Be A Citizen Scientist For Halloween
October 29, 2013

Be A Citizen Scientist For Halloween

What should you be for Halloween? How about a Citizen Scientist? It won’t win you any costume contests, but it just might change the world. And…..there’s an app for that.

Opportunities for non-professional people with an interest in science are becoming increasingly available. Today I am featuring some with a Halloween theme. I found these ideas in a PLOS Journal blog. PLOS is a collection of online, open-access, peer reviewed journals. The blog has the intriguing title, “Bats, Bones, Zombees! Five macabre citizen science projects for Halloween.”

[ Watch the Video: Citizens, Get Your Science On This Halloween! ]

The first one included has to do with spiders, and it is very easy unless you are an arachnophobe. This project is being conducted by Explorit’s Community Science Project. All you have to do is take pictures of spiders and submit them online to be included in a geographic database. The purpose of the project is explained on the scistarter website. “We don’t yet know how climate change will impact spiders, and in turn impact agriculture such as crops and farms- but when we understand where spiders are living today, we will be better able to predict what may happen to spiders and agriculture in the future.” So, start taking pictures of our little, eight-legged friends and make your contribution to science today.

Another one uses an iPhone app called the Dark Sky Meter, which lets users contribute to a global map of nighttime light pollution. The app measures ‘skyglow’ and updates the data in real time. There are two versions of the app, lite and pro. The pro version charts weather conditions and cloud cover to find optimal times for readings. You can see the results at the Dark Sky Meter website. There is a lot of earth that hasn’t been metered yet, so your help is needed.

The next one is the most complicated. The San Francisco State University Department of Biology, the San Francisco State University Center for Computing for Life Sciences and the Natural History Museum of LA County are together sponsoring a citizen science project to help them locate Zombie honeybees. The goal of ZombeeWatch is to learn where in North America bees are being parasitized by Zombie Flies. Infected honeybees show the “zombie-like behavior” of leaving their hives at night on “a flight of the living dead.” They are attracted to nearby lights and become disoriented. Fly larvae eat the insides of the bee, which, of course, kills the bee. The maggots pupate near the bee before emerging as adult flies. These flies were formerly believed to only parasitize bumblebees, but have now been found in honeybees in a few locations. The scientists want to know the extent of this problem. The procedure for citizen scientists is to build a light trap, collect the dead bees in a resealable container, label them, take photos, and wait to see if zombie bee pupae emerge. You submit all of your data to the ZomBee Watch site. The site also has a detailed tutorial that tells you exactly what you need to do. If you see dead bees around a light, you can make an important contribution to science by participating in this study.

The last one I want to describe is for those who like their science indoors on the computer. As a Bat Detective you will “listen to a short audio clip and use its visual representation—called a spectrogram—to help classify bat calls!” You can begin right away to participate in this study by going to the Bat Detective web site.

There are numerous other scientific projects you can work on. This is a sample, just in time for Halloween.

The information in this article was used through a license under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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