Sadly there don’t seem to be any scientifically valid citizen science projects about ghosts, poltergeists, hobgoblins, or werewolves. There are, however plenty about that Halloween staple – the bat.
Bats get a bum wrap as blood sucking pests. Nothing could further from the truth! Bats are incredibly helpful to us humans because they are natural pollinators and pest controllers, but they are also an indicator species. Indicator species are plants and animals that can be studied to give a snapshot of an ecosystem’s environmental health.
Here are a few ways that you as a citizen scientist can get involved with learning more about these amazing animals.
Bat Detective – Zooniverse’s own bat project. Bat calls are recorded by data collection citizen scientists and then uploaded on to the Bat Detective website. Zooniverse volunteers classify the calls to give scientists a better idea about the distribution of these animals in Europe.
Alaska Bat Monitoring Program – Did you know that Alaska is home to five species of bats? If you live in Alaska you can help the Alaska Department of Fish and Game collect learn more by making and sending in your observations of bats!
iBats (Indicator Bats Program) – This international effort recruits volunteers to record bat calls all around the world. iBats is collaboration between the Zoological Society of London and the Bat Conservation Trust.
Know of other bat-related citizen science projects? Please share them as a comment below!
Back in August I wrote about our search for someone we were calling a ‘community builder,’ which I said was ‘the most important job in the Zooniverse.’ The position was created because of the rapid expansion of the project, and the plans we have for the next year or two, which will mean we may be able to create hundreds or thousands of new projects. If the Zooniverse isn’t constrained by the slow process of project-by-project development, then we need to rethink how we choose what is hosted on our platform, what gets promoted—and how we talk about such things. We need, in fact, to try and build a broader Zooniverse community, capable of taking the choice of projects out of our hands. At the same time, we want the tools we use to engage with this community to let everyone have a say, from new classifiers on a single project to those who roam freely across all of our Talk discussion boards.
As many of you will have already discovered, we’ve found someone we can help us with this process — Darren McRoy. Darren is a 2010 graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. He has worked as a reporter and editor and is an experienced writer and communicator with a strong focus on developing online communities and strategic digital content. One of his first projects will be gathering and compiling the feedback that will inform the upcoming rebuild of the Talk discussion system. He will be a regular presence on the forums, responding to users’ comments and concerns and seeking opportunities to spur additional conversation. He will also be contributing some written content for Zooniverse projects, blogs, websites, etc. when needed, and giving feedback to the development team.
You should see quite a lot of Darren, and we’d like to encourage you to talk to him if you have any questions, comments, concerns, or other feedback about the Zooniverse community. In particular, right now he is seeking feedback about how Talk can be improved to better serve both the science goals and the growing community of contributors and volunteers.
Darren can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or DZM on Talk. Please feel free to contact him — he is looking forward to working with all of you!
The Zooniverse is the subject of a new artwork co-commissioned by the Open Data Institute (ODI) and The Space (a website for artists and audiences around the world to create and explore digital art). We Need Us is a ‘living’ dynamic artwork, powered by your activity on the Zooniverse, driven by the thriving mass of participation across various Zooniverse sites. You can learn more about it at www.thespace.org/weneedus
We Need Us has been created by artist Julie Freeman. She takes anonymised information from your clicks, counting the number of volunteers active on various Zooniverse projects, and classifications that you all create, every minute. She stores this in a new database as sets of values, while also recording the frequency of activity over an hour, a day, and a month. These sets of values create rhythms that are translated into moving shapes, and play different sounds.
The result is a set of living artworks – one for each of 10 Zooniverse projects – and more are on the way! The live data ensures constant change to the visual and sonic composition. The sounds are processed and manipulated just like the data.
While many researchers have tried to analyse and understand the Zooniverse, We Need Us will be the first time someone has tackled the idea from the perspective of art. The Zooniverse community is an engine of discovery and a force unlike any other. We Need Us highlights its rhythms and patterns, showing how diverse and vibrant Zooniverse citizen scientists really are.
You can run the artwork in your web browser by visiting http://www.weneedus.org