All posts by The Zooniverse

Online citizen science projects. The Zooniverse is doing real science online,.

What is Penguin Watch 2.0?

We’re getting through the first round of Penguin Watch data- it’s amazing and it’s doing the job we wanted, which is to revolutionise the collection and processing of penguin data from the Southern Ocean – to disentangle the threats of climate change, fishing and direct human disturbance. The data are clearly excellent, but we’re now trying to automate processing them so that results can more rapidly influence policy.

In “PenguinWatch 2.0”, people will be able to see the results of their online efforts to monitor and conserve Antarctica’s penguins colonies. The more alert among you will notice that it’s not fully there yet, but we’re working on it!

We have loads of ideas on how to integrate this with the penguinwatch.org experience so that people are more engaged, learn more and realise what they are contributing to!

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For now, we’re doing this the old-fashioned way; anyone such as schools who want to be more engaged, can contact us (tom.hart@zoo.ox.ac.uk) and we’ll task you with a specific colony and feedback on that.

Primary School Zooniverse Volunteers

Recently my class of 8-9 year old kids from ZŠ Brno, Jihomoravské náměstí (a primary school in the Czech Republic) took part in several Zooniverse projects.

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First, they were just talking about their dreams – what they would like to achieve in life. Mostly, they wanted to become a sports star or music celebrity, but some actually considered becoming a scientist!

Then they were introduced to the Zooniverse and citizen science. Fascinated by the idea than they can actually contribute to real science (so someone’s dream can come true), they dived into the list of projects on the Zooniverse website. All the cover images and project names were really attractive to them, sadly, only two projects are available in Czech. Anyway, the first project they started – Snapshots at Sea – was in English only. This project focusing on marine animals, especially cetaceans, is very simple though. The only task is to say whether there are any animals present in the picture. They learned the English question very quickly and classified over 200 images on their own. They asked various questions about those fascinating animals and looked hungry for more answers. Initially, they didn’t want to stop classifying, but when they heard the name of the following project to try – Penguin Watch, they were totally into it!

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This project, available in Czech, shows wintery images of remote locations in Antarctica, usually crowded with nesting penguins. The tasks here are to mark adult penguins, chicks, or their eggs, and any predators, if present. They took turns marking, trying to mark at least 30 penguins as quickly as possible so they could see another image. They couldn’t wait to find an egg. And after only 9 images they succeeded!

They were curious about Antarctica, as well as about penguins. They wondered, why it is so cold there, and how are long polar days and nights likely to happen. Answering their last question would have been a great step to lead into trying a space project, as many of them are available on Zooniverse. But, they decided to try another wildlife project, Chimp & See, a project monitoring wild animals in Africa, especially chimpanzees and their behaviour. This project wasn’t as easy for them, as they were asked to identify unfamiliar animals in short video clips (they had to learn their names in English during classification) and then to describe their behaviour using a list of options. Surprisingly, they didn’t mind the language barrier much. After a short while, all of them were standing in front of the screen and everyone wanted to touch it! They seemed to be totally hooked.

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The researchers from Chimp&See were so kind to offer them the chance to choose a name for a currently unidentified juvenile chimp, captured on 4 different video sequences! The kids were really excited by such an opportunity and suggested a lot of names to choose from. They were voting in the end and all agreed on a single name – Kibu!

When the lesson ended, many of them asked to create their own accounts, so they could participate on their own from home. Next time, we are going to try Plankton Portal and Floating Forests.

Zooniverse projects are really a great opportunity for kids to learn about nature, they bring them to the real science, and not to forget, they are great fun!

 

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By Zuzana Macháčková, a primary school teacher in Brno and Zooniverse volunteer.

Darren (DZM) New Horizons

Dear Zooniverse community,

I have some news to break to everyone. I’ve accepted a new position at a different company, and while it’s an extremely exciting opportunity for me, it does mean that I have to step away from the Community Builder role here.

This is a bittersweet announcement for me, because as exciting as my new job is for my career, I’ve truly loved my time at the Zooniverse, helping to grow this community and our platform and getting to know so many incredible volunteers, researchers, and staff.

However, I do want to emphasize that this is definitely not goodbye! I couldn’t possibly leave completely—there are so many projects here that I enjoy doing as much as you guys do, and so many exciting developments in the pipeline that I want to see pan out. I’m not going anywhere; instead, I’m becoming one of you: a Zooniverse volunteer. I won’t be your liaison anymore, or a source for reporting your needs, but I’ll continue to be your colleague in people-powered research.

The Zooniverse is growing and changing at an incredible rate right now, and has been for much of my time here over the past 14 months. Overall, I’m blown away by what you’ve all helped us to accomplish. Projects are being launched and completed quickly, and our new research teams are more attuned to volunteers’ needs than ever before. I’ve long believed that the launch of the Project Builder would begin a process of exponentially expanding the scope of the Zoo, and we are definitely beginning to see that happening. I can’t wait to find out, along with the rest of you, what the next chapter of this story has in store for us all.

Thank you all for everything, and I’ll be seeing you all around!

Yours in people-powered research,

Darren “DZM” McRoy

Special note from the ZooTeam — Thank you Darren for all your hard work over the years! We’re so excited for you and this new opportunity. And we very much look forward to continuing to build and strengthen the relationships between our volunteers, research teams, and the Zooniverse team. Thank you all for your contributions! Onward and upward.

Lost Classifications

We’re sorry to let you know that at 16:29 BST on Wednesday last week we made a change to the Panoptes code which had the unexpected result that it failed to record classifications on six of our newest projects; Season Spotter, Wildebeest Watch, Planet Four: Terrains, Whales as Individuals, Galaxy Zoo: Bar Lengths, and Fossil Finder. It was checked by two members of the team – unfortunately, neither of them caught the fact that it failed to post classifications back. When we did eventually catch it, we fixed it within 10 minutes. Things were back to normal by 20:13 BST on Thursday, though by that time each project had lost a day’s worth of classifications.

To prevent something like this happening in the future we are implementing new code that will monitor the incoming classifications from all projects and send us an alert if any of them go unusually quiet. We will also be putting in even more code checks that will catch any issues like this right away.

It is so important to all of us at the Zooniverse that we never waste the time of any of our volunteers, and that all of your clicks contribute towards the research goals of the project. If you were one of the people whose contributions were lost we would like to say how very sorry we are, and hope that you can forgive us for making this terrible mistake. We promise to do everything we can to make sure that nothing like this happens again, and we thank you for your continued support of the Zooniverse.

Sincerely,

The Zooniverse Team

One line at a time: A new approach to transcription and art history

Today, we launch AnnoTate, an art history and transcription project made in partnership with Tate museums and archives. AnnoTate was built with the average time-pressed user in mind, by which I mean the person who does not necessarily have five or ten minutes to spare, but maybe thirty or sixty seconds.

AnnoTate takes a novel approach to crowdsourced text transcription. The task you are invited to do is not a page, not sentences, but individual lines. If the kettle boils, the dog starts yowling or the children are screaming, you can contribute your one line and then go attend to life.

The new transcription system is powered by an algorithm that will show when lines are complete, so that people don’t replicate effort unnecessarily. As in other Zooniverse projects, each task (in this case, a line) is done by several people, so you’re not solely responsible for a line, and it’s ok if your lines aren’t perfect.

Of course, if you want trace the progression of an artist’s life and work through their letters, sketchbooks, journals, diaries and other personal papers, you can transcribe whole pages and documents in sequence. Biographies of the artists are also available, and there will be experts on Talk to answer questions.

Every transcription gets us closer to the goal of making these precious documents word searchable for scholars and art enthusiasts around the world. Help us understand the making of twentieth-century British art!

Get involved now at anno.tate.org.uk

Happy Halloween! Going Batty for Citizen Science

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!

 

Penguin Watch: Top images so far

Yesterday we launched our latest project: Penguin Watch. It is already proving to be one of the most popular projects we run, with over one hundred thousand classifications in the first day! The data come from 50 cameras focussed on the nesting areas of penguin colonies around the Southern Ocean. Volunteers are asked to tag adult penguins, chicks, and eggs.

Here are my favourite images uncovered by our volunteers so far: (click on an image to see what people are saying about it on Penguin Watch Talk)

1st Rule of Penguin Watch - You don't have to count them all. But I dare you to!
1st Rule of Penguin Watch – You don’t have to count them all. But I dare you to!

 

Living on the edge
Living on the edge
Penguins aren't always only black and white...
Penguins are always only black and white…
I think they want in!
I think they want in!
Spot the tourists
Spot the tourists
We're saved!
We’re saved!
Coming back from a refreshing afternoon swim
Coming back from a refreshing afternoon swim

 

See what amazing pictures you can find right now at www.penguinwatch.org

ZooCon Portsmouth this weekend – remote participation invited!

We’re getting excited in Portsmouth to be welcoming some Zooites to the first ever “ZooCon Portsmouth”, which is happening this Saturday 13th September 2014 (An updated schedule is available on the Eventbrite page for the event).

The theme of this event is a Wiki-a-thon for Citizen Science – we have scheduled a working afternoon and improve the coverage of citizen science on Wikipedia. Mike Peel, Expert Wikimedian and astronomer from the University of Manchester will be joining us to lead this part of the event and get us all up to speed with how editing works.

We invite remote participation of the wiki-a-thon via this discussion thread on Galaxy Zoo Talk, or on Twitter with the hashtag #ZooConPort, and we also plan to livestream the morning talks via Google+.

In person attendees will have a treat in the afternoon – we’re all excited to have Chris Lintott narrate planetarium shows in the Portsmouth Inflatable Astrodome. And we plan to end the day with fish and chips at a pub by the sea. Keep your fingers crossed for nice weather.

Voyage to Teaching in the Zooniverse – A Teacher Workshop in Chicago

Today’s post comes from Kate Meredith. Kate is a former middle school and high school teacher who considers herself a virtual person in the Sloan Digital Sky Survey database.  She has been involved with pilot testing, writing and training teachers to use the database for the past twelve years.  Kate will be facilitating this teacher workshop at the Adler Planetarium in Chicago on October 11th. 

In the past ten years there has been an explosion of internet-based citizen science research in astronomy. Hundreds of thousands of people have contributed to scientific research through Zooniverse projects.  Participants in Galaxy Zoo, Sunspotter, Planet Hunters and more have been so active that educators and scientists needed to develop new ways for participants to explore beyond the focus of any one project.  The result is a whole host of new web-based tools designed to assist citizen scientists in exploring vast quantities of astronomical data on their own.

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey (SDSS) has been part of the Zooniverse since the beginning, contributing millions of images in four separate projects. The SDSS itself has been providing web-based tools, activities and resources to educators through the SkyServer website since 2004.  Check-out this video for more information about SDSS education resources.

About the Workshop:

On Saturday, October 11, 2014 the Adler Planetarium in Chicago will host a free all-day workshop giving an in-depth look at a new SkyServer education website, Voyages, Zooniverse web tools and the ZooTeach lesson and resource repository.

Workshop highlights will include

  • Introduction to the Sloan Digital Sky Survey
  • A brief history of the Zooniverse
  • The Voyages website and the NGSS
  • Database Basics with SkyServer – Find Your Special Place in the Database
  • Galaxy Shape in the Galaxy Zoo – Navigator Tool in the Classroom
  • Scaffolded Research Experiences for Lab Settings
  • ZooTools
  • Resources Abound – Voyages Preflight, Help Documents and Zoo Teach

This free workshop for Chicagoland educators is appropriate for 9th-12th grade teachers or middle school teachers who work with advance students. Participants are asked to bring a laptop or tablet in order to fully participate in activities. Lunch will be on your own, so please bring a bagged lunch or plan to purchase in the Adler’s cafe. The first five participants that sign up for this workshop will receive a coupon for a Saturday Tour at Yerkes Observatory in Williams Bay, Wisconsin where they can pick up one of the large SDSS telescope plates that you will learn about at the workshop.

 

For more information or to register please visit http://www.adlerplanetarium.org/events/voyage-to-teaching-in-the-zooniverse-a-workshop-for-teachers

Questions? Email education@zooniverse.org

 

Teens Designing Zooniverse-Themed Programs for Their Peer at the Adler Planetarium

This summer high school juniors and seniors from the IIT Boeing Scholars Academy program joined Zooniverse educators at the Adler Planetarium for six days of program prototyping. The IIT Boeing Scholars Academy seeks to inspire high-achieving Chicago-area teens to lead and serve through STEM with an emphasis on pursuing higher education. One component of the summer portion of the program is to embark on a Service Through STEM project during which the scholars coordinate with Chicagoland organizations on projects benefitting the organization. That’s where the Zooniverse team based at the Adler Planetarium comes in.

The Problem:

It probably doesn’t come as a complete shock that the dedicated corps of Zooniverse volunteers is not largely comprised of teens. That’s something we’d like to change. What better way to figure out how to better get more teens involved in Zooniverse projects than by going straight to the source? Sixteen IIT Boeing Scholars worked with Zooniverse and Adler educators on strategies to engage more teens in Zooniverse citizen science projects at the Adler Planetarium.

The Goal:

In order to develop ideas of how to better engage young people in Zooniverse citizen science projects, the sixteen IIT Boeing Scholars stepped into the role of informal science educator to develop a series of museum programs to potentially implement at the Adler Planetarium based around Zooniverse projects.

Museum Program Development:

A huge component of any informal museum educator’s job is to develop programming. Programs come in an endless array of formats – perhaps a five-minute science demonstration, a series of workshops for teens, or an interactive activity within a museum exhibit. As the saying goes there’s more than one way to skin a cat, and that’s certainly true of program development. No matter which model of program development you follow, there is a set of common considerations to be made including

  1. Who is this program for?
  2. What is the content of this program?
  3. What is the best format or program model to use?
  4. What should the audience take away?

 

Answers to these questions formed the skeleton around which the programs would be built.

Who is this program for?

This was the easiest question for the IIT Being scholars to answer. Since we’re looking for ways to engage teens in Zooniverse projects, the audience for the scholars’ programs was their high-school aged peers.

What is the content of this program?

The content for the programs being designed by the scholars was limited to the science content behind active Zooniverse projects. While a constraint, with over 20 active Zooniverse projects the list needed to be considerably narrowed down. The teens began assessing Zooniverse projects to determine which would be of the most interest to their peers. After careful review they selected Radio Galaxy Zoo, Condor Watch, Cyclone Center, and Planet Hunters as the projects that would be most engaging to teens. The science case behind each of these projects would be used as the meat and potatoes behind the programs the scholars designed. 

What is the best format or program model to use?

There are endless possible formats for an informal science program at a museum. In order to explore the options the IIT Boeing Scholars spent time exploring different museum programming models at the Adler. The participated in a 45-minute field trip workshop designed for 7th-12 graders, watched science demonstrations facilitated in Adler’s exhibits, explored museum exhibitions, and watched a planetarium skyshow. After this exploration the group created a menu of museum program models and defined them so that we could develop a shared vocabulary of what program models they would be working with.

  • Structured Workshop – a longer facilitated hands-on program with a set start and finish time
  • Unstructured Workshop –a longer hands-on facilitated program where museum guests can come and go as they like
  • Demonstration – a short facilitated program on the museum floor
  • Exhibit – one small piece of an exhibition that (e.g. a model and accompanying text panel about Saturn)
  • Exhibition – a collection of exhibits that group together around a central theme (e.g. Our Solar System)
  • Planetarium Skyshow – a presentation including images, music, and narration presented in one of the museum theatres

What is the goal of this program?

Some informal science educators would call them learning goals; others might call them program objectives. Whatever they’re name, program developers should identify what they want their audience to take away from a program. These may be experiential goals like “Have fun” or more content driven goals like “ Program participants will be able identify lead poisoning as a threat to the endangered California condor population.”   The IIT Boing Scholars aimed to incorporate at least one experiential goal and one content goal in their programs.

The Programs:

Once they were able to answer the questions above, the scholars were ready to put some meat on skeleton the questions provided. The scholars broke into four small groups with each group working together to write a rough draft of a program outline that could be used by a person unfamiliar with their ideas to facilitate the program. Here are the program ideas they came up with…

Program Name: Save the Condors

Featured Zooniverse Project: Condor Watch

Program Model: Demonstration

Description: This 10 minute floor demonstration was designed to bring awareness to the problem of lead poisoning within the critically endangered California condor population and publicize how members of the public can assist scientists in their continuing efforts to save this species. The demonstration starts off with a video placing the viewer in the shoes of a condor suffering the effects of lead poisoning. Next the facilitator shows a hands-on activity showing how lead spreads throughout the condor’s body when it ingests a lead bullet embedded within the carcass on which it was feeding. The demonstrations ends by introducing Condor Watch as means to help research scientists better understand how to detect early warning signs of lead poisoning.

 

Program Name: Inside a Cyclone

Featured Zooniverse Project: Radio Galaxy Zoo

Program Model: Planetarium Skyshow & Demonstration

Description: This group created a storyboard and script for a short skyshow. Unfortunately time did not allow for the development of a prototype that could be projected in one of the museum theatres. This program delved into the science behind tropical cyclones, also called hurricanes or typhoons. It introduced the mechanics of how these storms work, safety precautions that should be taken in the event of such a storm, and the drastic impacts these weather events can have on people and property. Cyclone Center was introduced as a way for people interested in meteorology to participate in the important research behind tropical cyclones.

 

Program Name: Are We Alone?

Featured Zooniverse Project: Planet Hunters

Program Model: Demonstration

Description: This 5-10 minute floor demonstration was designed to take place on a small stage on the museum floor. Using the Drake Equation, the facilitator engages audience members in a conversation about the possibility of alien life in our galaxy. The program ends with an invitation to actively participate in the search for habitable worlds through Zooniverse’s Planet Hunters project.

 

Program Name: The Mystery of the Universe: Black Holes

Featured Zooniverse Project: Radio Galaxy Zoo

Program Model: Structured Workshop

 

Description:

This 30 minute workshop was designed to introduce teens to perhaps the most asked about of space phenomena – black holes. Through a video, hand-on demonstrations, and a small group activity the facilitator guides program participants through. Radio Galaxy Zoo is presented as a way for teens to continue their exploration by helping scientists locate supermassive black holes.

 

We really enjoyed working with these bright and motivated young people!