Category Archives: Citizen Science

Invitation to collect data during April 8, 2024 eclipse for US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

An April 2, 2024 news item on phys.org is, in fact, an open invitation to participate in data collection for NASA during the April 8, 2024 eclipse,

On April 8, 2024, as the moon passes between the sun and Earth, thousands of amateur citizen scientists will measure air temperatures and snap pictures of clouds. The data they collect will aid researchers who are investigating how the sun influences climates in different environments.

Among those citizen scientists are the fifth- and sixth-grade students at Alpena Elementary in northwest Arkansas. In the weeks leading up to the eclipse, these students are visiting the school’s weather station 10 times a day to collect temperature readings and monitor cloud cover. They will then upload the data to a phone-based app that’s part of a NASA-led program called GLOBE, short for Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment.

The goal, according to Alpena Elementary science and math teacher Roger Rose, is to “make science and math more real” for his students. “It makes them feel like they’re doing something that’s important and worthwhile.”

The GLOBE eclipse tool is a small part of the much broader GLOBE project, through which students and citizen scientists collect data on plants, soil, water, the atmosphere, and even mosquitoes. Contributors to the eclipse project will only need a thermometer and a smartphone with the GLOBE Observer app downloaded. They can access the eclipse tool in the app. [emphases mine]

An April 1, 2024 NASA article by James Riordon, which originated the news item, provides more information about the GLOBE program and the hopes for the April 8, 2024 eclipse initiative,

This is not the first time the GLOBE eclipse tool has been deployed in North America. During the 2017 North American eclipse, NASA researchers examined the relationship between clouds and air temperature and found that temperature swings during the eclipse were greatest in areas with less cloud cover, while temperature fluctuations in cloudier regions were more muted. It’s a finding that would have been difficult, perhaps impossible, without the assistance of numerous amateur observers along the eclipse path, said Marilé Colón Robles, a meteorologist based at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, and the GLOBE project scientist overseeing the cloud study portion of the project.

GLOBE program volunteers across North America uploaded data coinciding with the July 21, 2017 event to this map. A high concentration of observers make the path of totality in the western part of the U.S. stand out. Credit: NASA Globe program

The number of weather stations along this year’s eclipse path is limited, and while satellites give us a global view, they can’t provide the same level of detail as people on the ground, said Ashlee Autore, a NASA Langley data scientist who will be conducting a follow-up to the 2017 study. “The power of citizen science is that people make the observations, and they can move.”

It’s still unclear how temperature fluctuations during a total eclipse compare across different climate regions, Colón Robles said. “This upcoming eclipse is passing through desert regions, mountainous regions, as well as more moist regions near the oceans.” Acquiring observations across these areas, she said, “will help us dig deeper into questions about regional connections between cloud cover and ground-level temperatures.” The studies should give scientists a better handle on the flow of energy from the Sun that’s crucial for understanding climate.

In many areas, citizen scientists are expected to gather en masse. “We’re inviting basically all of El Paso to campus,” said geophysicist and GLOBE partner John Olgin of El Paso Community College in Texas. The area will experience the eclipse in near totality, with about 80% of the Sun covered at the peak. It’s enough to make for an engaging event involving citizen scientists from the U.S. and Juarez, Mexico, just across the Rio Grande. 

Just a few minutes of midday darkness will have the long-term benefits of increasing awareness of NASA citizen science programs, Olgin said: “It’s going to inspire people to say, ‘Hey look, you can actually do stuff with NASA.’”

More than 30 million people live along the path of the 2024 eclipse, and hundreds of millions more will see a partial eclipse. It will be another 20 years before so many people in North America experience another total solar eclipse again.

With this in mind, Colón Robles has a piece of advice: As the Moon actively blocks the Sun, set your phone and thermometer aside, and marvel at one of the most extraordinary astronomical events of your lifetime.

Visit NASA’s Citizen Science page to learn how you can help NASA scientists study the Earth during eclipses and all year round. The GLOBE Program page provides connections to communities of GLOBE participants in 127 countries, access to data for retrieval and analysis, a roadmap for new participants, and other resources.

For anyone who wants to experience all of the ways that NASA has made their citizen science April 2024 eclipse projects accessible there’s NASA’s ‘general eclipse’ webpage.

Project M: over1000 scientists, 110 schools, 800 samples, and U.K.’s synchrotron

A January 29, 2024 Diamond Light Source (UK synchrotron) press release (also on EurekAlert) announced results from a major school citizen science project,

Results of a large-scale innovative Citizen Science experiment called Project M which involved over 1000 scientists, 800 samples and 110 UK secondary schools in a huge experiment will be published in the prestigious RSC (Royal Society of Chemistry) journal CrystEngComm on 29 January 2024. The paper is titled: “Project M: Investigating the effect of additives on calcium carbonate crystallisation through a school citizen science program”. The paper shares a giant set of results from the school citizen scientists who collaborated with a team at Diamond to find out how different additives affect the different forms of calcium carbonate produced. These additives affect the type of calcium carbonate that forms, and thus its properties and potential applications. Being able to easily produce different forms of calcium carbonate could be very important for manufacturing.

Lead authors Claire Murray, Visiting Scientist at Diamond and Julia Parker, Diamond Principal Beamline Scientist and expert in calcium carbonate science who conceptualised the project, analysed the data, wrote and edited the manuscript explain that despite nature’s ability to precisely control calcium carbonate formation in shells and skeletons, laboratories around the world are often unable to exact the same level of control over how calcium carbonate forms. Nature uses molecules like amino acids and proteins to direct the formation of calcium carbonate, so we were interested in discovering how some of these molecules affect the calcium carbonate that we make in the lab.

Project M engaged the students and teachers as scientists, making different samples of calcium carbonate under varying conditions with different additives. 800 of these samples were then analysed in just 24 hours in April 2017 using the X-ray powder diffraction technique at on beamline I11 at Diamond Light Source, the UK’s national synchrotron. This created a giant set of results which form the basis of the publication. A systematic study of this scale has never been completed anywhere else in the world.

The goal of this project was to find out how using different additives like amino acids affect the structure of the calcium carbonate. The mineral has three main forms called ‘polymorphs’ – vaterite, calcite and aragonite – which can be identified using X-ray powder diffraction at Diamond’s beamline l11. Diamond Light Source produces one of the brightest X-ray beams on planet Earth, which allow scientists to understand the atomic structure of materials. Scientists come from all over the UK and further afield to use these X-rays – as well as infrared and ultraviolet light – to make better drugs, understand the natural world, and create futuristic materials. Understanding the impact of different additives on the production of polymorphs is of huge interest in industry such as in manufacturing, medical applications such as tissue engineering and the design of drug-delivery systems, and even cosmetics.

However, mapping such a large parameter space, in terms of additive and concentration, requires the synthesis of a large number of samples and the provision of high throughput analysis techniques. It presented an exciting opportunity to collaborate with 110 secondary schools making real samples to showcase the high-throughput capability of the beamline, including rapid robotic changing of samples, which means diffraction patterns can be collected and samples changed in less than 90 seconds.

“The project was led by a scientific question we had,” explained Claire Murray. “The idea to involve school students and teaching staff in the preparation of the samples followed naturally as we know Chemistry projects are underrepresented in the citizen science space. The contribution that student citizen scientists can make to research should not be underestimated. These projects can provide a powerful way for researchers to access volumes of data they might struggle to collect otherwise, as well as inspiring future generations of scientists.”

The project was designed with kit and resources to support the schools to learn new techniques and knowledge and to provide them with space to interact and engage with the experiment. After analysis at Diamond, the students had the opportunity to look at their results, see their peaks and determine what sort of polymorphs they had produced, and compare their results with the results obtained by different samples and different schools at different locations in the UK.

Gry E. Christensen, former student and Project M Scientist at Didcot Girls’ School, Didcot commented; “It was an amazing journey and I recommend that if any other schools have a chance to help with a similar project, then jump on board, because it is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the students, and you feel you can make a positive change to the world.”

“The fact that we didn’t know the answer yet was a motivational factor for the students,” explains Claire Murray. “The teachers told us they took everything more seriously, because this was real science in action – it really meant something. They shared how the students were excited to translate their lab skills to this experiment and that the students were able to contextualise their learning from their prescribed textbooks and lab classes. Teachers also highlighted their own interest and curiosity as many of them have trained as chemists in their education. They appreciated the connection to real science for themselves and the opportunity for continued professional development.”

‘The project offered our pupils a unique opportunity to take part in genuine scientific research and should act as a blueprint for future projects that aim to engage young people in science beyond the classroom.’ Adds Matthew Wainwright, teacher and Project M Scientist at Kettlethorpe High School, Wakefield.

Exploring the role of amino acids in directing crystallisation with the Project M Scientists was an opportunity and an honour for the authors. Julia Parker explained; “In our work we see how we can draw novel scientific conclusions regarding the effect of amino acids on the structure of calcite and vaterite calcium carbonate polymorphs. This ability to explore a wide parameter space in sample conditions, whilst providing continued educational and scientific engagement benefits for the students and teachers involved, can we hope in future be applied to other materials synthesis investigations.”

Project M enabled schools to carry out real research and do an experiment that had never been done before, in their own school laboratory. It was the first ‘citizen science’ project run by Diamond, which transported Diamond science to schools and enabled the production of a considerable set of results, which has now resulted in this successful publication in CrystEngComm.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper, Note: the Project M Scientists are listed as authors,

Project M: investigating the effect of additives on calcium carbonate crystallisation through a school citizen science program by Claire A. Murray, Project M Scientists, Laura Holland, Rebecca O’Brien, Alice Richards, Annabelle R. Baker, Mark Basham, David Bond, Leigh D. Connor, Sarah J. Day, Jacob Filik, Stuart Fisher, Peter Holloway, Karl Levik, Ronaldo Mercado, Jonathan Potter, Chiu C. Tang, Stephen P. Thompson, and Julia E. Parker. CrystEngComm, 2024,26, 753-763 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1039/D3CE01173A First published: 29 Jan 2024

This paper is open access.

Be a citizen scientist: join the ‘Wild river battle’

I got this invitation from a professor at the University of Montpellier (Université de Montpellier, France) in a February 1, 2024 email (the project ‘Wild river battle’ is being run by scientists at ETH Zurich [Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zürich]) ,

Dear all,

I hope this message finds you well. I am reaching out to share an exciting opportunity for all of us to contribute to the safeguarding of wild rivers worldwide.

We are launching a Citizen Science project in collaboration with Citizen Science Zurich, utilizing AI and satellite imagery to assess and protect the natural state of rivers on a global scale. Whether you have a passion for river conservation or simply wish to contribute to a meaningful cause, we invite you to join us in this impactful game.

To access the game, please follow this link https://lab.citizenscience.ch/en/project/769

It only takes 3-5 minutes, and the rules are simple: click on the riverscape that you find the wildest (you can also use the buttons under the images).

Thank you very much for your time in advance, and I look forward to witnessing our collective efforts make a positive impact for the conservation of our precious rivers. And we are open to receive any feedback by mail (shzong@ethz.ch) and willing to provide more information for those who are interested (https://ele.ethz.ch/research/technology-modelling/citizen-river.html).

Best regards and have fun!

Nicolas Mouquet

Scientific director of the Centre for the Synthesis
and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB)
5 Rue de l’École de Médecine
34000, Montpellier

I went looking for more information as per Mouquet`s email (https://ele.ethz.ch/research/technology-modelling/citizen-river.html) and found this,

Finding wild rivers with AI

A citizen science project combining AI and satellite images to evaluate rivers’ wildness.

Wild rivers are an invaluable resource that play a vital role in maintaining healthy ecosystems and supporting biodiversity. Rivers of high ecological integrity provide habitat for a wide variety of plant and animal species, and their free-​flowing waters provide a large number of services such as freshwater, supporting the needs of local communities. Protecting wild rivers is essential to ensure long-​term global health, and it is our responsibility to develop management schemes to preserve these precious habitats for future generations.  

Wild stretches, supporting the highest levels of biodiversity, are disappearing globally at an extremely fast rate. Deforestation, mining, pollution, booming hydropower dams and other human infrastructures are built or planned on large rivers. The increasing pressure of human activities has been causing a rapid decline of biodiversity and ecological function. We should act now to protect the rivers and be guided by the current state of rivers to identify unprotected areas that are worth being included in conservation plans. However, there is still no map of global wild river segments which could support such global conservation planning, nor a tool to monitor the wilderness of rivers over time under global changes.

How we find wild rivers, evaluate their wildness, and why we need your help

We will evaluate the level of wildness of river sections from satellite images. Remote sensing is the most efficient method for monitoring the landscape on a global and dynamic scale. Satellite images contain valuable information about the river’s course, width, depth, shape and surrounding landscape, which allow us to assess how wild they are visually.

You and other citizen scientists can help us score the wildest river sections from satellite images. Using the ranking from citizen scientists, we will run a ranking algorithm to give each image a wildness score depending on the many pairwise comparisons. These images with a wilderness score will act as a training dataset for a machine learning algorithm which will be trained to automatically score any large river segment, globally. With an accurate river wildness model, we will be able to quickly assess the wildness of the global river sections. Using such a tool, we can for instance find the river sections that are still worth protecting. This pristine river map will provide invaluable insights for conservation initiatives and enable targeted actions to safeguard and restore the remaining pristine rivers and monitor the trajectories of rivers around the world.

How to do it?

Rivers will first be segmented into river sections with the surrounding environment as a whole landscape bounding box. The river sections will be identified by citizen scientists and your interpretation to form a reference dataset. The game (you can click the corresponding language to access it with different language versions. English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese) is easy (thanks to Citizen Science Zurich); you just have to click on the riverscape you find more wild, or click the button under the rivers. For mobile users, please use the buttons.

Before you get started there will be this,

Your participation in the study is voluntary.

Statement of consent

By participating in the study, I confirm that I:

* have heard/read and understood the study information.
* had enough time to decide on my participation in the study.
* voluntarily participate in the study and agree to my personal data being used as described below.

Participants’ information will be handled with the utmost confidentiality. All data collected, including but not limited to demographic details, responses to survey questions, and any other pertinent information, will be securely stored and accessible only to authorized personnel involved in the research. Your personal identity will be kept strictly confidential, and any published results will be presented in aggregate form, ensuring that individual participants cannot be identified. Furthermore, your data will not be shared with any third parties and will only be used for the specific research purposes outlined in the introduction page prior to participating in the study.

I fund this description of the researchers and contributors (from https://lab.citizenscience.ch/en/project/769 or ‘Wild river battle’)

Who is behind

We are ecologists at ETH Zurich that are foucusing on biodiversity monitoring in the large river corridors. Learn more about us from our homepage. Chair of Ecosystems and Landscape Evolution

Who contributes

All the people that have interest in protecting wild rivers can participate this project, and of course non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and river management bureau like CNR (Compagnie Nationale du Rhône) also showed great interests in this project.

Should you be inspired to do more, Citizen Science Zurich lists a number of projects (ranging from the Hair SALON project to FELIDAE: Finding Elusive Links by Tracking Diet of Cats in Environment to more) on this page. It’s a mixed listing of those that are completed or looking for participants and/or looking for financial resources.

There is also a Citizen Science Portal (a Canadian federal government project) that was last updated January 15, 2024. Some of the projects are national in scope while others are provincial in scope.

Recruiting for a citizen science project: become a Black Hole Hunter

A January 17, 2024 news item on phys.org announced a citizen science recruitment drive for more Black Hole Hunters,

Could you help scientists uncover the mysterious world of invisible black holes? Become a Black Hole Hunter and you’ll be taking part in scientific research that has the potential to reveal more about one of space’s most intriguing aspects.

All you will need is a smartphone, tablet or other computer, some guidance on how to spot the tell-tale clues, and a bit of time.

By volunteering to take part in this online citizen science project, you’ll be assisting astrophysicists Dr. Matt Middleton and Adam McMaster from the University of Southampton, and Dr. Hugh Dickinson from the Open University, with their research into elusive black holes.

A January 17, 2024 University of Southampton press release (also on EurekAlert), which originated the news item, gives more details about black holes and what citizen scientists will be doing during this new phase of the project,

Dr Middleton said: “Black holes are invisible. Their gravitational pull is so strong that not even light can escape, making them incredibly hard to see, even with specialist equipment.

“But that gravitational pull is also how we can detect them because it’s so strong that it can bend and focus light, acting like a lens that magnifies light from stars. We can detect this magnification and that’s how we know a black hole exists.

“We know our galaxy is teeming with black holes, but we’ve only found a handful. You could help us change that.”

Volunteers will be asked to search through telescope data and indicate anything that could reveal the presence of a black hole.

Adam added: “Anyone of any age can do this, and you don’t need to be an expert to take part. All you really need is an interest in space and as little or as much time as you can give for looking at the graphs and helping us spot the patterns that could reveal a black hole.

“Your work will directly contribute to real scientific research and you’ll be helping to make the invisible become visible.”

Black Hole Hunters previously analysed data from a ground-based telescope but the project is moving on – and up. It’s relaunching with a new set of data to analyse from a space-based telescope, called TESS.

Dr Hugh Dickinson, of The Open University, said: “We’re really excited to see the launch of this new Black Hole Hunter project.

“Using the amazing data from the TESS satellite means that there’s a good chance that one or more citizen scientists will be able to spot one of the elusive gravitational lensing events that we’re looking for.”

To get involved go to: Black Hole Hunters

The researchers are offering a training tutorial and a practice tutorial prior to getting started.

Poinsettia frogs and a Merry 2023 Christmas

I stumbled across this image in a December 20, 2023 article by Dorothy Woodend for The Tyee where she is the culture editor,

Instead of new material goods this holiday season, I’m searching for something more elusive and ultimately sustaining. And it may help us grow our appreciation for the natural world and its mysteries. Illustrations for The Tyee by Dorothy Woodend.

À propos given the name for this blog and the time of year. Thank you, Ms. Woodend!

I try not to do too many of these stories since the focus for this blog is new and emerging science and technology but I can’t resist including these frog stories (and one dog story). Plus, there may be some tap dancing.

A new (!) fanged frog in Indonesia

This is not the tiny Indonesian fanged frog but it does show you what a fanged frog looks like, from the December 21, 2023 “What Are Fanged Frogs?” posting on the Vajiram and Ravi IAS Study Center website,

Not an Indonesian fanged frog. h/t Vajiram and Ravi IAS Study Center [downloaded from https://vajiramias.com/current-affairs/what-are-fanged-frogs/658416a9f0e178517404afda/]

If you don’t have much time and are interested in the latest fanged frog, check out the December 21, 2023 “What Are Fanged Frogs?” posting as they have relevant information in bullet point form.

On to the specifics about the ‘new’ fanged frog from a December 21, 2023 news item on ScienceDaily,

In general, frogs’ teeth aren’t anything to write home about — they look like pointy little pinpricks lining the upper jaw. But one group of stream-dwelling frogs in Southeast Asia has a strange adaptation: two bony “fangs” jutting out of their lower jawbone. They use these fangs to battle with each other over territory and mates, and sometimes even to hunt tough-shelled prey like giant centipedes and crabs. In a new study, published in the journal PLOS [Public Library of Science] ONE, researchers have described a new species of fanged frog: the smallest one ever discovered.

“This new species is tiny compared to other fanged frogs on the island where it was found, about the size of a quarter,” says Jeff Frederick, a postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum in Chicago and the study’s lead author, who conducted the research as a doctoral candidate at the University of California, Berkeley.

A December 20, 2023 Field Museum news release (also on EurrekAlert), which originated the news item, adds more detail,

“Many frogs in this genus are giant, weighing up to two pounds. At the large end, this new species weighs about the same as a dime.”

In collaboration with the Bogor Zoology Museum, a team from the McGuire Lab at Berkeley   found the frogs on Sulawesi, a rugged, mountainous island that makes up part of Indonesia. “It’s a giant island with a vast network of mountains, volcanoes, lowland rainforest, and cloud forests up in the mountains. The presence of all these different habitats mean that the magnitude of biodiversity across many plants and animals we find there is unreal – rivaling places like the Amazon,” says Frederick.

While trekking through the jungle, members of the joint US-Indonesia amphibian and reptile research team noticed something unexpected on the leaves of tree saplings and moss-covered boulders: nests of frog eggs.

Frogs are amphibians, and they lay eggs that are encapsulated by jelly, rather than a hard, protective shell. To keep their eggs from drying out, most amphibians lay their eggs in water. To the research team’s surprise, they kept spotting the terrestrial egg masses on leaves and mossy boulders several feet above the ground. Shortly after, they began to see the small, brown frogs themselves.

“Normally when we’re looking for frogs, we’re scanning the margins of stream banks or wading through streams to spot them directly in the water,” Frederick says. “After repeatedly monitoring the nests though, the team started to find attending frogs sitting on leaves hugging their little nests.” This close contact with their eggs allows the frog parents to coat the eggs with compounds that keep them moist and free from bacterial and fungal contamination.

Closer examination of the amphibian parents revealed not only that they were tiny members of the fanged frog family, complete with barely-visible fangs, but that the frogs caring for the clutches of eggs were all male. “Male egg guarding behavior isn’t totally unknown across all frogs, but it’s rather uncommon,” says Frederick.

Frederick and his colleagues hypothesize that the frogs’ unusual reproductive behaviors might also relate to their smaller-than-usual fangs. Some of the frogs’ relatives have bigger fangs, which help them ward off competition for spots along the river to lay their eggs in the water. Since these frogs evolved a way to lay their eggs away from the water, they may have lost the need for such big imposing fangs. (The scientific name for the new species is Limnonectes phyllofolia; phyllofolia means “leaf-nester.”)

“It’s fascinating that on every subsequent expedition to Sulawesi, we’re still discovering new and diverse reproductive modes,” says Frederick. “Our findings also underscore the importance of conserving these very special tropical habitats. Most of the animals that live in places like Sulawesi are quite unique, and habitat destruction is an ever-looming conservation issue for preserving the hyper-diversity of species we find there. Learning about animals like these frogs that are found nowhere else on Earth helps make the case for protecting these valuable ecosystems.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

A new species of terrestrially-nesting fanged frog (Anura: Dicroglossidae) from Sulawesi Island, Indonesia by Jeffrey H. Frederick, Djoko T. Iskanda, Awal Riyanto, Amir Hamidy, Sean B. Reilly, Alexander L. Stubbs, Luke M. Bloch, Bryan Bach, Jimmy A. McGuire. PLOS ONE 18(12): e0292598 DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0292598 Published: December 20, 2023

This paper is open access and online only.

Fatal attraction to … frog noses?

Bob Yirka in a November 28, 2023 article published on phys.org describes research into some unusual mosquito behaviour, Note: Links have been removed,

A pair of environmental and life scientists, one with the University of Newcastle, in Australia, the other the German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research, has found that one species of mosquito native to Australia targets only the noses of frogs for feeding. In their paper published in the journal Ethology, John Gould and Jose Valdez describe their three-year study of frogs and Mimomyia elegans, a species of mosquito native to Australia

As part of their study of frogs living in a pond on Kooragang Island, the pair took a lot of photographs of the amphibians in their native environment. It was upon returning to their lab and laying out the photographs that they noticed something unique—any mosquito feeding on a frog’s blood was always atop its nose. This spot, they noted, seemed precarious, as mosquitos are part of the frog diet.

A mosquito perches on the nose of a green and yellow frog perched on a branch.
A species of Australian mosquito, Mimomyia elegans, appears to have a predilection for the nostrils of tree frogs, according to new observations published in the journal Ethology. (John Gould) [downloaded from https://www.cbc.ca/radio/asithappens/mosquitoes-on-frog-noses-1.7058168]

Sheena Goodyear posted a December 13, 2023 article containing an embedded Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) As It Happens radio programme audio file of an interview with researcher John Gould, Note: A link has been removed,

So why risk landing on the nose of something that wants to eat you, when there are so many other targets walking around full of delicious blood?

“In all of the occasions that we observed, it seems as if the frog didn’t realize that it had a mosquito on top of it…. They were actually quite happy, just sitting idly, while these mosquitoes were feeding on them,” Gould said.

“So it might be that the area between the eyes is a bit of a blind spot for the frogs.”

It’s also something of a sneak attack by the mosquitoes.

“Some of the mosquitoes first initially landed on the backs of the frogs,” Gould said. “They might avoid being eaten by the frogs by landing away from the head and then walking up to the nostrils to feed.

It’s a plausible theory, says amphibian expert Lea Randall, a Calgary Zoo and Wilder Institute ecologist who wasn’t involved in the research. 

“Frogs have amazing vision, and any mosquito that approached from the front would likely end up as a tasty snack for a frog,” she said.

“Landing on the back and making your way undetected to the nostrils is a good strategy.”

And the reward may just be worth the risk. 

“I could also see the nostrils as being a good place to feed as the skin is very thin and highly vascularized, and thus provides a ready source of blood for a hungry mosquito,” Randall said.

Gould admits his friends and loved ones have likely grown weary of hearing him “talking about frogs and nostrils.” But for him, it’s more than a highly specific scientific obsession; it’s about protecting frogs.

His earlier research has suggested that mosquitoes may be a vector for transmitting amphibian chytrid fungus, which is responsible for declines in frog populations worldwide. 

That’s why he had been amassing photos of frogs and mosquitoes in the first place.

“Now that we know where the mosquito is more likely to land, it might give us a better impression about how the infection spreads along the skin of the frog,” he said.

But more work needs to be done. His frog nostril research, while it encompasses three years’ of fieldwork, is a natural history observation, not a laboratory study with controlled variables.

“It would be quite interesting to know whether this particular type of mosquito is transferring the chytrid fungus, and also how the fungus spreads once the mosquito has landed,” Gould said.

A man in a bright yellow jacket and a light strapped to his forehead poses outside at night with a tiny frog perched on his hand.
Gould describes himself as a ‘vampire scientist’ who stays up all night studying nocturnal tree frogs in Australia. ‘They’re so soft and timid a lot of the times,’ he said. ‘They’re quite a special little, little animal.’ (Submitted by John Gould)

Vampire scientist, eh? You can find the embedded 6 mins. 28 secs. audio file in the December 13, 2023 article on the CBC website.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the research paper,

A little on the nose: A mosquito targets the nostrils of tree frogs for a blood meal by John Gould, Jose W. Valdez. Ethology DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/eth.13424 First published: 21 November 2023

This paper is open access.

Gifted dogs

Caption: Shira, 6 -year-old, female, Border Collie mix, that was rescued at a young age. She lives in New Jersey, and knows the names of 125 toys. Credit Photo: Tres Hanley-Millman

A December 14, 2023 news item on phys.org describes some intriguing research from Hungary,

All dog owners think that their pups are special. Science now has documented that some rare dogs are even more special. They have a talent for learning hundreds of names of dog toys. Due to the extreme rarity of this phenomenon, until recently, very little was known about these dogs, as most of the studies that documented this ability included only a small sample of one or two dogs.

A December 18,2023 Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) press release (also on EurekAlert but published December 14, 2023), which originated the news item, delves further into the research,

In a previous study, the scientists found that only very few dogs could learn the names of object, mostly dog toys. The researchers wanted to understand this phenomenon better and, so they needed to find more dogs with this ability. But finding dogs with this rare talent was a challenge! For five years, the researchers tirelessly searched across the world for these unique Gifted Word Learner (GWL) dogs. As part of this search, in 2020, they launched a social media campaign and broadcasted their experiments with GWL dogs, in the hope of finding more GWL dogs.

“This was a citizen science project” explains Dr. Claudia Fugazza, team leader. “When a dog owner told us they thought their dog knew toy names, we gave them instructions on how to self-test their dog and asked them to send us the video of the test”. The researchers then held an online meeting with the owners to test the dog’s vocabulary under controlled conditions and, if the dog showed he knew the names of his toys, the researchers asked the owners to fill out a questionnaire. “In the questionnaire, we asked the owners about their dog’s life experience, their own experience in raising and training dogs, and about the process by which the dog came to learn the names of his/her toys” explains Dr. Andrea Sommese, co-author.

VIDEO ABSTRACT ABOUT THE RESEARCH

The researchers found 41 dogs from 9 different countries: the US, the UK, Brazil, Canada, Norway, Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and Hungary. Most of the previous studies on this topic included Border collies. So, while object label learning is very rare even in Border collies, it was not surprising that many of the dogs participating in the current study (56%) belonged to this breed. However, the study documented the ability to learn toy names in a few dogs from non-working breeds, such as two Pomeranians, one Pekingese, one Shih Tzu, a Corgi, a Poodle, and a few mixed breeds.

“Surprisingly, most owners reported that they did not intentionally teach their dogs toy names, but rather that the dogs just seemed to spontaneously pick up the toy names during unstructured play sessions,” says Shany Dror, lead researcher. In addition, the vast majority of owners participating in the study had no professional background in dog training and the researchers found no correlations between the owners’ level of experience in handling and training dogs, and the dogs’ ability to select the correct toys when hearing its names.

“In our previous studies we have shown that GWL dogs learn new object names very fast” explains Dror. “So, it is not surprising that when we conducted the test with the dogs, the average number of toys known by the dogs was 29, but when we published the results, more than 50% of the owners reported that their dogs had already acquired a vocabulary of over 100 toy names”.

“Because GWL dogs are so rare, until now there were only anecdotes about their background” explains Prof. Adam Miklósi, Head of the Ethology Department at ELTE and co-author. “The rare ability to learn object names is the first documented case of talent in a non-human species. The relatively large sample of dogs documented in this study, helps us to identify the common characteristics that are shared among these dogs, and brings us one step closer in the quest of understanding their unique ability”.

This research is part of the Genius Dog Challenge research project which aims to understand the unique talent that Gifted Word Learner dogs have. The researchers encourage dog owners who believe their dogs know multiple toy names, to contact them via the Genius Dog Challenge website.

Here’s a link to and a citation for the research paper,

A citizen science model turns anecdotes into evidence by revealing similar characteristics among Gifted Word Learner dogs by Shany Dror, Ádám Miklósi, Andrea Sommese & Claudia Fugazza. Scientific Reports volume 13, Article number: 21747 (2023) DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/s41598-023-47864-5 Published: 14 December 2023

This paper is open access.

The End with an origin story NORAD’s Santa Tracker and some tap dancing

At the height of Cold War tensions between the US and Russia, the red phone (to be used only by the US president or a four star genera) rang at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Before the conversation ended, the colonel in charge had driven a child to tears and put in motion the start of a beloved Christmas tradition.

There’s a short version and a long version and if you want all the details read both,

As for the tap dancing, I have three links:

  1. Irish Dancers Face Off Against American Tap Dancers To Deliver EPIC Performance!” is an embedded 8 mins. dance off video (scroll down past a few paragraphs) in Erin Perri’s September 1, 2017 posting for themix.net. And, if you scroll further down to the bottom of Perri’s post, you’ll see an embedded video of Sammy Davis Jr.

In the video …, along with his dad and uncle, Sammy performs at an unbelievable pace. In the last 30 seconds of this routine, Sammy demonstrates more talent than other dancers are able to cram into a lifelong career! You can see these three were breakdancing long before it became a thing in the 1980s and they did it wearing tap shoes!

..

2. “Legendary Nicholas Brothers Dance Routine Was Unrehearsed and Filmed in One Take” embedded at the end of Emma Taggart’s October 4, 2019 posting on mymodernmet.com

3. Finally, there’s “Jill Biden releases extravagant dance video to celebrate Christmas at the White House” with a video file embedded (wait for it to finish loading and scroll down a few paragraphs) in Kate Fowler’s December 15, (?) 2023 article for MSN. It’s a little jazz, a little tap, and a little Christmas joy.

Joyeux Noël!

X-Polli:Nation: citizen science project for monitoring pollinators including butterflies, bumblebees and beetles

The X-Polli:Nation citizen science cycle (middle) with illustrative photographs taken in a participating school. [downloaded from https://theoryandpractice.citizenscienceassociation.org/articles/10.5334/cstp.567]

A July 7, 2023 news item on phys.org announces a paper about the X-Polli:Nation, citizen science project for tracking pollinators,

Researchers from Imperial College London and schools in the UK and Italy have co-developed a set of citizen science tools for school pupils to monitor pollinators including butterflies, bumblebees and beetles.

..

A July 7, 2023 Imperial College London (ICL) press release by Bry Ravate (it’s part of a ‘press pack’, so, scroll down to “Tools for Schools” to find the release), which originated the news item, provides more detail, Note: Links have been removed,

The project – X-POLLI:NATION – saw students and teachers in the UK and Italy share insights so that researchers could adapt citizen science tasks to suit a younger audience.

This empowered students to be able to collect vital data about pollinators, including their feeding preferences, with the help of field guides and forms developed for a younger audience.

Dr Poppy Lakeman Fraser, Senior Project Coordinator in the Centre for Environmental Policy, said: “There is a lack of information in the curriculum and opportunities for young people to contribute at a local level to global UN targets, so it is incredibly important for projects like this to be embedded into the curriculum, both across the UK and internationally. This can empower the next generation of scientists to take action and address global challenges in an engaging and impactful way.

“This tool ensures no one is left behind as it can be developed to suit students of all abilities, skillsets and ages. The next steps would be to see this implemented nationwide.”

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

X-Polli:Nation: Contributing Towards Sustainable Development GoalsThrough School-Baased Pollinator Citizen Science by Poppy Lakeman Fraser, Laura Colucci-Gray, Annie Robinson, Andrea Sforzi, Ruth Staples-Rolfe, Julie Newman, Richard Gill, Nirwan Sharma, Stefan Rueger, Advaith Siddharthan. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice (2023). DOI: 10.5334/cstp.567

This paper is open access.

You can find the X-Polli:Nation website here in English or Italian.

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, the scientist who may have helped inspire the story, and a poetry/science project

Some of those early scientists were pretty wild (e.g., they experimented on themselves). This March 23, 2023 essay on The Conversation by Alexis Wolf, Research Associate on the Davy Notebooks Project, Lancaster University, and Andrew Lacey, Senior Research Associate on the Davy Notebooks Project, Lancaster University, sheds some light on one of those ‘wild ones’, Note: Links have been removed,

Sir Humphry Davy (1778–1829) is usually remembered as the inventor of a revolutionary miner’s safety lamp. But his wild popularity came as much from his influence on popular culture as it did from his contributions to chemistry and applied science.

In the first few years of the 19th century, there was no hotter spectacle in London than Davy’s lectures at the Royal Institution. The carriage traffic jams caused by his keen audience led to the introduction of London’s first one-way street.

Hundreds of members of the public, many of them women, crowded into the lecture theatre to hear the charismatic Davy speak about his cutting edge research. They would watch demonstrations of his work, which often included elaborate explosions and other breathtaking displays.

In more recent times, Davy’s star has waned. Through our work on the Davy Notebooks Project, we aim to change that. Thanks to the help of thousands of volunteers, we’re creating the first digital edition of Davy’s 83 manuscript notebooks, an exciting and important collection that we’ll soon be able to share with readers all over the world.

The first lecture Davy gave at the Royal Institution was on the subject of galvanism (the electricity generated by chemical actions). The force was thought at the time to be capable of animating matter – or of bringing something dead to life.

That last paragraph certainly suggests the Frankenstein story as the essayists expand upon later,

Davy’s famous lectures on the animating power of electricity at the Royal Institution may have inspired a young Mary Shelley as she came up with the idea for Frankenstein (1818), a novel that questioned the boundaries of creation using emerging scientific ideas.

Shelley may have even modelled aspects of the charming but reckless Victor Frankenstein on Davy himself. In fact, many of the things that Davy said in his lectures were borrowed word-for-word to craft the fictional scientist’s dangerous experiments.

But, as Mary Shelley probably would have known, Davy was also a writer himself with close ties to the leading authors of his day. [Mary Shelley wrote her book on a trip to Switzerland which included Lord Byron.]

He was friends with poets Lord Byron and Robert Southey and had a hand in the creation of some of the greatest works of the Romantic period. This included editing the second edition of William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Lyrical Ballads (1800).

And he wrote his own poetry – lots of it. The pages of Davy’s dozens of surviving notebooks are crammed full of poems, both published and obscure, which share space with the complex records of his scientific experiments, alongside the notes for Davy’s jaw-dropping lectures.

The Davy Notebooks Project, part of the Zooniverse (a citizen science web portal), has this from a researcher on its homepage,

As we see in his notebooks, Davy didn’t see the arts and the sciences as ‘two cultures’. In these manuscripts, we see poetry and chemical enquiry combined: both offered, for Davy, important ways of exploring the mysteries of the world around him.

According to the statistics on the site, the project is 96% complete but they appear to be still accepting volunteers.

Coral reefs, beauty, citizen science, and surveys

I received this May 23, 2023 email invitation to participate in a citizen science project,

Dear all,

We need your valuable input to advance our research on the aesthetic value of tropical coral reefs! As a part of the Marine Science Department of the IPB University [Indonesia], the Lancaster Environment Centre [at Lancaster University, UK], the MARBEC laboratory [Marine Biodiversity Exploitation and Conservation (MARBEC)] research unit is one of the Unité mixte de recherche (UMR) partially funded by the CNRS], and the National Research and Innovation Agency of Indonesia [Badan Riset dan Inovasi Nasional, BRIN], we are conducting a survey to analyze human perspectives on the beauty of coral reefs.

By participating in this survey, you will play a vital role in the development of predictive computer models that can estimate the aesthetic value of different coral reefs. Your contribution will directly contribute to our ongoing research efforts. Estimated completion time is approximately 5 minutes.

Your participation is greatly appreciated, and together, we can make a significant impact on coral reef preservation and conservation. Please click the link below to start the survey:

https://www.biodiful.org/#/beautifulcorals

Thank you also for sharing this survey within your network (professional and personal). Actually we are really counting on you to trigger a snow ball effect and get out of our community (academia and divers). You can also retweet & like on twitter here : https://twitter.com/NicolasMouquet/status/1658020475107266563?s=20 or tweet yourself (if you do, please tag @NicolasMouquet so we will like your tweet and get it up in the threads; also add an image on your own (or copy the one used in the above mentioned tweet) as pasting only the link to the survey shows up a generic image which is not related to the Beauty of Coral Reefs survey). Hear a simple text that could be used on other social media « Help shape future coral reef restoration! Take our 5-minute survey and pick the most beautiful coral reef images. Your input will fuels research on these natural wonders! https://www.biodiful.org/#/beautifulcorals»

Thank you for your time and support. Let’s work together to celebrate the beauty of coral reefs!

Sincerely,

Nicolas Mouquet, CNRS [Centre national de la recherche scientifique], MARBEC, University of Montpellier. 
https://twitter.com/NicolasMouquet
http://nicolasmouquet.free.fr/ 

In late April 2023, I received a link to a paper by Mouquet as a thank you for participating in another of his projects. (I looked at two side-by-side pictures of fishes and selected the one I found most attractive.) As you can see from the image below, I was one of 13,000 respondents.

Fig 1. Evaluation and prediction of fish aesthetic values. (1) Pairs of images were presented to the public during the online survey and scored using the Elo algorithm (see Methods). Left Parma bicolor and right Abudefduf luridus. (2) Once the 345 new images were evaluated online, the values of the 157 images previously evaluated [16] were corrected using the 21 images shared between the 2 surveys. (3) The resulting 481 images with evaluated aesthetic values were used to train a ResNet50 algorithm (see Text E and Fig L in S1 File). Illustration inspired from the PlotNeuralNet [31]. (b) Left: The r2 of the linear relationship between the predicted values averaged across the 5 validation sets and the evaluated values is 0.79 ± SD 0.04 (the color of points indicates the 5 sets used to perform the cross validation). This algorithm was used to predict the aesthetic values of the 4,400 unevaluated images of our dataset. Right: Distribution of the 481 evaluated values in light blue and of the 4,400 predicted aesthetic values in dark blue. The dots at the bottom of the plot indicate the predicted aesthetic values of the images shown in panel (c). Data and code required to generate this Figure can be found in https://github.com/nmouquet/RLS_AESTHE. (c) Examples of fishes representative of the range of predicted aesthetic values. Decreasing aesthetic value from left to right and top to bottom: Holacanthus ciliaris, Aracana aurita, Amphiprion ephippium, Ctenochaetus marginatus, Scarus spinus, Amphiprion bicinctus, Epinephelides armatus, Fusigobius signipinnis, Diplodus annularis, Odontoscion dentex, Nemadactylus bergi, Mendosoma lineatum. See S1 Data for image copyright. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640.g001 [Downloaded from https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640#pbio.3001640.s002]

Given how many people participated, I’m thrilled he got in touch,

Hello to all,

Finally some news about the internet campaign to measure the aesthetic value of reef fishes in which you participated in 2020. The time of research can sometimes be long and we were like you a little disturbed by the Covid episode, but here is where we are :We have published our results in an international scientific journal (Plos Biology) 😀 : Langlois J, Guilhaumon F, Baletaud F, Casajus N, De Almeida Braga C, Fleure V, Kulbicki K, Loiseau N, Mouillot D, Renoult JP, Stahl A, Stuart Smith RD, Tribot AS & N, Mouquet (2022) The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities. PLoS Biol 20(6): e3001640. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640

You can download the article here: http://nicolasmouquet.free.fr/pdf/Langlois_et_al_2022_Plos_Biology.htm

Here is a summary: Reef fishes are closely connected to many human populations, yet their contributions to society are mostly considered through their economic and ecological values. Cultural and intrinsic values of reef fishes to the public can be critical drivers of conservation investment and success, but remain challenging to quantify. Aesthetic value represents one of the most immediate and direct means by which human societies engage with biodiversity, and can be evaluated from species to ecosystems. Here, we provide the aesthetic value of 2,417 ray-finned reef fish species by combining intensive evaluation of photographs of fishes by humans with predicted values from machine learning. We identified important biases in species’ aesthetic value relating to evolutionary history, ecological traits, and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat status. The most beautiful fishes are tightly packed into small parts of both the phylogenetic tree and the ecological trait space. In contrast, the less attractive fishes are the most ecologically and evolutionary distinct species and those recognized as threatened. Our study highlights likely important mismatches between potential public support for conservation and the species most in need of this support. It also provides a pathway for scaling-up our understanding of what are both an important nonmaterial facet of biodiversity and a key component of nature’s contribution to people, which could help better anticipate consequences of species loss and assist in developing appropriate communication strategies.

This work has received a significant echo in the scientific community as well as in the international press and we are now busy using these data to assess the aesthetic value of entire fish communities on reefs globally.

Again, a huge thank you for your help, without you we could not have done this work! And I apologize for being so late in getting back to you. 🙏

Our work on assessing the aesthetic value of biodiversity does not stop of course! And we may be calling on you soon for new adventures!

In the meantime you can also have a look at a twitter account we just opened dedicated to the presentation of beautiful or repulsive species, but always amazing and especially essential for the functioning of ecosystems ! https://twitter.com/Biodi_ful

With kind regards,

Nicolas Mouquet

—————————–

Nicolas Mouquet, CNRS

Scientific director of the Centre for the Synthesis and Analysis of Biodiversity (CESAB)
5 Rue de l’École de Médecine
34000, Montpellier

Chercheur à MARBEC
Université de Montpellier
Place Eugène Bataillon, CC093
34095 Montpellier Cedex 05

You can sign up to get updates regarding the research once you’ve finished the survey.

In the meantime, here’s a link to and a citation (in my usual style) for the paper on the aesthetics of reef fishes,

The aesthetic value of reef fishes is globally mismatched to their conservation priorities by Juliette Langlois, François Guilhaumon, Florian Baletaud, Nicolas Casajus, Cédric De Almeida Braga, Valentine Fleuré, Michel Kulbicki, Nicolas Loiseau, David Mouillot, Julien P. Renoult, Aliénor Stahl, Rick D. Stuart Smith, Anne-Sophie Tribot, Nicolas Mouquet. PLOS Biology DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pbio.3001640 Published: June 7, 2022

This paper is open access.

You can find Nicolas Mouquet’s eponymous website here and you can start the coral reef survey here: https://www.biodiful.org/#/beautifulcorals.

A fish baying at the moon?

It seems to be GLUBS time again (GLUBS being the Global Library of Underwater Biological Sounds). In fact it’s an altogether acoustical time for the ocean. First, a mystery fish,

https://youtube.com/watch?v=CxeV5K5hyAY

That sounds a bit like a trumpet to me. (I last wrote about GLUBS in a March 4, 2022 posting where it was included under the ‘Marine sound libraries’ subhead.)

The latest about GLUBS and aquatic sounds can be found in an April 26, 2023 Rockefeller University news release on EurekAlert, Note 1: I don’t usually include the heads but I quite like this one and even stole part of it for this posting; Note 2: There probably should have been more than one news release; Note 3: For anyone who doesn’t have time to read the entire news release, I have a link immediately following the news release to an informative and brief article about the work,

Do fish bay at the moon? Can their odd songs identify Hawaiian mystery fish? Eavesdropping scientists progress in recording, understanding ocean soundscapes

Using hydrophones to eavesdrop on a reef off the coast of Goa, India, researchers have helped advance a new low-cost way to monitor changes in the world’s murky marine environments.

Reporting their results in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America (JASA), the scientists recorded the duration and timing of mating and feeding sounds – songs, croaks, trumpets and drums – of 21 of the world’s noise-making ocean species.

With artificial intelligence and other pioneering techniques to discern the calls of marine life, they recorded and identified

Some species within the underwater community work the early shift and ruckus from 3 am to 1.45 pm, others work the late shift and ruckus from 2 pm to 2.45 am, while the plankton predators were “strongly influenced by the moon.”

Also registered: the degree of difference in the abundance of marine life before and after a monsoon.

The paper concludes that hydrophones are a powerful tool and “overall classification performance (89%) is helpful in the real-time monitoring of the fish stocks in the ecosystem.”

The team, including Bishwajit Chakraborty, a leader of the International Quiet Ocean Experiment (IQOE), benefitted from archived recordings of marine species against which they could match what they heard, including:

Also captured was a “buzz” call of unknown origin (https://bit.ly/3GZdRSI), one of the oceans’ countless marine life mysteries.

With a contribution to the International Quiet Ocean Experiment, the research will be discussed at an IQOE meeting in Woods Hole, MA, USA, 26-27 April [2023].

Advancing the Global Library of Underwater Biological Sounds (GLUBS)

That event will be followed April 28-29 by a meeting of partners in the new Global Library of Underwater Biological Sounds (GLUBS), a major legacy of the decade-long IQOE, ending in 2025.

GLUBS, conceived in late 2021 and currently under development, is designed as an open-access online platform to help collate global information and to broaden and standardize scientific and community knowledge of underwater soundscapes and their contributing sources.

It will help build short snippets and snapshots (minutes, hours, days long recordings) of biological, anthropogenic, and geophysical marine sounds into full-scale, tell-tale underwater baseline soundscapes.

Especially notable among many applications of insights from GLUBS information: the ability to detect in hard-to-see underwater environments and habitats how the distribution and behavior of marine life responds to increasing pressure from climate change, fishing, resource development, plastic, anthropogenic noise and other pollutants.

“Passive acoustic monitoring (PAM) is an effective technique for sampling aquatic systems that is particularly useful in deep, dark, turbid, and rapidly changing or remote locations,” says Miles Parsons of the Australian Institute of Marine Science and a leader of GLUBS.

He and colleagues outline two primary targets:

  • Produce and maintain a list of all aquatic species confirmed or anticipated to produce sound underwater;
  • Promote the reporting of sounds from unknown sources

Odd songs of Hawaii’s mystery fish

In this latter pursuit, GLUBS will also help reveal species unknown to science as yet and contribute to their eventual identification.

For example, newly added to the growing global collection of marine sounds are recent recordings from Hawaii, featuring the baffling

now part of an entire YouTube channel (https://bit.ly/3H5Ly54) dedicated to marine life sounds in Hawaii and elsewhere (e.g. this “complete and total mystery from the Florida Keys”: https://bit.ly/41w1Xbc (Annie Innes-Gold, Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology; processed by Jill Munger, Conservation Metrics, Inc.)

Says Dr. Parsons: “Unidentified sounds can provide valuable information on the richness of the soundscape, the acoustic communities that contribute to it and behavioral interactions among acoustic groups. However, unknown, cryptic and rare sounds are rarely target signals for research and monitoring projects and are, therefore, largely unreported.”

The many uses of underwater sound

Of the roughly 250,000 known marine species, scientists think all fully-aquatic marine mammals (~146, including sub-species) emit sounds, along with at least 100 invertebrates, 1,000 of the world’s ~35,000 known fish species, and likely many thousands more.

GLUBS aims to help delineate essential fish habitat and estimate biomass of a spawning aggregation of a commercially or recreationally important soniferous species.

In one scenario of its many uses, a one-year, calibrated recording can provide a proxy for the timing, location and, under certain circumstances, numbers of ‘calling’ fishes, and how these change throughout a spawning season.

It will also help evaluate the degradation and recovery of a coral reef.

GLUBS researchers envision, for example, collecting recordings from a coral reef that experienced a cyclone or other extreme weather event, followed by widespread bleaching. Throughout its restoration, GLUBS audio data would be matched with and augment a visual census of the fish assemblage at multiple timepoints.

Oil and gas, wind power and other offshore industries will also benefit from GLUBS’ timely information on the possible harms or benefits of their activities.

Other IQOE legacies include

  • Manta (bitbucket.org/CLO-BRP/manta-wiki/wiki/Home), a mechanism created by world experts from academia, industry, and government to help standardize ocean sound recording data, facilitating its comparability, pooling and visualization.
  • OPUS, an Open Portal to Underwater Sound being tested at Alfred Wegener Institute in Bremerhaven, Germany to promote the use of acoustic data collected worldwide, providing easy access to MANTA-processed data, and
  • The first comprehensive database and map of the world’s 200+ known hydrophones recording for ecological purposes 

Marine sounds and COVID-19

The IQOE’s early ambition of humanity’s maritime noise being minimized for a day or week was unexpectedly met in spades when the COVID-19 pandemic began.     

New IQOE research to be considered at the April meeting includes a paper, Impact of the COVID‑19 pandemic on levels of deep‑ocean acoustic noise (https://bit.ly/3KZTaIt) documenting a pandemic-related drop of 1 to 3 dB even in the depths of the abyss. With a 3 dB decrease, sound energy is halved.

Virus control measures led to “sudden and sometimes dramatic reductions in human activity in sectors such as transport, industry, energy, tourism, and construction,” with some of the greatest reductions from March to June 2020 – a drop of up to 13% in container ship traffic and up to 42% in passenger ships.

Other IQOE accomplishments include achieving recognition of ocean sound as an Essential Ocean Variable (EOV) within the Global Ocean Observing System, underlining its helpfulness in monitoring 

  • climate change (the extent and breakup of sea ice; the frequency and intensity of wind, waves and rain)
  • ocean health (biodiversity assessments: monitoring the distribution and abundance of sound-producing species)
  • impacts of human activities on wildlife, and
  • nuclear explosions, foreign/illegal/threatening vessels, human activities in protected areas, and underwater earthquakes that can generate tsunamis

The Partnership for Observation of the Global Ocean (POGO) funded an IQOE Working Group in 2016, which quickly identified the lack of ocean sound as a variable measured by ocean observing systems. This group developed specifications for an Ocean Sound Essential Ocean Variable (EOV) by 2018, which was approved by the Global Ocean Observing System in 2021. IQOE has since developed the Ocean Sound EOV Implementation Plan, reviewed in 2022 and ready for public debut at IQOE’s meeting April 26.

One of IQOE’s originators, Jesse Ausubel of The Rockefeller University’s Programme for the Human Environment, says the programme has drawn attention to the absence of publicly available time series of sound on ecologically important frequencies throughout the global ocean.

“We need to listen more in the blue symphony halls. Animal sounds are behavior, and we need to record and understand the sounds, if we want to know the status of ocean life,” he says.

The program “has provided a platform for the international passive acoustics community to grow stronger and advocate for inclusion of acoustic measurements in national, regional, and global ocean observing systems,” says Prof. Peter Tyack of the University of St. Andrew’s, who, with Steven Simpson, guide the IQOE International Scientific Steering Committee.

“The ocean acoustics and bioacoustics communities had no experience in working together globally, and coverage is certainly not global; there are many gaps. IQOE has begun to help these communities work together globally, and there is still progress to be made in networking and in expanding the deployment of hydrophones, adds Prof. Ausubel.

A description of the project’s history and evaluation to date is available at https://bit.ly/3H7FCbN.

Encouraging greater worldwide use of hydrophones

According to Dr. Parsons, “hydrophones are now being deployed in more locations, more often, by more people, than ever before,” 

To celebrate that, and to mark World Oceans Day, June 8 [2023], GLUBS recently put out a call to hydrophone operators to share marine life recordings made from 7 to 9 June, so far receiving interest from 124 hydrophone operators in 62 organizations from 29 countries and counting. The hydrophones will be retrieved over the following months with the full dataset expected sometime in 2024.

They also plan to make World Oceans Passive Acoustic Monitoring (WOPAM) Day an annual event – a global collaborative study of aquatic soundscapes, salt, brackish or freshwater – the marine world’s answer to the U.S. Audubon Society’s 123-year-old Christmas Bird Count.

Interested researchers with hydrophones [emphasis mine] already planned [sic] to be in the water on June 8 [2023] are invited to contact Miles Parsons (m.parsons@aims.gov.au) or Steve Simpson (s.simpson@bristol.ac.uk).

Becky Ferreira has written April 26, 2023 article for Motherboard that provides more insight into the work being done offshore in Goa and elsewhere,

To better understand the rich reef ecosystems of Goa, a team of researchers at the Indian Council of Scientific and Industrial Research’s National Institute of Oceanography (CSIR-NIO) placed a hydrophone near Grande Island at a depth of about 65 feet. Over the course of several days, the instrument captured hundreds of recordings of the choruses of “soniferous” (sound-making)fish, the high-frequency noises of shrimp, and the rumblings of boats passing near the area.

“Our research, for the longest time, predominantly involved active acoustics systems in understanding habitats (bottom roughness, etc., using multibeam sonar),” said Bishwajit Chakraborty, a marine scientist at CSIR-NIO who co-authored the study, in an email to Motherboard. “By using active sonar systems, we add sound signals to water media which severely affects marine life.” 

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper mentioned at the beginning of the news release,

Biodiversity assessment using passive acoustic recordings from off-reef location—Unsupervised learning to classify fish vocalization by Vasudev P. Mahale, Kranthikumar Chanda, Bishwajit Chakraborty; Tejas Salkar, G. B. Sreekanth. Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, Volume 153, Issue 3 March 2023 [alternate: J Acoust Soc Am 153, 1534–1553 (2023)] DOI: https://doi.org/10.1121/10.0017248

This paper appears to be open access.

And, one more time,

Interested researchers with hydrophones [emphasis mine] already planned [sic] to be in the water on June 8 [2023] are invited to contact Miles Parsons (m.parsons@aims.gov.au) or Steve Simpson (s.simpson@bristol.ac.uk).

Frog Finders

Joelle Krol has a March 24, 2023 article in The Tyee (an online publication named after a type of salmon) about a frog project in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley (Canada),

As a junior biologist working for the Fraser Valley Conservancy, I’ve been working on putting together a map of our frog and salamander observations. So much of this data is collected by citizen scientists, who submit their photos or videos to programs like iNaturalist or Fraser Valley Conservancy’s Frog Finders program.

The conservancy focuses a lot of our efforts on amphibians. We do annual surveys in the spring, searching wetlands for frogs and salamanders. We also make efforts to protect and enhance their habitat. But before any of these activities can happen, we need to know where they are. That’s where all these amphibian observations come in.

Thousands of the points on the map started as photos, videos and audio clips that were submitted by citizens — and I’m hoping that if you live in Metro Vancouver, I can convince you to do some citizen science, too. Looking through all the data, you learn how much of an impact a single photo can have.

I found that huge portions of the Fraser Valley are lacking amphibian observations, but other portions are rich with amphibians. From here, I was able to identify “amphibian observation hot spots.” These are areas where many amphibians have been sighted and reported. I also identified areas of interest — where there haven’t been many observations but could be great for amphibians. Many of the hot spots surround public parks or protected areas. Whereas many of the areas of interest contain private land.

[downloaded from https://thetyee.ca/Opinion/2023/03/23/Frog-Finders-Fraser-Valley/]

Here’s the request or call to action from a March 9, 2023 Fraser Valley Conservancy (FVC) news release by Joelle Krol, which originated the article in The Tyee,

Ryder Lake provides a great example of how a picture can make a big difference. Residents of the community noticed toads dying on the roadways that sit between the forest and the wetland. They reported these sightings and reached out for help, which got the conservancy involved.

Because of these reports from the community, the FVC was able to tell which location along the road would be the best place to build a tunnel for the toads. Projects like this make a huge difference for the toads’ survival and wouldn’t be possible without those initial citizen reports.

So many strategies for protecting wildlife begin with citizen science data. While there are a decent number of observations in parks and protected wildlife areas, there are shockingly few on private land. It’s not that amphibians aren’t there, but that they aren’t being reported. That’s where you and your photos come in. Submitting photos to citizen science programs helps to fill the map and can result in real change.

You can find a form on the FVC’s home page so you can submit your sighting. If you want to preview the form, you can find it here.