Sunday, September 9, 2012

Help Museums and Science Centers Teach Climate Change

All this month we are talking about museums and the role they play in nurturing citizen science research.  We've specifically talked about the Smithsonian and highlighted projects at other American museums as well.  Now it's time to discuss a very similar set of organizations; the zoos, aquariums, and other science centers located all across the country.

There's a huge amount I can write about both the commonalities and difference between those organizations. But that's not what you're reading OpenScientist for...you're reading to find out about the projects they offer.  So we will start off by discussing Temperature Blast.  It's a project that both teaches about weather and helps scientists better understand climate change.  It's also another mobile application we can add to the growing list projects available on our Mobile Citizen Science Apps! page. 



Climate change research has been an important part of citizen science in the world of science centers for the last few years, and this application is a great example of it.  It is based at the Maryland Science Center and focuses on Baltimore-area data, but it is available nationwide and the science it teaches is universal.  As the Science Center itself describes the project:

Citizen Scientists collect live and archived Weatherbug data from select stations in the Baltimore region to compare temperatures and log this data for scientists. Scientists at the Baltimore Ecosystem Study then use this data to test models of temperature patterns across the city to aid in urban planning. This data illustrates the Urban Heat Island effect on the area, a phenomenon classified by temperature differences between a metropolitan area and more rural landscape nearby. An Urban Heat Island is not an effect of climate change, but rather of our activity shaping the environment around us. Citizen Scientists are asked to consider the question; if we can make changes on a local scale, how may be contributing to changes globally?
 
Sounds simple enough, right?  Let's get to it.

Getting Started is Easy:
  • Visit the Maryland Science Center: Citizen Science web page to learn more about Temperature Blast and the other programs they have available.  You can also register for the program online at http://www.temperatureblast.org/users/signup.
  • Download the Temperature Blast app in the Apple App Store or Google Play Store for Android.
  • Once installed and registered you can start right up.  Up first is Intro screen showing a map of local weather stations.  Thins will give you a better understanding of where each one is and the type of area (city, rural, suburban) which may impact the local weather.
 
  • Once finished, click the large yellow arrow to see the current conditions at each site.  Again, click on the yellow arrow when you're done.

  • This next step asks questions about the conditions at each weather station.  Not only does this help teach about reading weather information, but you will also learn about the various factors impacting how hot or cold a place is.

  • Finally, once all the information is submitted take a quiz about weather, citizen science, and science in general.    That's all there is to it!
Hopefully you'll have a chance to play with this project...it's fun and helps teach kids about climate change.  But remember that these projects do cost money for science centers and museums to create.  Scientists put a lot of effort into designing them and computer programmers put a lot of time into coding too.  So if we want to see more of these valuable projects we need help those museums.

Won't you join the cause?  On the right side of this blog is a giant "Donate" button that collects money for the Smithsonian through the non-profit Network for Good organization..  As the nation's largest free museum group it's the perfect place to show the size and dedication of citizen science volunteers.  There is much they can do to support the field...so any amount you can afford helps.  I will even pitch in an extra $5 per donation for every donor (up to 100 donors) as encouragement.  It only take a few minutes and a few dollars on your part, but it can turn into a giant boon for citizen science in the future.

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