Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

11 Citizen Science Projects That Need Your Help

Wikimedia Commons
Wikimedia Commons

Love science, but don't have a degree? No problem. Citizen science projects recruit ordinary men and women to help gather crucial research data. So if you’d like to help advance human knowledge but aren’t too keen on suffering through several years of grad school in the process, why not join one of these fine initiatives?

1. Count Birds for the Audubon Society

Bonus points if you spot a partridge in a pear tree. Founded in 1900, this annual avian census monitors the populations of birds throughout the western hemisphere. Volunteers tally up their feathered friends’ numbers within a 15-mile radius from mid-December to early January.

2. Be an Earthquake Witness

The scope of a given earthquake can prove difficult to decipher—so the United States Geological Survey urges witnesses to lend some much-needed clarity by filling out a brief questionnaire in conjunction with its “Did You Feel It?” earthquake hazards program. “It’s very simple to be a very valuable participant,” says seismologist David Wald. “You just have to observe what happened during an earthquake.”

3. Search for Aliens With SETI

It might sound like some very creative spam, but by downloading a special computer program, you might actually help prove the existence of extraterrestrial life. Today, several million internet users lend their computers' power to help astronomers search for radio waves of other-worldly origin via the SETI@Home organization. For more information, go here.

4. Help Scientists Understand Odor Perception

According to the endeavor’s official website, “Medical professionals often do not ask patients about changes in their sense of smell. Therefore, little is known about this topic. With your help we will change this.” Anonymous responders who’ve experienced shifts in odor perception help a team of physiologists learn more about this poorly-documented phenomenon

5. Predict Future Weather By Uncovering Weather of the Past

Old news can still be useful. “[If] we wish to understand what the weather will do in the future, then we need to understand what the weather was doing in the past,” says climatologist Clive Wilkinson. Volunteers digitize handwritten weather notes from bygone decades (and even centuries) to help create more accurate climate-projection models for future generations.

6. Discover New Stars and Galaxies

Almost as vast as the universe itself is the debt astronomy owes to the findings of dedicated amateurs. Through the Milky Way Project, volunteers identify celestial objects photographed by the Spitzer space telescope. As of this writing, they’ve categorized several thousand star clusters and galaxies.

7. Keep an Eye on Flies That Turn Bees Into Zombies

One nasty parasite is causing quite a buzz. For a brief run-down on the Apocephalus borealis fly, check out the video above. This insect plants its eggs in unsuspecting bees. After the larvae hatch, they attack their hosts’ nervous systems and transform them into “zombie-like” drones. Concerned citizens can help track these unsavory freeloaders by joining San Francisco State University’s “ZomBee Watch” campaign.

8. Track Who's Pollinating Flowers

Speaking of bees, detail-oriented volunteers count the number of pollinators that visit a given plant over various stretches of time in conjunction with the yearly Great Sunflower Project.

9. Define Verbs to Help Understand the Human Brain

Human thought itself, claim the Verb Corners initiative’s founders, can be better understood by studying verbs and what they really mean. On their website, you can help amass precious data by answering a series of questions. These queries are designed to help root out the message you intend to convey with a given verb in various contexts.

10. Tweet Your Local Snowfall

Thanks to twitter, advancing science is just a hashtag away. The next time you find a blanket of snow covering your driveway, measure the depth and tweet it to #snowtweets with your location/zip code. A gang of friendly Canadian meteorologists from the University of Waterloo will file away the input. Best of all (at least for Americans), using the metric system is strictly optional.

11. Fight Noise Pollution With Your Smart Phone

Society’s getting louder, or so it seems. Help fight sound pollution by turning your smart phone into a portable noise sensor! Above is a (surprisingly quiet) demo video.

From Snoopy to Shark Bait: The Top Slang Word in Each State

There’s a minute, and then there’s a hot minute. Defined as “a longish amount of time,” this unit of time is familiar to Alabamians but may stir up confusion beyond the state’s borders.

It’s Louisianans, though, who feel the “most misunderstood,” according to the results of a survey regarding regional slang by PlayNJ. Of the Louisiana residents surveyed, 72 percent said their fellow Americans from other states—even neighboring ones—have a hard time grasping their lingo. Some learned the hard way that ordering a burger “dressed” (with lettuce, tomato, pickles, and mayo) isn’t universally understood, nor is the phrase “to pass a good time” (instead of “to have” a good time).

After surveying 2000 people (with proportional numbers from each state), PlayNJ created a map showing the top slang word in each state. Many are words that are unlikely to be understood beyond state lines, but others—like California’s bomb (something you really like) and New York’s deadass (to be completely serious)—have spread well beyond their respective borders thanks to memes and internet culture.

Hawaiians are also known for their distinctive slang words, with 71 percent reporting that words like shaka (hello) and poho (waste of time) are frequently misunderstood. Shark bait, one of the state’s more colorful terms, refers to tourists who are so pale that they attract sharks.

Check out the full list below and test your knowledge of regional slang words with PlayNJ’s online quiz.

A chart showing the top slang words in each state
20 States With the Highest Rates of Skin Cancer

They don’t call it the Sunshine State for nothing. Floridians get to soak up the sun year-round, but that exposure to harmful UV rays also comes with consequences. Prevention magazine reported that Florida has the highest rate of skin cancer in the U.S., according to a survey by Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS).

BCBS surveyed 9 million of its insured members who had been diagnosed with skin cancer between 2014 and 2016 and found that Florida had the highest rate of skin cancer at 7.1 percent. People living in eastern states tend to be more prone to skin cancer, and diagnoses are more common among women.

Here are the 20 states with the highest rates of skin cancer:

1. Florida: 7.1 percent
2. Washington, D.C.: 5.8 percent
3. Connecticut: 5.6 percent
4. Maryland: 5.3 percent
5. Rhode Island: 5.3 percent
6. Vermont: 5.3 percent
7. North Carolina: 5.2 percent
8. New York: 5 percent
9. Massachusetts: 5 percent
10. Colorado: 5 percent
11. Arizona: 5 percent
12. Virginia: 5 percent
13. Delaware: 4.8 percent
14. Kentucky: 4.7 percent
15. Alabama: 4.7 percent
16. New Jersey: 4.7 percent
17. Georgia: 4.7 percent
18. West Virginia: 4.5 percent
19. Tennessee: 4.5 percent
20. South Carolina: 4.4 percent

It may come as a surprise that sunny California doesn’t make the top 20, and Hawaii is the state with the lowest rate of skin cancer at 1.8 percent. Prevention magazine explains that this could be due to the large population of senior citizens in Florida and the fact that the risk of melanoma, a rare but deadly type of skin cancer, increases with age. People living in regions with higher altitudes also face a greater risk of skin cancer due to the thinner atmosphere and greater exposure to UV radiation, which explains why Colorado is in the top 10.

The good news is that the technology used to detect skin cancer is improving, and researchers hope that AI can soon be incorporated into more skin cancer screenings. To reduce your risk, be sure to wear SPF 30+ sunscreen when you know you’ll be spending time outside, and don’t forget to reapply it every two hours. 

[h/t Prevention]


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