Celebrating Earth Day

Zooniverse team members based at Chicago’s Adler Planetarium celebrated Earth Day this weekend at Earthfest, a two-day-long celebration of the planet we call home.

Visitors to the Adler Planetarium participate in a Zooniverse hands-on activity during Earthfest
Visitors to the Adler Planetarium participate in a Zooniverse hands-on activity during Earthfest

In addition to many activities for all ages throughout the museum, museum visitors were able to speak with Zooniverse team members to learn about the many earth-related projects available online and on the app. Visitors could also participate in a real-life version of Floating Forests, in which they used tracing paper to illustrate areas of kelp forests on a satellite image. The activity demonstrated how Zooniverse researchers use aggregation to combine many classifications into one very accurate result. Stay tuned for the results of those tracings, coming soon!

Check out a few more photos from the event here.

Zooniverse team members also had some help from our friends at the Field Museum, who stopped by to talk about Microplants, a Zooniverse project studying some of the earliest land plants in the liverwort genus Frullania.

We love speaking with museum visitors and sharing the excitement of participating in real citizen science projects. If you’re in the Chicago area and missed us last weekend, keep an eye out for more information about the Adler Planetarium’s spring Members’ Night, when we’ll have even more fun Zooniverse-related activities for you!


In this week’s edition of Who’s who in the Zoo Meg Schwamb tells us more about the Planet Four: Terrains project.

– Helen


IMG_9047_1 - Meg Schwamb

Project: Planet Four: Terrains

Researcher: Meg Schwamb, Assistant Scientist

Location: Gemini Observatory, Hilo, Hawaii


What are your main research interests?

I study how planets and their building blocks form and evolve, applying ground-based surveys to probe our Solar System’s small body reservoirs and citizen science to mine large datasets for Solar System science.


Who else is in your project team? What are their roles?

Candy Hansen (PSI) is the PI of the project, K-Michael Aye (LASP) & Anya Portyankina (LASP) are also members of the science team.


Tell us more about the data used in your project

The images reviewed on Planet Four: Terrains come from the Context Camera (CTX) aboard Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The Context Camera takes black and white wide view images (~30 km x ~60 km with ~6 m/pixel resolution) of the Martian surface that we cut into smaller chunks reviewed on the site.


How do Zooniverse volunteers contribute to your research? 

We ask volunteers to review the CTX subimages of the South Polar region of Mars and identify whether they see specific features: (1) araneiforms (including features with a central pit and radiating channels known as ‘spiders’) carved by carbon dioxide jets; (2) erosional depressions, troughs, mesas, ridges, and quasi-circular pits characteristic of the South Polar Residual Cap (SPRC) which we collectively refer to as ‘Swiss cheese terrain’, and (3) craters.


What have been the biggest challenges in setting up your project?

Figuring out the format and contents of the classification exports.


What discoveries, and other outputs, has your project led to so far?

Our first paper was accepted last year to a journal. Planet Four: Terrains has identified new regions of carbon dioxide jet activity including areas with jet carved channels (spiders/araneiforms) on geologic units previously thought to be resistant to the process (locations the spiders/araneiforms weren’t expected to be). More details here (http://blog.planetfour.org/2017/08/29/planet-four-terrains-first-science-paper-accepted-for-publication/).


Once you’ve finished collecting data, what research questions do you hope to be able to answer?

What is the distribution of aranaeiforms (spiders) over the South Polar regions? Why do we find araneiforms (spiders) in specific locations outside of the South Polar Layered Deposits?


What’s in store for your project in the future?

Expanding to a larger search area and exploring areas further from the South Pole of Mars to see how far North spiders may exist.


What are your favourite other citizen research projects and why?

I’m currently involved in several Zooniverse projects, so I think they are all my favorites: Planet Four, Planet Four: Ridges, and Comet Hunters.


What guidance would you give to other researchers considering creating a citizen research project?

Be cognizant that combining the multiple volunteer classifications together is likely very different from what you’ve done in the past for data analysis. Also, treat your project volunteers’ as your collaborators.


And finally, when not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Baking and watching soccer (hoping the Chicago Fire make the playoffs).


For more information, check out the Planet Four Blog Post.