January 10, 2017 AT 1:30 am

How to Enjoy Your Cocoa and Help Science This Winter #CitizenScience #Science #DIY @the_zooniverse

For those of you experiencing a cold climate, you may be more comfortable moving your Wii inside than experiencing the great outdoors. However, thanks to the internet you can still embark on some exciting citizen science adventures with hot cocoa by your side. Here’s three that will give you a change of scenery while reminding you of the science of icy habitats, all from Zooniverse.

Penguin Watch


Penguin Watch Zooniverse Project

If you love birds, Penguin Watch is going to be your go-to citizen science project. Once you determine whether there are penguins in a pic, you can use a small magnifying glass to mark adults, chicks, eggs and other wildlife. Nothing says cold weather like fuzzy chicks cuddling with parents in these snow speckled habitats. Sometimes the number of adults in a photo can be so large, that it may take you an entire lunch hour to complete a photo, but you will certainly feel good knowing that you’ve helped the Penguin Lifeline Project of the University of Oxford. They’ve got 50 cameras set up in the Southern Ocean and the Antarctic Peninsula snapping images of colonies year round. Research can help understand the distribution and behaviors of penguins, which can in turn lead to the protection of their environments.

Snow Spotter

Snow Spotter Zooniverse Project

This project will give you trail cam images showing snow scenes from Olympic National Park in Washington. Your job? Look at the trees and determine how much snow is covering their branches (if any) by choosing the amount small, medium or large. The reason this information is significant is because it is looking at forest interception. According to Snow Spotter’s project site:

Since the forest can intercept up to 60% of the total annual snowfall and 25-45% of the intercepted snow can be sublimated back to the atmosphere, forest interception plays a vital role in our understanding of how much snow is in forests. Watersheds can be dominated by forests and snow provides a natural storage of fresh water, therefore your contributions will allow us to better determine our overall water supply for the dry season.

Some of the photography is breathtaking and it is fun to look at the “collect” tab on the site to view some of the best collections. Notice you can get the occasional wildlife as well. The project is related to work done by the University of Washington Mountain Hydrology Group and NASA, where photographs were compared to satellite images to correlate rain and snowfall. The photos are now getting another use, so kick back and enjoy the snow while learning the finer details of watershed ecology.

Planet Four: Terrains


Planet Four Terrains Zooniverse Project

If you want an adventure beyond Earth, check out this project that looks at the intriguing south polar region of Mars. Planet Four: Terrains shares images from the Context Camera which is orbiting the planet on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). You’ll quickly be tossing around labels like “spiders”, “baby spiders”, “channel networks” and “swiss cheese” to describe the landscape. Many of the features are caused by the changes in CO2 (dry ice) caused by temperature changes throughout the seasons. Here’s what has scientists curious:

Scientists have noticed that spiders and channel networks are not uniformly distributed over the polar areas. Some locations seem fully covered with channels and others do not have them at all. The science team would like to know their distribution and try to figure out if it is correlated with properties of the soils or weather patterns.

While you are touring the gorgeous and eerie landmarks, you’ll be helping NASA determine which areas should be targeted for higher res images. So, have fun exploring space surrounded by plenty of oxygen and gravity. Oh yes, and if this space project still doesn’t have you pushing buttons, check out the other projects on Zooniverse—there’s something for everyone with a flair for fun.

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