Citizen Science throughout the Southern Hemisphere has been growing recently, in particular with thanks to increasing efforts in Australia. In fact, Dynamic Patterns Research has just updated an Australia Regional list in our Opportunities section to feature some of these exiting new programs (view).

The most recent event, just launched on September 1, 2010 and sponsored by the citizen science-centric Australian Broadcasting Company and radio station 891 ABC Adelaide, is Operation Spider. This new “down under” citizen science program hopes to encourage people to get to know their crawly co-inhabitants, and report to the program what species of spiders exist in their spaces and how they behave when encountering a spider. (Yes, part of this research is to understand human behavior as well as the spiders!)

The main element of the project asks Southern Australians to complete a two-part online survey. First, is a review about how the observer feels toward spiders, and asks specific questions about how one would behave when encountering a specific species of spider. For example, if you see a daddy-long-legs in your living room would you (a) kill it yourself, (b) have someone else kill it for you, (c) “rescue” it and take it outside, (d) or leave it alone.

Second, the survey includes a worksheet to use while perusing your house and garden for recording observations of specific spiders. Images of certain anticipated species are available to assist in identifications.

Steve Donnellan and Chris Daniels presented a spider information talk to students from Rostrevor, Eden Hills and Belleview schools. (Brett Williamson)

View more images of the launch of Operation Spider on September 1, 2010.

An informative set of six Fact Sheets have also been developed to provide a nice range of educational materials for learning about spiders in Southern Australia. These include a general introduction to invertebrates and their evolution, how spiders live, eat, and make webs, and information on specific species that are expected to be found.

For the compositionally-creative citizen scientists, Operation Spider is also hosting a spider Poetry Competition. They are looking for 8-line short poems about spiders, and winners from four categories will be awarded a spider “prize pack” (valued at over $100!)

If you live in the southern “Down Under,” then start getting friendly with your spider neighbors, and take part in this fun citizen science project. The next time you want to squash an eight-legged crawly creature, you might discover that your feelings have changed from murderous to creepy affection!

… …

Operation Spider Fact Sheets [ VIEW ]

Operation Spider Survey from the University of South Australia [ VISIT ]

Operation Spider Poetry Competition [ SUBMIT ]


The publishers of Make: Magazine have announced that September 2010 is officially “Citizen Science” month. They are looking for citizen scientists to submit their projects, research, and activities to be featured in the magazine.

It also seems that they are interested in developing active collaborations with people who are investing much time in the advancement of citizen science, and they hope to use this outreach to develop exciting new content for their “how-to” project division, Make: Projects.

If you are interested in participating in any way, please email Make: Magazine editor, Gareth Branwyn [ email ] … and also let us know here at Dynamic Patterns Research how you get involved with the magazine!


The 2010 Great World Wide Start Count date has been set! A Windows to the Universe citizen science event, you can join with thousands of other people across the globe anytime from October 29 through November 12 in looking up to see how many stars you can see.

Last year, Dynamic Patterns Research participated (read more), and it was a great opportunity for father and 3 1/2-year old daughter to count, compare, learn about constellations, and start to think about the ridiculous notion that we are part of a universe that is so unfathomably enormous.

The goals of this program are to raise awareness of light pollution in your area and to increase the interest of the broader public in learning more astronomy. Developed by the National Earth Science Teachers Association (NESTA) and the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR), the Windows to the Universe Great World Wide Star Count is in its fourth year of data collection, and should continue to grow as a very interesting research resource for monitoring the evolving night-time global landscape of light output.

In fact, you can now take a look at the results from the previous three years [ VIEW DATA ], and begin to search for patterns and correlations between how many stars were seen and expected light output from the area. You might find initially, however, that the data is still very sparse, and for this resource to be particularly useful, a much larger set of results really will be required.

Since the data is also provided as a Google Earth KMZ file (download 2007, 2008, 2009), it’s very interesting to overlay the set with a light pollution map (download a North America map). As an example, we’ve completed a simple North American map overlay using Google Earth, and focused into our own data point in Illinois that we provided last year:

The darker the blue of each “data point dot” corresponds to more stars seen at the observation location. So, it seems that there are pretty dark dots at locations that would be expected to have lower visibility. However, this array of data is such a small data set to consider at this time that it is difficult to make any obvious conclusions. But, the potential to use more of this data to support very interesting and useful analysis should be apparent. And, all of the data is entirely accessible to the citizen scientist, so we can easily explore and consider the results.

When planning to make your own observations anytime between October 29 and November 12, all you need to do to prepare is a little stretching out of your neck for looking up (or, find a nice blanket to lie down on your back and view in comfort). If you live in the northern hemisphere, then gaze toward the constellation Cygnus, and toward the constellation Sagittarius if in the southern hemisphere. Simply “count” the stars that you can see at your location–or estimate the visual field that you observe–and match your viewing with the reference magnitude charts provided by the program. Then, simply report your observation online along with your latitude and longitude coordinates (find where you’re at on the globe). If you have any questions on how to participate, please feel free to comment here or contact us.

Learn more about star apparent magnitude [ READ :: READ :: READ ]

Please let us know if you plan to participate in this year’s count, and especially if you are interested in creating any of your own analysis of the results. The project really needs a significant increase in participation to provide a meaningful data set, so please spread the word to your friends and colleagues who you can encourage to join.

We would like to develop a team of citizen scientists who not only want to submit their own observation, but who also want to do an independent analysis on the annual global results. We will then present your thoughts and observations right here on Dynamic Patterns Research.

The Great World Wide Star Count :: October 29 through November 12, 2010 [ VISIT ]


The National Science Foundation‘s online magazine, Science Nation, features the latest efforts from the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology expanding citizen science program. Lab director and ecologist, Janis Dickinson, discusses how successful the fields of ornithology and astronomy have been in matching professional research activities with hobbyists who thoroughly enjoy doing what they do and simultaneously helping the advancement of science.

In particular, the Lab has been collecting data on nesting events of birds since the 1950s through their Nest Record Card Program. These records are still filed away on little, worn index cards written by amateur observers, but include valuable nesting data, including basic climate information, for the great, great, great, great grandparents of birds in the wild today.

With the funding assistance of the National Science Foundation and the collaborative development from Cornell and the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, nesting event data collection has moved into the current century with NestWatch. This online, citizen science data collection tool is an efficient method for anyone interested to learn how to monitor the activity from backyard bird nests, report observations, and explore the activity from other citizen scientists all around North America (view an interactive map of the data).

Simple certification is required before submitting observations, but once set up with an account, anyone using NestWatch will have a great opportunity to help support research that is a critical component to global environmental monitoring. The program is also perfect for families and schools to work with an at-home project that is fun and can lead to many educational moments through spending time outside and looking for bird species and behaviors that you may never have witnessed before.

“Citizen Science” :: A special report from NSF’s Science Nation :: August 30, 2010 :: [ READ ]

Register your backyard nest site with NestWatch [ VISIT ]


This August was the annual Perseid Meteor shower (read more from DPR), and hopefully you had a chance to catch a flash, or two. However, if it was just too inconvenient for your schedule–yes, some of us do have to work in the morning!–or, if getting away from the city lights costs too much at the gas pump, then, thanks to the skills of many amateur astro-photographers (learn how to become one yourself), you may still view the shooting beauties from the comfort of your computer monitor. presents a great photo gallery collection of images submitted from observers from all over the world [ VIEW ]. Here’s an amazing image from Jeff Berkes who was apparently on his honeymoon…

Perseid meteor over Poi Pu, Kauai from Jeff Berkes.

You may also review the Perseid 2010 report compiled by the International Meteor Organization [ VIEW ], which includes an interesting graph of reported observation rates.

And finally, photographer Henry Jun Wah Lee of Los Angeles and Evosia Photography, completed an interesting time-lapse videos of Perseid meteors with the inspiring backdrop of the galactic center of the Milky Way…

So, enjoy these great views of falling debris from previous near-passes of Comet Swift-Tuttle, and maybe consider planning a late evening or two next year far out from the city and try to catch a few memorable Perseids yourself.


Much of the predicted future of neurotechnology is grounded in the continuing success and development of nanotechnology. This field is broad, for sure, and is even a primary target of the US Federal Government (see the NNI).

A particularly critical aspect, however, considers the development of nanoparticles. A great deal of research is already underway on developing very tiny capsules that will one day float around in our bodies and drop off exact doses of drugs to a specific cell. Or, pint-sized nanobots with full on-board electronics will maneuver through our circulatory system looking for tissues to repair, cells to manipulate, and observations to report back to the host.

The prospects for this sort of technology might be exciting, and even a little scary. But, what is really important to think about right now is how will the human body actually get along with the nano-invaders? Will our immune system run in overdrive to try to stop the little buggers? Will we have to force an evolutionary leap to develop new symbiotic relationships with metallic pellets that are only just trying to be beneficial to our survival?

Three researchers from North Carolina State University are addressing this important issue that must be resolved before any real human trials of nano-particle infestations are implemented. Dr. Jim RiviereDr. Nancy Monteiro-Riviere, and Dr. Xin-Rui Xia are collaborating to figure out a way to pre-screen a nanoparticle’s characteristics in order to predict how it will behave once inside the body.

As soon as any foreign object slips into the human body, our sophisticated immune system kicks into high gear. Everything that is native to a body is essentially key-coded with a biological pass that tells any immune response that “I’m OK to be here, thank you!” If something inside isn’t coded properly, then a rapid kill response is launched through a biochemical cascade of the complement system (learn more), which attacks the surface of unrecognized cells and objects with a variety of binding proteins.

This is certainly a natural response that we would not want to occur if we were voluntarily injecting ourselves with nanobots. The brain might be able to consciously will our hands and feet to move as we see fit, but our species has not yet figured out how to mentally control our internal processes (or, can we?). Until thought-invoked immune suppression is possible, it will be more useful to clearly understand the biochemistry of the interactions between nanoparticles and our tissues, and use this characterization to correctly modify the nano-stuff to stay functional while surfing in the blood stream.

… …

“Predicting how nanoparticles will react in the human body” :: :: August, 15, 2010 :: [ READ ]


Last updated May 2, 2019