All posts by Helen Spiers

Who’s who in the Zoo – Adam Taylor

In the this edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series, meet Adam Taylor, Professor in Anatomy at Lancaster University, and lead of the ‘Where are my body organs?‘ project. 

– Helen

 


Adam Taylor Profile - Adam Taylor

Project: ‘Where are my body organs?’

Researcher: Adam Taylor, Professor in Anatomy

Location: Lancaster University, England, UK

 

 

What are your main research interests?

Anatomy, Human Body, Public Engagement, Medical Education

 

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

Dr Quenton Wessels, Senior Lecturer in Anatomy. Professor Peter Diggle, Distinguished Professor of Statistics.

 

How do Zooniverse volunteers contribute to your research? 

We asked volunteers to add numerous structures to the outline of the body, so that we could analyse what they know and use this to inform how we educate medical professionals and design public health campaigns. We asked for some demographic information to help us understand if there are certain things that make individuals more or less knowledgeable about the body.

 

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

The biggest challenge setting up our project was making sure we were getting the best utilisation of volunteers time by asking them to perform tasks that were going to give us the most valuable data set to analyse. It would have been easy to ask vast numbers of things but being selective about the things that would be most useful to everyone involved going forwards. One of the most unexpected challenges was the initial response we got, originally planning for approximately 20,000 responses which we surpassed in the first few hours. This was a welcome unexpected challenge as it meant we had to think about how to much more data we could analyse and utilise in our project.

 

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

At the launch of the project we received global media coverage which helped bolster our participant numbers. We are incredibly grateful for this. We had a number of local radio interviews. We have just begun analysing the data points and demographics, which has given us over 4.5 million data points to look at.

 

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

We are hoping to answer what organs and structures the public know about. This should help us to educate medical and allied health professionals about organs that the public are less aware about, enabling clearer education about the health or pathology of that structure. We will be able to give indication of association of knowledge of structures with demographic information. We also hope to be able to inform public health campaigns around each of the structures in the study and design appropriate materials to help understanding.

 

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

We hope to publish multiple papers and already have multiple ideas for follow-on projects.

 

What are your favourite other citizen research projects and why?

Anything relating to wildlife.

 

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

Get involved as a citizen scientist before creating, it is important to look at it from a participant perspective before designing.

 

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

With family, doing some form of contact sport or something aviation related.

 

 

Top ten tips – writing a great Zooniverse tutorial

How to build a Zooniverse Project

Top ten tips for writing a great Zooniverse tutorial

 

  1. Don’t reinvent the wheel

Before you get started, take some inspiration from the excellent tutorials of these Zooniverse projects:

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/lawildlife/wildlife-of-los-angeles/classify

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/zhcreech/castaway/classify

https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/yli/humbug/classify

 

  1. Introduce your project

On the first step of your tutorial include a sentence or two to welcome volunteers, describe the broad context of your project and its research goals, and give a brief overview of the task.

 

  1. Describe the task

On the following steps, explain how the task should be completed. If there are particularly common challenges associated with task completion, include a step to describe these. Add less common issues to the Field Guide, FAQs and Talk, but make sure to mention any additional resources in the tutorial (note, the last step of your tutorial is a good place to put this information!). If your project has multiple workflows with different tasks, create a different tutorial for each.

 

  1. Include descriptive titles

Add a brief title as a header to each step to succinctly summarize what part of the task is being described. Check out HumBug (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/yli/humbug/classify) and Wildlife of Los Angeles (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/lawildlife/wildlife-of-los-angeles) for good examples of how to use descriptive titles.

 

  1. Short is sweet

A very long and wordy tutorial can make simple tasks appear more complicated than they actually are, which can discourage further participation in your project. Keep both the number of steps and the word count for each step as low as you can, while sufficiently describing the task. Reducing the number of instructions per step can make your tutorial more readable.

 

  1. The power of pictures

Use clear and high quality images to communicate the task (but try to avoid file sizes over 256 kb). Ideally, have one image per step (to avoid the need for lots of scrolling) and keep the formatting of these as consistent as you can (size, resolution etc.).

Clear and simple annotation of tutorial images (inclusion of text, arrows, circles etc.) is a powerful way to communicate complicated tasks, but please ensure your tutorial remains understandable with a screen reader so that your project is accessible to our visually impaired community.

Finally, don’t forget that it’s possible to use videos in tutorials.Take a look at the tutorials of Solar Stormwatch II (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/shannon-/solar-stormwatch-ii/classify) or Milky Way Project (https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/povich/milky-way-project/classify) for examples of how videos can be used.

 

  1. Sparingly embolden

Use bold to draw attention to the key terms or requirements on each step.

 

  1. Assess readability

Your tutorial should be as accessible and understandable as possible. Avoid jargon and use common language conventions. You can assess the readability of your tutorial here https://datayze.com/readability-analyzer.php. We recommend aiming for an 8th grade reading level or below.

 

  1. Proof-read

No one licks a typo.

 

  1. Finally, mind your Ps and Qs

Most importantly, in your final step make sure you thank volunteers for their effort on your project!

 


 

You can read more about Zooniverse tutorial design in this publication from Holly Rosser and Andrea Wiggins.

 

Who’s who in the Zoo – Coleman Krawczyk

In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series, meet Coleman Krawczyk, who helps develop new analysis tools for Zooniverse data

– Helen


Coleman - Coleman Krawczyk

Name: Coleman Krawczyk

Location: University of Portsmouth, UK

 

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team 

I have been with the Zooniverse team for 4.5 years. I started out working as a front-end developer for two years and than switched to creating various data analysis tools used by the project teams.

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

Before joining the Zooniverse I was a graduate student at Drexel University in Philadelphia getting my PhD in astrophysics.

 

What does your typical working day involve?

My typical work day involves researching new methods for analyzing data produced by Zooniverse projects, writing python code, and co-supervising PhD students.

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

A collection of people working together to further our understanding of the world and the universe around us.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

My introduction to the Zooniverse was reading the Galaxy Zoo 2 data release when I was in graduate school. I was so impressed by the project that when I was finishing up my PhD and saw a job opening as a Zooniverse developer I immediately dropped all my other applications and ended up submitting the Zooniverse one a month before the deadline (submitting anything early in astronomy almost never happens).

 

What are your top three citizen science projects? 

The Planetary Response Network – it is amazing to see the community come together to help out others in need.

Galaxy Builder – This project was developed by Tim Lingard (PhD student I am co-supervising) and has produced some amazing data to help us understand how galaxy spiral arms form.

Galaxy Zoo – This project is the reason the Zooniverse exists and paved the way for all the projects that came after it.

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

It is easier than you think to create a project.

 

Where do you hope citizen science and the Zooniverse will be in 10 years time?

In 10 years I expect the Zooniverse and citizen science in general will be more integrated with machine learning allowing even larger data sets to be processed (I’m looking at you Large Synoptic Survey Telescope).

 

Do you have any party tricks or hidden talents?

I am good at working with yarn (crocheting, macrame, latch hook, knitting, etc…)

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Playing video games, playing table top RPGs, reading books

 


 

Coleman is also involved with the Tactile Universe project that is helping to make astronomy more accessible to students with vision impairments.
Check it out here; https://tactileuniverse.org/

 

Who’s who in the Zoo – Brooke Simmons

In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo blog series meet Brooke Simmons, Lecturer in Astrophysics at Lancaster University and Zooniverse team member. 

– Helen


simmons_head_fromwiyn_kpno - Brooke Simmons

Name: Brooke Simmons

Location: Lancaster University

 

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team:

I joined Galaxy Zoo in 2012 and the Zooniverse at more or less the same time. In addition to project-specific roles I wrangle the Analysis Group, which helps project teams with data analysis, and the Transients Group, which is for helping address the specific needs of projects needing results from live or near-live data.

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I joined GZ and the Zooniverse right as I was finishing my PhD in Astronomy. My PhD path was a bit winding as for non-work reasons I ended up taking 4 years’ leave of absence. I call it that now, but really I thought I was leaving academia. I started a tutoring business and one day I realized how much I missed research. I was very fortunate that my PhD supervisor was glad to welcome me back.

 

What does your typical working day involve?

Emailing, meetings, teaching, meeting with students about their research projects or just being a friendly source of advice. I try to fit in some research every day but that doesn’t always work out!

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

The Zooniverse is a platform where anyone and everyone in the world can come together and help solve real research problems that can’t be solved any other way

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

I joined Galaxy Zoo as a classifier on its launch day in 2007.

 

Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable? 

I’m really proud of the Planetary Response Network’s work. For example, in 2017 we were able to quickly survey satellite data in the Caribbean after Hurricanes Irma & Maria and provide island-wide data on road blockages, floods, and structural damage. One of our volunteers discovered a blocked airport runway and we were able to pass that information on even before the first round of classifications was finished. The organization we partnered with on the ground gave us feedback that the work our volunteers & team did *truly* helped save lives. It is amazing to me that we were able to do that.

 

What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?

I love taking code that I’ve written to help with data analysis on one project and using it for something that seems completely different, but is actually the same problem. When we ran our first humanitarian project for the PRN (in Nepal in 2015) I wrote some code to extract classifications and make sense of all those clicks. Later on I adapted that code to help the Pulsar Hunters science team find undiscovered pulsars (rapidly spinning neutron stars) in a Stargazing Live project. And later I adapted that code again to help the Exoplanet Explorers team find new planets around other stars. It just reinforces that so much of science (and beyond) all have at heart the same data problems they need to solve.

 

What are your top three citizen science projects?

I’m directly involved as a team member on more than 3 Zooniverse projects, so I couldn’t possibly pick 3!

If we’re talking about non-Zooniverse projects, though, EyeWire is fun they do a great job of making a very complex 3-dimensional task approachable. And Mark2Cure is doing really important work learning how to cross-reference context and meaning in the overwhelmingly large regime of medical literature, which will hopefully lead to new treatments for diseases.

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

Just jump in! And use Zooniverse Talk; there are great people there willing to help you as you learn the ropes.

 

How can someone who’s never contributed to a citizen science project get started?

If you want to start with something where you collect the data yourself and help work on really local science, try looking on a local museum’s website to see if they have anything interesting going on. If you’re looking for a project you can do during a commute or your lunch break, try the Zooniverse App!

 

Where do you hope citizen science and the Zooniverse will be in 10 years time?

I hope we’ll have handed over a lot of the simpler tasks that our volunteers do now to AI, so that our volunteers can focus on the next level of science. But I also don’t think that in 10 years we’ll fully trust the machines, either. So, separately, I’d like to see at least 100 million people having a citizen science App integrated into their Alexa or Siri or whatever creepy dystopian female-voiced machine will have taken over all our homes by then. You could have a bit of science every day with your morning coffee, to put you in a better mood so that you’re ready to face the day.

 

Is there anything in the Zooniverse pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?

I’m loving watching the mobile app grow, and also the team is doing some cool stuff with museum exhibits and I can’t wait to see how that turns out.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

In a pottery studio somewhere, or cooking comfort food for friends & family.

 

Do you have any party tricks or hidden talents?

I once took out an entire carnival booth because they hadn’t expected someone who actually knew how to throw a softball to come by and try to topple the bottle pyramid. The back wall of the tent just wasn’t ready. (The bottles, mysteriously, barely moved.)

Celebrating citizen science day 2019, PT.2

This coming Saturday 13th April is Citizen Science Day, an ‘annual event to celebrate and promote all things citizen science’. Here at the Zooniverse, one of our team members will be posting each day this week to share with you their favourite Zooniverse projects. Today, we hear from our Biomedical Research Lead, Dr Helen Spiers:

I’m sure I’m not the only person who’d find it hard to pick a favorite Zooniverse project. Since the first Zooniverse project, Galaxy Zoo, was launched way back in 2007, we’ve launched over 150 different projects, so there are an awful lot of fantastic projects to get involved with, from helping to identify manatee calls to transcribing fragments of documents from the middle ages. So rather than trying to pick a single stand-out favorite, as Biomedical Research Lead, I thought I’d highlight a couple of the projects from this domain.

If you’ve ever wondered what a virus looks like we have the project for you! In Science Scribbler: Virus Factory you can join a growing community of volunteers who are helping advance science by identifying virus particles in images of the inside of a cell that has been infected with a virus. The aim of this project, which was launched earlier this year, is to help improve understanding of how viruses hijack their host cell’s internal machinery to create ‘factories’ where they replicate. Not only will this help improve understanding of how we can disrupt this process and better cure viral infections, the efforts of our volunteers in this project will also help researchers improve automated data analysis techniques so we can do more science faster! You can read more about this project here or get started and contribute some classifications here.

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 16.43.06

Images of a virus from Science Scribbler: Virus Factory

Continuing at the subcellular scale, in Zooniverse project Etch A Cell you can colour in for science! In the first edition of this project, a community of 5,546 volunteers have helped researchers based at the Francis Crick Institute in London study subcellular structures by drawing around the cell nucleus (a task known as ‘segmentation’) and their efforts have already produced some fantastic results which you can read more about here. If you’re in London soon, you can visit The Crick and see Etch A Cell featured in a free exhibition, ‘Craft & Graft: Making Science Happen’, running until 30th November 2019. Read more about the project here or start drawing for science here

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 16.37.51A segmented cell nucleus from the Etch A Cell project

Both of these projects, Etch A Cell and Science Scribbler: Virus Factory, can be found on our Project Page along with all other current Zooniverse projects. We typically launch a new citizen science project each week, so chances are you’ll see a different project each time you visit – if you have a spare five minutes this Citizen Science Day why not take a look, and spend a few of your clicks on citizen science; you never know what you may discover!

Screen Shot 2019-04-09 at 16.35.40

Citizen Science Day 2019

To celebrate Citizen Science Day 2019, which is this coming Saturday 13th April, a different member of the Zooniverse team will be posting each day this week to share with you some of our all-time favourite Zooniverse projects. Watch this space!

Who’s who in the Zoo – Will Granger

In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series meet one of our Chicago based developers, Will Granger

– Helen


 

Will - Will Granger

Name: Will Granger

Location: Adler Planetarium, Chicago, IL, USA

 

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team:

I’ve been with the Zooniverse team since Spring 2016 when I started as a Web Developer. Since then, I’ve expanded my roles a bit helping out with mobile development, when needed. Currently, my main project is working on a touch table application for Galaxy Zoo which should be at the Adler Planetarium Summer 2019.

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I’ve led many lives before joining the Zooniverse; however, my main occupation was teaching. I taught in various K – 12 schools in Alabama with non-profits and as a substitute teacher. I also spent a couple years overseas with the Peace Corps teaching at a university in Ukraine. Intermittently, I also spent some time opening a music venue in Alabama and touring in various bands.

 

What does your typical working day involve?

My typical working day involves keeping my eye on several code bases while also trying to develop the touch table application. Usually, I’ll spend part of the day doing maintenance on custom projects and the main Zooniverse page before checking on any mobile updates that need review. After that, I’ll continue building out the touch table, adding new features weekly.

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

The Zooniverse is always expanding.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

The first Zooniverse project I worked on was Astronomy Rewind. My task was to create a sort of astronomical calculator to take coordinates of celestial objects (RA, DEC, etc.) and put those into the World Wide Telescope API to see how images and charts from astronomical journals would appear in space. This was my first task as a web developer, and I was constantly under the impression that every change I made would break the Zooniverse. In the end, my work succeeded and I looked back with satisfaction that I was able to convert once-intimidating Astrometry calculations into code.

 

Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable?

It’s difficult to choose one, but I’d say the discovery of a new exoplanet system during Stargazing Live in 2017 was the most exciting for me. Our team spent the prior month or so preparing for a spike of people visiting the site, and it was rewarding to see our work pay off, especially as the volunteer who made the discovery was interview on the BBC program.

 

What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?

The first Zooniverse Team Meeting I attended was memorable. Our team is more or less separated between Chicago, Minneapolis, and Oxford, and we have the opportunity to meet together once a year. It was nice to meet everyone in person I had been working with since I started at the Zooniverse, especially since we were able to spend time after work hours getting to know each other in Chicago.

 

What are your top three citizen science projects? 

Anti-Slavery Manuscripts: This project is important to me because it was one of the first projects I took a lead on, and we did several new things with the Zooniverse, such as saving classifications in progress to return to later.

Galaxy Zoo: The longest running project on the Zooniverse deserves a mention, and I’m glad to be a part of the transition of this project to a touch table.

Snapshot Serengeti: Any camera trap project deserves a mention here, but it’s exciting to see what animal(s) will show up on an image.

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

Taking a look at several active projects is a good first step. It’s good to have some ideas on how to setup a project if you’re more familiar with the breadth of projects available on the Zooniverse. Next, I’d play around with the project builder, even create a few test projects to make sure you know how those tools can be used. Once your familiar with that, I think a team should be in a good place to start implementing a project.

 

How can someone who’s never contributed to a citizen science project get started?

I’d recommend downloading the Zooniverse app and finding a swipe workflow to work on. These projects are easy to get into an would open the door to other projects we have on the Zooniverse. iNaturalist is also another citizen-science project worth checking out with an app available for download.

 

Where do you hope citizen science and the Zooniverse will be in 10 years time?

I hope we are able to grow in ways beyond our online presence. We have already started doing this with the mobile app and touch table, but I’m curious how this will continue developing in the future as technology advances. I would also like to see the Zooniverse partner with more institutions. We have projects with some Chicago-area museums, but it would be great to see the Zoooniverse in museums around the globe.

 

Is there anything in the Zooniverse pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?

I’m excited to see how the Zooniverse will partner with new telescopes being sent to space. In the next several years, there will be many advancements in data collection for such telescopes, and I think the Zooniverse can help researchers in their data collection.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

I’m often at a show somewhere in Chicago. It’s great to live in such a large city where bands on tour make it a point to play a show. It’s always great to head out and see artists from bucket-list bands to friends coming through.

 

Do you have any party tricks or hidden talents?

I used to speak Russian fluently from living in Ukraine, but my skills are now a bit rusty. Writing people’s names in Cyrillic is always a crowd-pleaser.


 

Who’s who in the Zoo – Syracuse University Zooniverse User Research Group

This week, meet the Syracuse University Zooniverse User Research Group – a team that works across multiple Zooniverse projects to study many aspects of citizen science, including what volunteers learn through participation and what motivates them to contribute. 

– Helen


group - Corey Jackson.png

 

Research Team: Syracuse University’s Zooniverse User Research Group

Location: School of Information Studies, Syracuse University, Syracuse, New York USA

 

What are your main research interests?

Our group studies user behaviors in Zooniverse. Our research is centered on (1) understanding the complex and emergent motivations of volunteers who contribute to Zooniverse projects and (2) investigating how amateurs learn via participation in projects. Our research covers users in Planet Hunters, Higgs Hunters, Asteroid Zoo, Seafloor Explorer, and Gravity Spy.

 

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

Kevin Crowston, Professor

Carsten Osterlund, Associate Professor

Corey Jackson, Ph.D. Candidate

Mabi Harandi, Ph.D. Student

Amruta Bhat, Masters Student

Dhruv Kharwar, Masters Student

Isabella Valentine, Undergraduate Student (REU)

 

Tell us more about the data used in your research

Our data comes from system logs, Talk posts, surveys, focus groups, and interviews.

 

How do Zooniverse volunteers contribute to your research? 

Zooniverse volunteers are extremely valuable to our research and in turn, enhance our ability to suggest features that encourage motivation and support learning.

 

What are the biggest challenges in your research?

One of the biggest challenges is learning more about newcomers and dropouts in the projects. These volunteers are valuable contributors to many citizen science projects. However, because they do not stay with the project for very long, there’s not much opportunity to interact with them. Understanding why they leave and how we can encourage them to stay can help increase contribution to Zooniverse projects.

 

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

We’ve published more than twenty full papers, posters, and other publications based on user research in Zooniverse. You can see the list here (https://citsci.syr.edu/papers).

 

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

Our questions center on motivation and learning. For instance, when newcomers join a project, informative resources such as volunteer-created discussion threads might be hidden across the discussion forums. We’re trying to find methods to apply machine learning techniques to bring these to the fore.

 

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

Currently, we’re collaborating with the Gravity Spy project to design more complex citizen science tasks. For example, in Gravity Spy volunteers come up with their own labels to name phenomenon in the spectrograms they classify.

 

What are your favourite other citizen research projects and why?

We’re most actively involved with Gravity Spy. We’re currently working with LIGO scientists to design advanced citizen science work. We hope this research leads to the inclusion of citizen science tasks covering more phases of the scientific research process.

 

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

One of the most crucial aspects of a successful citizen science projects is engagement by the science team. Answering volunteer question on the discussion boards, organizing Skype meetings, providing feedback and keeping volunteers abreast of progress has been shown to encourage volunteers to remain active.

 


If you’d like to learn more about Syracuse University’s Zooniverse User Research Group check out their publications here (https://citsci.syr.edu/papers).

Who’s who in the Zoo – Grant Miller

In this week’s edition of our Who’s who in the Zoo series meet Grant Miller, communications and projects manager here at the Zooniverse. 

– Helen


13041206_1165455823487713_1298078809440163818_o - Grant Miller

Name: Grant Miller

Location: University of Oxford, UK

 

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team:

I don’t really have a solid job title. Sometimes I say communications lead. Occasionally it’s project manager. At points it has been community manager. I’ve been with the team for over 5 years and my role essentially involves talking to everyone (volunteers, project builders, the development team, and external researchers).

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I completed a PhD at the University of St Andrews in the search for, and characterisation of, exoplanets (planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy).

 

What does your typical working day involve?

Quite a few emails. A lot of working with people to help them build and run their project in the best way possible. Fantastic discussions with the other Zooniverse team members about how we can improve the platform.

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

The Zooniverse breaks down barriers, leading to open research that wouldn’t be possible without the help of millions of volunteers worldwide.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

I was a masters student doing a summer internship when Galaxy Zoo launched. I fell in love with it and did thousands of classifications one week instead of the work I was supposed to be doing.

 

Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable and why?

People all around the world, of all ages, races, genders, and socioeconomic backgrounds will help you with your research if you just ask, and they’ll do it for no more than their desire to see progress.

 

What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?

Earlier this year I was lucky enough to spend 3 weeks on an expedition to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica with the Penguin Watch research team, helping them maintain their cameras and monitor the penguin colonies. That’s hard to beat, but there have been many many other highlights over the last 5 years.

 

What are your top three citizen science projects? 

Plankton Portal (It was the first one I helped launch, and it is awesome. The images of the tiny sea creature are fantastic.)

Snapshot Serengeti (…and all other camera trap projects that followed. It was the original camera trap project on the Zooniverse and my first experience of the amazing and candid shots you could get of wildlife when they don’t think they’re being watched.)

Planet Hunters (it was the first exoplanet project we launched. On it the volunteers showed us just how awesome they could be when allowed to talk to each other. They discovered the first ever planet with 4 stars! I wish I had been smart enough to create a project like this to help with my PhD…)

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

You’re entering a huge collaboration with lots of wonderful volunteers. Treat them with respect and communicate with them as often as you would a professional collaborator. They will reward you with awesome discoveries and unrivaled effort.

 

How can someone who’s never contributed to a citizen science project get started?

Just click ‘Get Started’ on any Zooniverse project. they are designed to minimise the barrier to entry. All of the tasks are pretty easy to do, and most projects come with a short tutorial to help you.

 

Where do you hope citizen science and the Zooniverse will be in 10 years time?

In every household and classroom. But seriously, just more present in people’s thoughts when they consider research methods. We also need to get humans working with machines to go through even larger datasets.

 

Is there anything in the Zooniverse pipeline that you’re particularly excited about?

I’m really excited to see what happens when we get humans and machines working together on the same datasets. This will allow us to do research that isn’t even possible with a large crowd.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Either exploring somewhere I’ve not been before, on the golf course, on the real tennis court, listening to music, watching football (‘mon Scotland!), or in the pub with friends. Preferably all of the above on the same day.

 

Do you have any party tricks or hidden talents?

I play guitar, but never do it in public anymore. I can also name all 50 US state capitals, which is pretty much useless. I’m above average at balancing objects (my record is 4 golf balls, or 5 pint glasses before being asked to leave the pub.)


 

Who’s who in the Zoo – Sarah Allen

In this week’s edition of Who’s who in the Zoo, meet Sarah Allen, a front-end web developer in the Zooniverse team. 

– Helen


SarahAllen - Sarah Allen

Name: Sarah Allen

Location: Adler Planetarium, Chicago

 

 

Tell us about your role within the team:

I’m a front-end web developer and have been with the team for three and a half years. I’ve worked on a variety of projects including Chimp & See, Wildcam Gorongosa, Zooniverse Classrooms’ educational tools, Gravity Spy, and day to day maintenance of zooniverse.org.

 

What did you do in your life before the Zooniverse?

I originally did IT for a couple of medical schools involving Windows server management, Google domain management, application management, and general help desk. I eventually decided to learn to code and went to a code bootcamp when those first started getting popular. Then continued to self-teach as well as freelance before I joined the Zooniverse team.

 

What does your typical working day involve?

Usually first checking slack, email, and the Zooniverse talk board for any bug reports. Then I prioritize code reviews, following up to any pull requests I’ve submitted, then new feature development or learning about something new in the afternoon

 

How would you describe the Zooniverse in one sentence?

We empower researchers and the public to find answers to questions in real data.

 

Tell us about the first Zooniverse project you were involved with

Cyclone Center! My first project was implementing the project redesign and classification challenge.

 

Of all the discoveries made possible by the Zooniverse, which for you has been the most notable and why?

Tabby’s star on Planet Hunters. It’s been one of my go to examples when explaining what it is that we do.

 

What’s been your most memorable Zooniverse experience?

Building and launching Chimp & See. It was a mostly solo project for me and although there was a learning curve and frustrating times with it, I felt very accomplished when it launched. I learned a lot from the process

 

What are your top three citizen science projects? 

Chimp & See, Planet Hunters, and Gravity Spy.

 

What advice would you give to a researcher considering creating a Zooniverse project?

Do lots of prototyping and beta testing with the project builder before you launch so you have a solid idea of the data format going in and what the resulting classification data will look like. Have a timely plan on how to process the data and get that results back to the volunteers.

 

When not at work, where are we most likely to find you?

Seeing live music, dining out, playing video or board games, or cooking at home.