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New smartphone app to help seahorse conservation

Citizen scientists can team up with researchers to help track one of the ocean’s most enigmatic animals
Seahorses are difficult to study in the wild because of their small size and ability to blend into their surroundings. Photo: Edwin van der Sande/Guylian Seahorses of the World

Seahorses are difficult to study in the wild because of their small size and ability to blend into their surroundings. Photo: Edwin van der Sande/Guylian Seahorses of the World.

By Summit Voice
FRISCO — Marine biologists may soon have a wealth of new information about enigmatic seahorses, thanks to a new citizen science app launched by the University of British Columbia, the Zoological Society of London and the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago.

With iSeahorse Explore, anyone, anywhere in the world can become a citizen scientist and contribute to marine conservation with a few taps of their phone. The iPhone app is designed for people to quickly log seahorse sightings whenever they encounter an animal in the wild. Continue reading

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Oceans: Citizen scientists wanted for plankton research

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Plankton is a crucial ingredient in the soup of life.

Volunteers needed to help assess distribution of tiny ocean organisms

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — With the world’s plankton facing an uncertain future, researchers want to use citizen scientists to expand their knowledge of the ocean’s tiniest, but vitally important lifeforms.

A new project will enable people to explore the open ocean from the comfort of their own homes, diving dive hundreds of feet, and observing the unperturbed ocean and the myriad animals that inhabit the earth’s last frontier.

Plankton are a key food source at the base of the ocean food chain and play a crucial role in the global carbon cycle. Some recent studies suggest that the warming and increasing acidification of oceans will result in big changes to plankton populations. Continue reading

Anyone can be weather observer with the mPING app

Ground-based observations to be compared against satellite data to help improve severe storm forecasting

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A new website shows real-time weather observations reported by citizens via the mPING smart phone app.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — In the age of smart phones, anyone can be a weather oberver, according to NOAA, partnering with the University of Oklahoma to launch a free app for users to anonymously report precipitation from their Apple or Android mobile device.

The mPING app enables users to send weather observations on the go by opening the app, selecting the type of precipitation that is falling and pressing submit. The user’s location and the time of the observation are automatically included in the report. All submissions will become part of a research project called PING – Precipitation Identification Near the Ground.

Researchers with the University of Oklahoma and NOAA’s National Severe Storms Laboratory will use the mPING submissions to build a valuable database of tens of thousands of observations from across the United States. Continue reading

Volunteers wanted to help with hurricane research

Hurricane Gilbert, courtesy NOAA.

New website enables public to help assess tropical storm intensity

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — When it comes to assessing hurricane intensity, the more eyeballs the better, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which is asking the public to browse an archive of historic satellite images to help scientists develop more accurate intensity estimates.

The method for determining the strength of tropical cyclones has been applied differently around the world and has changed over time. That inconsistency has led to uncertainties in the global historical record of tropical cyclone activity, especially in parts of the world where additional data sources such as aircraft reconnaissance are not available. After many people review the same image, scientists will then use that feedback to come up with new estimates of a cyclone’s intensity.

The National Climatic Data Center launched the new website, CycloneCenter.org, this weekend. The site enables volunteers to examine color-enhanced images from 30 years of tropical cyclones taken from the archives of NCDC’s Hurricane Satellite Data system. Then, the site guides users through a process to analyze a specific hurricane image and answer questions, using a simplified technique for estimating the maximum surface wind speed of tropical cyclones. Continue reading

Morning photo: for the birds

On the wing …

A pelican strikes a classic pose during a Florida sunset.

SUMMIT COUNTY — The annual Christmas bird count is under way, involving thousands of people in one of the largest citizen science projects in the country. Counting birds in the same areas during the same time from year to year helps establish good baseline information on bird populations. Read a bit more about it in this Summit Voice story, and browse through the bird snapshots in the daily photo essay. And if you want to see some really good bird photography, visit On The Wing Photography. Continue reading

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