AmazonCam Tambopata

by Enrique Colita

The Zooniverse project I chose to explore is AmazonCam Tambopata. In this project volunteers identify animal(s) in a picture taken by a camera in the Peruvian Amazon. These animals are fairly easy to identify as the areas covered by these cameras had recurring appearances of animals. There is a checklist that you will be given to identify the animal(s) that you will see in the pictures. All the data is collected from two Peruvian rainforests (Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park). These rainforests are protected, meaning that there will be no tampering with any cameras put in the rainforests other than the animals.

This is one of the biggest animal monitoring groups in all of South America. This network of cameras, on a huge trail system known as ‘The Big Grid’, shows the movements of wildlife throughout the two rainforests: Tambopata National Reserve and the Bahuaja Sonene National Park. The cameras will be put out on each part of ‘the grid’ all year long. It will be able to monitor the movements of animals, what they eat, and how many animals travel in a groups and their numbers.





The top predators In the peruvian rainforests would be the jaguars. The jaguars live in very large and uneasy territory, but it is still very easy to identify the jaguars out in the rainforests. The pictures help to show how the animals travel, whether it be in pairs, packs, or if they travel with their cubs. It helps to determine how long the animals live and much more!

0403-Jaguar-rainforest-Manu( )

Overall, I believe that this is a good project for people to participate in. It’s fairly easy to identify animals (with the help of tools if it gets harder to identify animals or if the picture is blurry). You learn more on how different animals move throughout these two forests. It’s really important because it is one of the last of the “natural frontiers” of earth, so this project raises awareness of these animals’ homes and helps preserve it.  

Learn more an help out the project at : – contributed by Mark Bowler, Daniel Couceiro, and Mathias Tobler

Research team: Diego Balbuena and Gaby Orihuela

Full team: Dr. Mark Bowler, Daniel Couceiro, Mathias Tobler, Paloma Alcazar, Juan Grados, Dr. George Olah, Aaron Pomerantz, Dr. Vuran Swamy, Dr. Donald Brightsmith


Spare Time Comet Hunting

By: Iryna Blazhevych

Imagine discovering comets in our universe from the comfort of your home. Comet Hunters is one of the many projects on Zooniverse where main belt comets are identified and differentiated from asteroids. Main Belt comets were not long ago discovered in our universe. They are located in the Solar System’s asteroid belt and have traits typically assigned to comets, such as a tail. The reason this project exists, is because only ten of these main belt comets have been discovered up to date, which leads to a very limited understanding of them.

With the Zooniverse platform, anyone can help with the discovery of these main belt comets. All volunteers need to do is create a Zooniverse account and then they are all set to identify and analyze the photos of comets and asteroids given to them. Volunteers will either classify new or old photos of the asteroids. When classifying the asteroids, all volunteers need to do is look at two side by side images taken in space and decide whether the asteroids are visible in the middle of the photo. If the answer to the previous question is yes, then the volunteer must determine whether or not the asteroids have tails. With such easy steps, volunteers can get through a classification in under a minute. There is also an option in which when the volunteers are done classifying the images, they can talk to other volunteers that did the same classification. This can be a useful tool in both finding new observation in the images and debated on what the right classification is to get the most valid answer.

Screenshot (1)

The classifications that volunteers do are not in vain. With them, astronomers in the Comet Hunters team can identify and track these main belt comets. When a new potential main belt comet is chosen, it is observed with both ground and space telescopes, and determined whether or not it is a main belt comet. With this information, the origins of our Solar System can be studied, since asteroids and comets are leftover masses from the creation of the planets. It will also increase the discovery rate of main belt comets in the future. Every classification the volunteers do leads to a broader understanding of our Solar System and the objects with which we share it with.


Zooniverse. (n.d.). Retrieved July 14, 2017, from

Etch a Cell

by Gabrielle Easterly

For decades, scientists have been trying to understand cells and how they work. The project that my group chose, Etch a Cell, will continue to assist scientists through a Zooniverse project. Zooniverse is a citizen science platform that allows  people to make an account and follow along with various projects to look at pictures and analyze them by either drawing something out, making marks, separating, or through other actions. For the Etch a Cell project we are instructed to look at a picture of a cell taken by an electron microscope and draw out the lining between the nucleus and the other chemicals that surround it called the nuclear envelope. While this project may not be the most fun to do, it can be very helpful for the development of cures for various diseases and cancers.


Our job is to segment the image taken by the electron microscope which allows for vision of smaller object such as cells. Segmenting is highlighting the topic of interest within an image, not just specifically identifying the nucleus and highlighting it. We are doing this because from this segmenting scientists can then create three-dimensional pictures that allow for better understanding of how the cell is formed. They are able to do this by segmenting together the different segments that we highlighted to create a model (The Francis Crick Institute). How cool?

The importance of this project by itself can not be stressed enough on the future development of health in the world! This project is extremely essential for cures to cell abnormalities caused by “cancer, infectious diseases (including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria), the immune system, the brain and nervous system, diabetes and several others” (Francis Crick Institute). The nuclear envelope forms in different ways based on what diseases or other cell irregularities that cause a negative or positive impact on the body. The nuclear envelope protects the nucleus and acts as a “gate,” and separates the chemicals outside of the nucleus from the nucleus itself (The Francis Crick Institute). With our couple of minutes to help these scientists we can help them understand cells better and make things more possible than they had been.

455a5710-738b-41ce-a6ce-14ef94d332d5With what might seem like only a small amount of assistance, people like you and I can help change the dynamics of cell studies. Segmenting the photos by themselves makes the overall process of creating the three-dimensional models much easier for the scientists. From the creations of the three-dimensional models scientists will now be able to understand how different diseases affect the cell, specifically the nucleus and nuclear envelope. Eventually computers will learn to do both the segmentation and creation of models on their own but all it will take is the continuous help of citizen scientists. With enough help from citizen scientists we can help the scientists at the Francis Crick Institute be “able to train computers to segment automatically” which can further their understanding of biology and the ability “to work out how new treatments might be created” (The Francis Crick Institute).

From this project we, regular people or citizen scientists, will be able to help lead to ,eventually, further understandings of cells. The Zooniverse platform makes it simple for people to become scientists and you would not think that drawing a line around a nucleus would have as much of an impact as it potentially could. This process would have taken the scientists at The Francis Crick Institute much more time to complete by hand.

Remember you too can become a citizen scientist and help continue the study for treatments!


The Francis Crick Institute. (n.d.). Etch a Cell . Retrieved July 13, 2017, from

Count Flowers for Bees

by Alex Burr

Bees and other animals are pollinators, and pollinators are crucial to keeping plants, animals, and us alive. Without pollinators, we would be unable to grow 75% of the food grown in the US daily, including all the sweet fruits you love and all the bad vegetables your parents probably make you eat. For this reason, it is necessary to identify places pollinators can visit frequently in order to increase conservation efforts there.

Pollinators are broadly defined as any species that transfers pollen from one plant to another plant of the same species. Plants have both the pollen (analogous to sperm in males) and the stigma (analogous to an egg in females) needed to fertilize itself. While some plants are able to fertilize themselves without outside help, 80-90% of all flowering plant species cannot. They need another organism, a vector (like a bee), to transfer pollen to the stigma and fertilize the plant.

Count Flowers for Bees is a collection of photos of Ireland’s countryside, where there are many flowering plants that need vectors (aka cross-pollinating plants). The research team that took these photographs needs your help in counting the total number of each kind of flower in each picture. When you count these flowers, the research team is able to identify the areas most populated with cross-pollinating flowers that therefore need conservation efforts the most. Without these conservation efforts, humankind could lose many of the flowering plants and/or the vectors they need to create food. This project is important because it concerns the very pollinators we all need to create the majority of our food, and without food humankind cannot survive (we think).  

The Case for Space Colonization

By: Bria Eldon

9147209285_1088a0bee6_bAn artistic rendering of Mars exploration by Chesley Bonestell.

Given recent events on Earth, like climate change and changing world powers, people are are worried about the future of humanity. One good option for continued success of the human species would be to colonize other planets.

First, colonies in space could be used if something happened to Earth. Most people want to think Earth could last forever, but it won’t. At some point a catastrophe whether natural, like an asteroid, or man-made, like climate change, could destroy the Earth or render it uninhabitable.If the Earth were destroyed or damaged in a catastrophe then a colony in space could become a safe haven. However, no one is suggesting that we just abandon Earth and all move to space. As cool as that would be it’s probably not feasible. Instead we should concentrate on not only forming space colonies as well as adapting the technology from those colonies to saving the Earth.

Next, there are a lot of resources in space. Asteroid mining seems to be the stuff of science fiction but it is soon to be science fact: in February 2001 NASA landed a probe on an asteroid and in September 2016 the Rosetta mission deliberately crashed into a comet after surveying it for several years. While getting a robot out there, not to mention designing it in the first place, would be a real challenge. But it might not be necessary. Near Earth Objects, or NEOs, are asteroids that come fairly close to Earth, and could be mined relatively easily because of their proximity to Earth and some of them have more resources than Earth does. On top of the number of resources they have if we mine them instead of the Earth. Resources that could be mined from asteroids include metals like platinum, nickel, iron, gold and water. While some people point out that it’s not feasible to get to the asteroid belt and mine the asteroids there and it isn’t, for now at least. However, because of NEOs we don’t have to go that far – they occasionally come closer then the Moon.

Finally, the lower gravity on other planets will be easier to launch then from Earth. One of the main problems and why rockets need so much fuel is because escape velocity is about 11.2 kilometers per hour (6.96 miles per hour). If a spacecraft is launched from a lower-gravity planet or Moon, then it will require less fuel, and a simpler rocket can be used because to launch something less fuel is needed, which makes the rocket weigh less and it needs less extra fuel to carry the weight of the fuel needed to launch.

We have the technology to go to space and it’s within reason to live there. Why shouldn’t we?

Where is Humanity’s next home?

By: Madaline Meagher

More and more in the media, the topic of going to Mars and establishing base in the next decade has a been a prevalent one. If Humanity is planning to make a permanent residence on Mars there is lot consider. Currently there are not many theories to solve the problems of making Mars Earth two. Which is where my concerns that we are jumping the gun on this endeavor.

Let’s say humanity found somewhere (a planet) we want to go. We’ve chosen to leave and we have some people who want to go there. Unfortunately the conditions on that planet aren’t exactly what we need to survive. People who are familiar with a lot of real-time strategy and science fiction probably have heard the term terraforming; the idea that you can change a planet to make it better for you. Making an imperfect place, perfect.

Global warming has been damaging our planet and making it warmer since the eighteen-hundreds. Nice job humans. Let me tell you a crazy idea, why not put carbon spilling factories on Mars to thicken and warm up it’s atmosphere like a little warm blanket? Not a completely bad idea, however we can’t just pop over there because it’s kind of far. Mars’ lacks a thick atmosphere and a planetary dynamo(magnetic field) to hold a thicker atmosphere in place. Mars’ also has weak gravity and host of other problems. Still, scientists are thinking about this stuff really seriously.

So let’s talk about Mars. Mars, it’s probably our best bet for a lifeboat planet, even though it is pretty void and desolate. Basically we would need to cut the UV rays, the temperature and pressure of the atmosphere to be more earthlike, and introduce water. Mars’s atmosphere is 100X thinner than the earth and is composed of is 95% carbon dioxide, almost 3% nitrogen, a <1% argon, and very little oxygen. Mars’ atmosphere is so thin, if you were to walk onto Mars without a spacesuit the low pressure would make your blood boil. Not in a hot way but your blood would become a gas and that’s not too fun.

Recently experts were thinking of terraforming Mars by freeing heat trapped carbon dioxide from the Martian crust back into the atmosphere. Essentially creating global warming on Mars because it is really cold. It actually seemed pretty feasible until you look at the results from NASA’s MAVEN Mars atmosphere and volatile evolution mission from late 2015. I’m sure you’ve all looked at the results. MAVEN showed that the CO2 levels on Mars went up after its atmosphere was stripped away. Mars’ atmosphere was stripped away by the Sun’s solar wind. Mars does not have an electromagnetic field like Earth does, generated by the core of the earth spinning. Mars’ also didn’t have enough gravity to hold on to all of those atmospheric molecules. According to the principal investigator of the NASA MAVEN mission, Bruce Jakosky, those molecules have been removed from the solar system entirely. It’s not possible to bring Mars’ atmosphere back.

So why not another planet, what about Venus? Venus is closer than Mars, at 26 million miles from Earth at its closest point and 160 million at its furthest. The shorter distance makes it easier to send help if something goes wrong. Venus is also 80% the mass of Earth and has 90% the gravity vs Mars which is 10 times smaller and has 38% the gravity. Venus is often considered to be Earth’s twin but it has a surface temperature of 864 degrees F, hot enough to melt lead. Another concern is Venus’s surface pressure being high at 92 bar, compared to the Earth’s average surface pressure of 1 bar. 92 Bar would be about the same pressure as going 1000ft deep into the Ocean. That’s far beyond the crush depth of most military submarines. Every lander or probe sent to Venus’ surface has had a fairly short life, with the longest one lasting only 2 hours before being destroyed by the environment. Go upward 31 miles above the surface of Venus it isn’t as bad with similar pressure, gravity and radiation protection to Earth. Which is why NASA has HAVOC, the High Altitude Venus Operational Concept, a floating city science lab or cloud city from Star Wars.

But the general consensus is that the other planets are uninhabitable due to temperature, distance, or a lack of a surface to stand on. So, in terms of planets in our solar system, Mars becomes the obvious destination. So what about are closest neighbor, the moon? Nasa has published a study that colony could be dug under the Moon’s surface and still be okay or in an existing craters. There is still the of cosmic radiation because the moon lacks an atmosphere. Luckily dirt is actually a pretty good reducer of radiation and nuclear fallout can be blocked by like a foot and a half of dirt or concrete packed the right density. In 2008 study by nasa’s lunar Science Institute found that lunar regolith can also do that it can also block radiation. There is still no solution to gravity issue but a controlled inclosed moon base could be a possibility.

Overall I think a moon base could be great test run for a enclosed base on Mars. I would want to get right the first time with Mars because it takes eight months to get there where the moon only takes three days. This makes help more readily available if something goes wrong. For now I think we should hold off on making Mars Earth two and use a moon base as a test run. This way we will have more time to work on the issues of Terraforming Mars.


Closing the STEM achievement gap

By: Olivia Flores

There is still a strong achievement gap for underrepresented minorities in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. There needs to be an increase of local efforts to create STEM programs for minority students in underrepresented communities. Implementing after-school science programs for minority students will increase their participation rates and lead to positive attitudes towards STEM.

Engaging students in STEM programs from a young age increases their participation for future STEM disciplines. STEM programs can increase interest of underrepresented minorities (URM) starting at a young age. A third of students lose an interest in science by the time they reach fourth grade. The number increases to 50 percent of students losing interest or finding science irrelevant to their future plans by the time they reach eighth grade. URM (Black, Hispanic, Native Americans, Pacific Islanders) in extracurricular programs would help suffice for the lack of exposure to STEM fields and close the persistent achievement gap.

A IEEE study by Yeaun and associates evaluated the influence of robotic clubs in increasing participation of URM in STEM. Hispanics are the fastest growing minority population in the U.S, yet only earn about 10% of undergraduate students majoring in science and engineering. The study states that the only STEM resources for many low income Hispanic students are public classrooms. However, the curriculum of the education system implements practices that neglect the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. URM students potentially see language barriers and their cultural background to disconnect them from success in STEM. Employing a teaching curriculum in a STEM program that values a child’s linguistic and cultural backgrounds as sources of knowledge or “funds of knowledge” will create a positive outlook on STEM disciplines. The authors design and establish after-school robotic clubs throughout San Antonio to sustain children’s interests in STEM; particularly those children from URM. The study recognizes that robotic clubs have become one of the most popular activities for K-12 schools. The school district consisted of having large hispanic and economically disadvantaged populations. The research concludes that the design of these clubs and implementation open up a STEM pipeline to low-income Hispanic students, and can be used to target other underrepresented minorities.

Local efforts need to increase to create STEM pipeline programs in and out of school to increase participation from underrepresented minorities, starting from a young age. Narrowing the achievement gap in STEM to increase the diversity is vital because it is no more diverse than it was 14 years ago. Taking action and targeting STEM programs to URM will broaden their participation, creating a very beneficial step to seeing more culturally diverse fields of science in the future.

Hurtado, S., Newman, C. B., Tran, M. C., & Chang, M. J. (2010). Improving the rate of success for underrepresented racial minorities in STEM fields: Insights from a national project. New Directions For Institutional Research, 2010(148), 5-15.

Yuen, T. T., Ek, L. D., Scheutze, A.(2013) Increasing participation from underrepresented minorities in STEM through robotics clubs. IEEE International Conference on Teaching, Assessment and Learning for Engineering, 2013.

Bidwell, A. (n.d.). STEM Workforce No More Diverse Than 14 Years Ago. Retrieved November 19, 2016, from