Tag Archives: Featured

Zooniverse Remote / Online Learning resources

As schools, workplaces, public spaces, and institutions across the globe close in response to COVID-19, we are aware that, for many people, online platforms like Zooniverse can function as a way to continue to have an impact and remain engaged with the world. 

We cannot thank you enough for participating in Zooniverse and creating a welcoming and supportive space for all. 

Below is a list of resources educators have used in classrooms that also work well remotely/online. Key to keep in mind is that Zooniverse projects are a great way to expose learners to new opportunities and ways of engaging in real research. These resources are meant to spark curiosity, learning, and exposure to research and the broader world. We encourage you to especially consider what students can gain from the process of participating. Remember: this is an opportunity for experiential learning, not a platform for creating busy work. 

Note – there is no age limit for participating in Zooniverse projects, but children under the age of 16 need parent or guardian approval before creating their own Zooniverse account (see here for more details).  

For 5-12 year olds:

  • Curated list of age-appropriate Zooniverse projects for younger learners (w/ brief descriptions)
  • Zooniverse-based Activity for 5-12 year olds
  • Classroom.zooniverse.org
    • Wildcam Labs
      • Designed for 11-13 year olds, but the content can easily scale down for younger audiences. 
      • Great way to engage if you love looking at photos of wild animals and want to investigate ecological questions. The interactive map allows you to explore trail camera data and filter and download data to carry out analyses and test hypotheses. 
      • Educators can set up private classrooms, invite students to join, curate data sets, and get access to the guided activities and supporting educational resources. 
      • Individual explorers also welcome – you don’t need to be part of a classroom to participate.
  • Planet Hunters Educators Guide
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds.
    • A Zooniverse – NASA collaboration through which students learn about citizen science, explore how astronomers search for planets around distant stars, participate directly in the search for exoplanets through PlanetHunters.org, and then design and draw their own planetary system.
    • Developed by Chicago’s Adler Planetarium Education Specialist Julie Feldt and Adler Director of Teen Programs Kelly Borden.
  • Notes from Nature Activity
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds.
    • Through this lesson students observe, record, and document specimens, become a part of the Zooniverse Notes from Nature project, transcribe specimens, connect art and science, and sketch birds in a science notebook.
    • Developed by teachers as part of StudentsDiscover.org 
  • Floating Forests: Teaching Young Children About Kelp and Climate Change
  • STEAM Squad Workbooks and Activities
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds
    • A series of 5 workbooks with science, humanities, and art activities. Release for free online in response to school closures.
    • The final activity in each workbook is participation in a Zooniverse project, with accompanying reflection questions.
    • Developed by Eleanor Spicer Rice, entomologist and writer, in collaboration with Zooniverse

For teens and adults:

  • Curated list of Zooniverse projects (w/ brief descriptions)
  • Zooniverse-based Lesson Plan for teens and adults
  • Classroom.zooniverse.org
    • Wildcam Labs
      • Designed for middle school classrooms, but the content can easily scale up for older audiences. 
      • See description above.
    • Astro101 with Galaxy Zoo
      • Designed for undergraduate non-major introductory astronomy courses, but the content has been used in many high-school classrooms as well. 
      • Students learn about stars and galaxies through 4 half-hour guided activities and a 15-20 hour research project experience in which they analyze real data (including a curated Galaxy Zoo dataset), test hypotheses, make plots, and summarize their findings. 
      • Developed by Julie Feldt, Thomas Nelson, Cody Dirks, Dave Meyer, Molly Simon, and colleagues.
    • For both Wildcam and Astro101 Activities
      • Educators can set up private classrooms, invite students to join, curate data sets, and get access to the guided activities and supporting educational resources. 
      • Individual explorers also welcome – you don’t need to be part of a classroom to participate.
  • Planet Hunters Educators Guide
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds, but the content can easily scale up for older audiences. 
    • See description above.
  • Notes from Nature Activity
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds, but the content can easily scale up for older audiences.
    • See description above. 
  • Snapshot Safari-based Lesson Plans and Interactive Timeline
    • Developed by University of Minnesota PhD student Jessica Dewey
  • Kelp Forest Ecology Lab
    • Through the Zooniverse FloatingForests.org project, researchers are striving to understand the impact of climate change on giant kelp forests, an indicator of the health of our oceans. In this lab, students analyze Floating Forest and other ocean data to explore their own research questions.
    • Developed by Cal State – Monterey Bay faculty Dr. Alison Haupt and colleagues
  • NEH Teacher’s Guide for Digital Humanities and Online Education

Join the Conversation and Share Ideas:

We’d love to hear about your experiences with Zooniverse. Join the conversation in our ‘Talk’ discussion forum around Education and the Zooniverse. There’s a wonderful community there of formal and informal educators and students who are interested in sharing resources and ideas.

If you need a record of your students’ contributions:

You can keep track of how many classifications you’ve contributed if you register (providing a username and email address) within Zooniverse.org. Once signed in, at Zooniverse.org you’ll see your display name and your total classification count. If you hover over the circle surrounding your avatar, you’ll see the classification counts for each specific project you’ve participated in. Some teachers have their students share a screenshot of this zooniverse.org page as a record of contributions. 

Please note that there is no built-in time-tracker within Zooniverse. However, participants can use the number of classifications they’ve contributed as a proxy for time spent on the site. On average, a person contributes 20-75 classifications/hour on most projects. So, for example, if a student has done 100 classifications, you can estimate that they’ve spent ~2 hours classifying on Zooniverse; e.g., 2 hours x 50 classifications / hour = 100 classifications. 

Other Opportunities:

Check out NASA’s Citizen Science project list and SciStarter for other citizen science opportunities.

Zooniverse is 10 today!

Zooniverse is ten years old! On 12th December 2009, Zooniverse.org sputtered into life, celebrated with a post on this very blog (https://blog.zooniverse.org/2009/12/12/the-zooniverse-is-go/). Truth be told, there wasn’t a huge amount to show – the only project there was our first, Galaxy Zoo, which had been running for a couple of years by that point. What a contrast to today’s bustling home page, with 229 live projects for you to choose from. Early in 2010 two new projects – Solar Stormwatch and Moon Zoo – were launched, before Old Weather became our first project based here on Earth instead of out in the cosmos.

To celebrate, we’re redoubling our efforts to reach two million volunteers. We’re about 50,000 short, so if every one in twenty of you invites a friend to join in we’ll be there in no time. We have a prize lined up for the lucky two millionth, and anyone who classifies on any project on that auspicious day will go into a draw for some Zooniverse swag.

Birthdays are also time for reflection. To be honest, I was a bit surprised when I realised that we were approaching this milestone birthday. Galaxy Zoo had arrived with a big bang, a sudden explosion of effort, but as the above description suggests Zooniverse grew more slowly, as project after project was added to our nascent platform. Over the years, we rebuilt the codebase (more than once), projects came and went, and the army of Zooniverse volunteers grew in strength and in numbers. Looking back, though, the decision we made to launch Zooniverse set in stone some important principles that still guide us today.

For starters, it meant that we were committed to building a universe of projects which volunteers could move easily between. Projects which were lucky enough to get publicity – featuring on BBC Stargazing Live, for example – thus benefited other projects by bringing new people into the Zooniverse community. We built a shared codebase, so that funding for a particular project could support the development of code that benefited everyone. For most participants, their experience of the Zooniverse is limited to the project they’re participating in, whether it involves penguins, papyri or planets, but these network effects have been hugely important in sustaining such a rich variety of projects for a decade.

We’ve always tried to make it as easy as possible for researchers to build the best projects they can imagine, investing in the project builder tool that now supports all of the projects listed on our homepage. The choice – made early – to present the Zooniverse as a tool that’s free for researchers to use has caused problems; we are almost completely dependent on grant funding, which is a risky way to run a railroad, to say the least. But it has meant that those researchers, often early in their careers, have been able to turn to Zooniverse for help without reservation, and I think we’ve had better results – and more fun – as a consequence. 

There have been so many great moments over the last ten years, but just for a bit of fun here are my top 3 favourites:

  1. First hearing the Solar Stormwatch results were good – realising the method doesn’t just work for Galaxy Zoo.
  2. Climbing up a hill in the Antarctic to retrieve Penguin Watch data.
  3. The morning where we thought Higgs Hunters volunteers had discovered something truly remarkable (sadly it turned out they hadn’t).

So here’s to ten years of the Zooniverse. At any point in the last decade, I’d have been wrong if I’d tried to predict what the next few years would bring. I’m looking forward to more adventures and surprises in our second decade!

Chris

PS I can’t possibly list all of the people who were instrumental in building and guiding the project over the years, but I hope the team will forgive me for mentioning Arfon Smith, my co-founder and the technical genius behind the Zooniverse’s first few years, Lucy Fortson, whose wisdom we’ve relied on from the start, and Lauras Whyte and Trouille who have in turn led the Adler team in Chicago through this mad decade. Special thanks too to the volunteers – all of you – but especially Elisabeth Baeten, Jules Wilkinson, and PMason, whose spirit and generosity is a constant source of wonder and inspiration. 

Who Are The Zooniverse Community? We Asked Them…

We are often asked who our community are by project scientists, sociologists, and by the community itself. A recent Oxford study tried to find out, and working with them we conducted a survey of volunteers. The results were interesting and when combined with various statistics that we have at Zooniverse (web logs, analytics, etc) we can start to see a pretty good picture of who volunteers at the Zooniverse.

Much of what follows comes from a survey was conducted last Summer as part of Masters student Victoria Homsy’s thesis, though the results are broadly consistent with other surveys we have performed.  We asked a small subset of the Zooniverse community to answer an online questionnaire. We contacted about 3000 people regarding the survey and around 300 responded. They were not a random sample of users, rather they were people who had logged-in to the Zooniverse at least once in the three months before we emailed them.

The remaining aspects of this post involve data gathered by our own system (classification counts, log-in rates, etc) and data from our use of Google Analytics.

So with that preamble done: let’s see who you are…

This visualisation is of Talk data from last Summer. It doesn’t cover every project (e.g. Planet Hunters is missing) but it gives you a good flavour for how our community is structured. Each node (circle) is one volunteer, sized proportionally according to how many posts they have made overall. You can see one power-mod who has commented more than 16,000 times on Talk near the centre. Volunteers are connected to others by talking in the same threads (a proxy for having conversations). They have been automatically coloured by network analysis, to reflect sub-networks within the Zooniverse as a whole. The result is that we see the different projects’ Talk sites.

talk-central

There are users that rise largely out of those sub-communities and talk across many sites, but mostly people stick to one group. You can also see how relatively few power users help glue the whole together, and how there are individuals talking to large numbers of others, who in turn may not participate much otherwise – these are likely examples of experienced users answering questions from others.

gender One thing we can’t tell from our own metrics is a person’s gender, but we did ask in the survey. The Zooniverse community seems to be in a 60/40 split, which in some ways is not as bad as I would have thought. However, we can do better, and this provides a metric to measure ourselves against in the future.

ages

It is also interesting to note that there is very little skew in the ages of our volunteers. There is a slight tilt away from older people, but overall the community appears to be made up of people of all ages. This reflects the experience of chatting to people on Talk.

geo-pie

We know that the Zooniverse is English-language dominated, and specifically UK/US dominated. This is always where we have found the best press coverage, and where we have the most links ourselves. The breakdown between US/UK/the rest is basically a three-way split. This split is seen not just in this survey but also generally in our analytics overall.

geo-pie-dev

Only 2% of the users responding to our survey only came from the developing world. As you can see in a recent blog post, we do get visitors from all over the world. It may be that the survey has the effect of filtering out these people (it was conducted via an online form), or maybe that there is language barrier.

employmentemployment_cloudWe also asked people about their employment status. We find a about half of our community is employed (either full- or part-time). Looking at the age distribution, we might expect up a fifth or sixth of people to be retired (15% is fairly close). This leaves us with about 10% unemployed, nearly twice the UK or US unemployment rate, and about 4% unable to work due to disability (about the UK averaged, by comparison). This is interesting, especially in relation to the next question, on motivation for participating.

We also asked them to tell us what they do and the result is the above word cloud (thanks, Wordle!) which shows a wonderful array of occupations including professor, admin, guard, and dogsbody. You should note a high instance of technical jobs on this list, possibly indicating that people need to have, or be near, a computer to work on Zooniverse projects in their daily life.

motivation

When asked why they take part in Zooniverse projects we find that the most-common response (91%) is a desire to contribute to progress. How very noble. Closely following that (84%) are the many people who are interested in the subject matter. It falls of rapidly then to ‘entertainment’, ‘distraction’ and ‘other’. We are forever telling people that the community is motivated mainly by science and contribution, and for whatever reason they usually don’t believe us. It’s nice to see this result reproducing an important part of the Raddick et. al. 2009 study, which first demonstrated it.

when-to-classfy-routine

It is roughly what I would have expected to see that people tend to classify mostly in their spare time, and that most don’t have dedicated ‘Zooniverse’ time every day. It’s more interesting to see why, if they tend to stop and start, i.e. if they answered in the purple category above. Here is a word cloud showing the reason people stop participating in Zooniverse. TL;DR they have the rest of their life to get on with.

when-to-classfy-routine-cloud

We’ll obviously have to fix this by making Zooniverse their whole life!

This is my final blog post as a part of the Zooniverse team. It has been by pleasure to work at the Zooniverse for the last five years. Much of that time has been spent trying to motivate and engage the amazing community of volunteers who come to click, chat, and work on all our projects. You’re an incredible bunch, motivated by science and a desire to be part of something important and worthwhile online. I think you’re awesome. In the last five years I have seen the Zooniverse grow into a community of more than one million online volunteers, willing to tackle big questions, and trying and understand the world around us.

Thank you for your enthusiasm and your time. I’ll see you online…

Using Tag Groups to Collect Images on Talk

Hashtags are an important element of how the current generation of Zooniverse’s Talk discussion system* helps to power citizen science. By adding hashtags to the short comments left directly on classification objects, users can help each other (and the science teams) find certain types of objects—for instance, a #leopard on Snapshot Serengeti, #frost on Planet Four, or a #curved-band on Cyclone Center. (As on Twitter, hashtags on Talk are generated using the # symbol.)

One of the ways in which zooites can take advantage of hashtags is by using Talk’s tag group feature. A tag group (also called a “keyword collection”) is a collection that automatically populates with all of the objects that have been given a specific hashtag by a volunteer.

For instance, here is a Galaxy Zoo tag group that populates with all Galaxy Zoo objects that have been tagged #starforming. It will continue to automatically add new images that are given the #starforming tag as well.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.48.28 AM

There are two ways to tell that this is a tag-group collection, not a manually curated one. The first is that the fourth letter in the last part of the URL (CGZL000056) is an L, for “live” collection. (The other type will have an S as the fourth letter, for “static” collection.) The second is that under “description,” the conditions for the tag group will be displayed: what tags it includes and excludes.

Users can create a tag group in either of two ways: 1. Click the “create a tag group” button that will appear underneath the “tags” on the right side of any object page that has at least one hashtag (and then edit the conditions to their liking), or 2. Add “/#/collections/new/keywords/” to the end of the Talk URL; for instance, talk.planktonportal.org/#/collections/new/keywords/

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.57.11 AM

At this point, there is no way to create a collection that includes, say, on Operation War Diary, #casualty or #sniper—only objects that have #casualty and #sniper. You can, however, exclude certain tags: e.g., all #casualty objects not also tagged #sniper, or #casualty and #sniper but no #horses.

Screen Shot 2015-01-14 at 10.55.31 AM

Also, please note that, like all collections, these tag groups are currently capped at 500 total visible images.

It is likely that the next generation of Talk (currently being built) will feature a more refined method of curating collections from hashtags, as well as a more effective search functionality. For now, however, zooites should keep the tag group feature in mind… especially as it will be a critical feature of an upcoming project!

* As of January 2015, the Zooniverse projects using the most recent generation of Talk are: Galaxy Zoo, Planet Hunters, Operation War Diary, Milky Way Project, Snapshot Serengeti, Planet Four, Galaxy Zoo Radio, Asteroid Zoo, Disk Detective, Sunspotter, Cyclone Center, Plankton Portal, Notes from Nature, Condor Watch, Floating Forests, Penguin Watch, Worm Watch Lab, Higgs Hunters, and Chicago Wildlife Watch.

We Need Us: Online Art, Powered by the Zooniverse

Screenshot 2014-10-09 12.08.31

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.

Screenshot 2014-10-09 12.08.15

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

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