My name is Margaret Gold, and I hope to inspire you this evening to use your skillz for Science, and become a Citizen Scientist.
Volunteer wild-life monitoring continues to this day, and has come to be known as Citizen Science – where ordinary folks without any scientific training get involved in genuine scientific research.
Participatory Science goes all the way back to the late 1800s, when Wells Cooke, an American ornithologist was studying bird migration patterns in the US. He asked for ornithologists in Iowa to send him lists of winter residents and the dates of the first arrivals of spring migrants for a long-term study. Individual volunteers sent him hand-written reports or telegrams over 15 years, reaching a totall of more than one million cards.
_______________________________________________________________ He was called the “father of cooperative study of bird migration in America”. Cooke was the fifth child (of nine) and the eldest son of Rev. Elisha Woodbridge Cook, a Congregational minister, and Martha Miranda (Smith) Cook. He was born at Haydenville, Massachusetts and grew up largely in the lake region of eastern Wisconsin where he showed an early interest in natural history. Given a gun at about 12 years of age, he began collecting bird specimens. He studied at Ripon College and the University of Iowa, eventually graduating from Ripon with an AB degree in 1879 and achieving an AM degree in 1882. In 1879 he married Carrie Amy Raymond. After graduating he worked as a teacher in Indian schools in several states for the next six years. For 16 years from 1885 he worked in colleges, being associated with the University of Vermont (1885–1893) where he was appointed Professor of Agriculture in 1886, the Agricultural College of Colorado (1893–1900), and the State College of Pennsylvania (1900–1901). Ornithology 
During the period he was teaching in the Indian school system, Cooke produced several papers on birds and began to focus on bird migration. In the winter of 1881–82 Cooke asked for ornithologists in Iowa to send him lists of winter residents and the dates of the first arrivals of spring migrants for a long-term study which later expanded to cover the whole Mississippi valley.
In 1901 Cooke was appointed to a position in the Biological Survey section of the United States Department of Agriculture, based in Washington, D.C.. There, for the last 15 years of his life, he worked mainly on bird migration and distribution, building on the earlier records and network of participants he started in 1881. He accumulated individual records of migration on cards, many of which he wrote himself, with the total number of cards reaching one million in 1915. He also published extensively on bird distribution and migration, with a bibliography of over 400 items. He died quite suddenly, of pneumonia in Washington, at the age of 58. The ninety years of records that Cooke accumulated, along with those who followed him, are now held by the North American Bird Phenology Program.
The real heart of Citizen Science in my view is “distributed intelligence” or “volunteer thinking”, which often involves our ability to perform pattern recognition in a way that computers cannot. For example, the Planet Four project in which volunteers are marking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface. Scientists believe that these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking them over time to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate.
_________________ The second level is ‘distributed intelligence’ in which the cognitive ability of the participants is the resource that is being used. Galaxy Zoo and many of the ‘classic’ citizen science projects are working at this level. The participants are asked to take some basic training, and then collect data or carry out a simple interpretation activity. Usually, the training activity includes a test that provides the scientists with an indication of the quality of the work that the participant can carry out. With this type of engagement, there is a need to be aware of questions that volunteers will raise while working on the project and how to support their learning beyond the initial training.
“More than 2,500 volunteers sorted through nearly 14,000 supernova candidates between April and July 2010, Smith and colleagues report in a paper submitted to the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Citizen scientists correctly identified 93 percent of the brightening objects, with no false positives.”
Welcome to Planet Four, a citizen science project designed to help planetary scientists identify and measure features on the surface of Mars . . . the likes of which don’t exist on Earth. All of the images on this site depict the southern polar region, an area of Mars that we know little about, and the majority of which have never been seen by human eyes before!
Figure 1. HiRISE image is ~1 km across. Spiders and fans are visible.
Figure 2 What am I looking for?
We need your help to find and mark ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ on the Martian surface. Scientists believe that these features indicate wind direction and speed. By tracking ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ over the course of several Martian years to see how they form, evolve, disappear and reform, we can help planetary scientists better understand Mars’ climate. We also hope to find out if these features form in the same spot each year and also learn how they change.
So how do these ‘fans’ form?
Rather than measuring days or months, the Martian year is indicated by the solar longitude, Ls. The year begins at Ls = 0, which is the first day of spring in the northern hemisphere and the first day of autumn in the southern hemisphere.
Planetary scientists don’t know exactly how ‘fans’ and ‘blotches’ occur, but many believe that during the autumn a seasonal layer of carbon dioxide ice, otherwise known as dry ice, forms on the southern pole. In the winter, (beginning at Ls = 90) this layer transforms into translucent slab ice. Once spring arrives, (Ls =180) sunlight is able to penetrate and warm the ground below, causing the ice to sublimate (turn directly from ice into gas) from the bottom.
This sublimation causes gas to become trapped below the ice layer under increasing pressure. When a crack or a rupture develops, the gas bursts, not unlike a geyser, out of the opening carrying along loose material eroded from the ground. When the gas and loose materials reach the surface of the ice they are often blown downwind of the vent in fan-shaped deposits, as shown in Figure 2. If there isn’t any wind the materials aren’t blown, but rather drop straight down forming a ‘blotch.’
In the summer, (beginning at Ls = 270) the carbon dioxide melts and the ‘fans’ blend back into the surface material and are no longer visible. This annual process begins again in the following autumn and slowly erodes channels in the ground. These wide, shallow channels, generally less than 2 meters deep, are known as ‘spiders,’ though their technical name is araneiform.
‘Spiders’ are visible in the winter when ice is draped over them, but when the terrain is ice-free in the summer, we can see that the ‘spiders’ are actually channels carved into the surface of Mars. Figure 3 shows the surface of Mars transforming from the spring at Ls = 181.1 to Ls = 325.4, which is mid-summer.
Figure 3. Timelapse sequence of a spider initially covered with ~1m of ice (upper left), to ice-free (lower right). Where do the images come from?
The images on this site come from the HiRISE (High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment) camera on board the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. HiRISE can image Mars with resolutions of 0.3 m/pixel (about 1 foot), resolving objects below a meter across.
Why do you need our help?
There are far too many images for a group of scientists to get through alone and computers are just no good at detecting the features we are trying to mark. The human mind is far superior at analyzing images with the complexity of the Martian surface!
Your markings will be collected together with the markings made by other volunteers on that same image. Taking an average of these markings, we will produce an extremely reliable map of the ‘fan,’ and ‘blotch’ features on the surface of Mars and the first large scale measurement of wind on the planet!
And of course the ultimate data collection device in the field is the mobile phone, allowing surveys to be filled in in-app, attaching photos and GPS location data, to create very rich maps and data sets on which scientists can make amazing strides. There are now many great app-based citizen science projects across a wide range of fields – not just wildlife monitoring.
Another project which is built on the same virtual machine platform, called BOINC, is Test4Theory at CERN – which simulates high-energy particle collisions to provide scientists with a data set with which to compare the actual output of the Large Hadron Collider. I’m involved in a project with CERN to create the next generation of this project to make it much more interactive, allowing volunteers to manipulate the parameters and see the impact on the data.
_______________ LHC@home is a distributed computing project for particle physics based on the Berkeley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) platform. LHC@home consists of two applications: LHC@home Classic, SixTrack, which went live in September 2004 and is used to upgrade and maintain the particle accelerator Large Hadron Collider (LHC) of the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and LHC@home 2.0, Test4Theory, which went live in August 2011 and is used to simulate high-energy particle collisions to provide a reference to test the measurements performed at the LHC.
The applications are run with the help of about fifteen thousand active volunteered computers processing at a combined more than 7 teraFLOPS on average as of December 2011. LHC@home uses idle computer processing resources from volunteers' computers to perform calculations on individual workunits, which are sent to a central project server upon completion. The project is cross-platform, and runs on a variety of hardware configurations. Test4Theory uses VirtualBox, an x86 virtualization software package.
Such hardware hacks even have a clear route to manufacture and distribution thanks to crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter. Here we see the Balloon Mapping Kits designed and made by the Public Laboratory for Open Science.
Here we see a home made radiation detector as shared on Instructables, and the Safecast website
The Hardware Hacking movement, increasingly sophisticated sensors at low price points, and the internet of things is opening up all sorts of possibilities. Here we see a DIY spectrometer, the Air Quality Egg, and a home made sensor device.
Science Hack Day Vilnius - Science for all and all for Science