http://www.icg.port.ac.uk/2014/04/senior-research-associate-zooniverse/

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My Path to Informal Science Education

It seems as though how one gets into informal science education is different for everyone. I’m going to share my experience of how I became an educator with Zooniverse at Adler Planetarium. I feel very lucky to be in my current position, and there was a lot of researching and networking involved in getting to this point.

My background is in Astronomy and Space Physics. I went to University of Kansas for my undergraduate career and earned Bachelors of Science degrees in Astronomy and Physics with a research certificate. During this time, I was engaged in outreach opportunities and practice presentations through departmental organizations and internships. We were asked to present our research for a variety of audiences, including professionals, school children, and the public. My advisors had taught me that it was part of the job of being a researcher to be able to communicate my work to anyone.

I went on to graduate school at University of Michigan for Space Physics. My graduate advisor was quite supportive of us participating in education and outreach, but I quickly learned that this is not the case with all advisors. After spending three years in a science program geared toward becoming a researcher, I changed my academic goals. I wanted to work primarily on informal science education.

I had been so focused on conducting research for the past six years of my life that I was not sure how I make such a jump to another path. I started by looking for volunteer opportunities and working on my graduate advisor’s NASA Education and Public Outreach (EPO) grant. I also asked everyone I met at museums and through NASA EPO about how they got into their informal education positions.

Some of the career paths I heard from informal educators involved graduate programs in education or museum studies, participation in teacher training programs, and employment or volunteering throughout high school and college at informal education institutions. I did a search for programs (programs I found are included below), but I ended up finding out that there was a graduate certificate program at Michigan that could be completed in one year. Within two months I had found the program, applied, met with the director, and was accepted for the following year’s program. No one from my department had been involved in this program and as it turned out very few science or engineering students ever had. I felt very lucky with how things worked out.

The Museum Studies Program at University of Michigan seems quite thorough for a program that can be completed in one year. The program includes museum seminar courses covering all aspects of museums, several museum visits to experience different types of museums, elective courses involving the museum area of your interest, and a practicum or museum internship. The practicum is where your networking skills really come in handy and was how I found an internship at Adler Planetarium. I interned in the citizen science department where I now work, and some of my fellow museum studies students also found work at the institutions they interned at. Most museum internships are unpaid, but the museum studies program at University of Michigan tries to help people out with funding during their practicum. Volunteering can also give you experience though, since some volunteers work on a particular project in an area that interests them.

From my experience thus far, I recommend a few things. First, volunteer, even if you only have 3 hours a week to help out. It shows that you are interested in being a part of that field and gives you experience. I also recommend taking advantage of as many opportunities as possible to learn more about informal education, because it happens in many places that you would not always suspect. Finally, make sure you get out there and network. It could be through workshops, volunteering, or even online sites such as LinkedIn. Meet other people in informal education to hear about the path of their career and to gain a connection with other institutions and people in the field.

Museum Studies Programs

Museum Education Programs

Informal or Science Education Programs

There is a group of informal educators at Northwestern University that have been putting together resources like this, you can find these resources at: https://sites.google.com/site/stembridgenetwork/home

Helping the California Condor with ‘Condor Watch’

Today we’re launching a new, and hugely important Zooniverse project: Condor Watch. The are only around 200 California Condors living in the wild and they are in serious danger from lead poisoning, which they get by eating carcasses shot with lead bullets. Getting a better idea of how they interact and socialise is crucial to ongoing conservation efforts.

avatar_condors

Using camera traps, ecologists in the US have been observing them in the wild. However the sheer volume of images is now overwhelming. Starting today we need your help to look through the first set of data: 264,000 images of condors eating, socialising, and nesting. Ecologists need everyone’s help to identify the individual birds from their numbered tags. Your efforts on this project will help preserve an endangered species – and we think that’s really special.

Try it now at www.condorwatch.org

The Heartbleed Bug and the Zooniverse

On Monday Internet security researches discovered a critical vulnerability in a piece of of software called OpenSSL. The so-called Heartbleed vulnerability affected numerous sites on the Internet that rely on OpenSSL to provide encrypted connections over HTTPS. This bug has been present in the library since March of 2012 and allows malicious users to gain direct access to the memory of a server terminating an HTTPS connection.

We want to let our users know that we were among almost 66% of sites on the Internet vulnerable to this bug, and your data (including your Zooniverse password) might have been compromised due to this exploit. As of now, all our infrastructure has been updated to secure against the Heartbleed vulnerability, and our SSL certificates have been changed.

Unfortunately given the nature of the vulnerability we cannot know what, if anything, may have been obtained, but as a precaution we are recommending that our users change their passwords on the Zooniverse just in case.