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JULY 2009 NEWSLETTER
You, a scientist?! Why not? There is a growing movement called "citizen science" that lets parents, kids, and others contribute to real research about our world. This month we point you toward several great citizen science projects—from bird counts to flower blooms to National Geographic's own online FieldScope program. On our new MicroSurvey, which debuted last month, over 60% of you said your favorite challenge this year has been April's "ask": Get outside and explore your environment. Oh, and don't forget to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the moon landing this month!

Christopher Shearer, My Wonderful World Director
Become a Citizen Scientist!
Photo:Have you ever witnessed the crocuses blooming a little earlier than usual or noticed a new species at your bird feeder, and thought, "I wonder if others in my community are seeing the same things"? Wouldn't it be neat if your backyard observations could be included in real scientific investigations? With citizen science, they can be!

Through citizen science, members of the public collaborate with professionals to conduct scientific studies. Citizen science is a fun, family-friendly way to get outside, explore the distribution of species (biogeography) in your local area, fine-tune your observation and analytical skills, and contribute to real science and conservation efforts. Recent reports have even indicated that participation in citizen science projects has positive impacts on children's cognitive and psychological development and their attitudes toward nature as adults.

Our July challenge: Sign up to participate in at least one of the following citizen science programs: (1) Cornell Ornithology Lab's ten or more activities, (2) Project Budburst, (3) an Earthwatch expedition, (4) Galaxy Zoo or GLOBE at Night star counting campaigns, (4) Journey North monarch migration, or the (5) Lost Lady Bug or Ready, Set, Glow! projects. For more information on citizen science and these programs, visit the My Wonderful World Blog.
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Editor's Pick
Photo: sidebarNational Geographic FieldScope is a new Web-based mapping, analysis, and collaboration tool designed to support geographic investigations and engage students as citizen scientists studying real-world issues—both in the classroom and in outdoor education settings. Visit the FieldScope website to learn more about the tool and how it's being used in the Chesapeake Bay and Indiana Dunes BioBlitz citizen science pilot projects.

MicroSurvey
Photo: sidebar What's the best part about participating in citizen science?
Click here to answer July's question
 

HOT THIS MONTH
Explore Biodiversity With BioBlitz
Photo: sidebar BioBlitz is a 24-hour event in which teams of scientists, volunteers, and community members join forces to find, identify, and learn about as many local plant and animal species as possible. Over the past three years, participants have cataloged biodiversity at Washington, D.C.'s Rock Creek Park, Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, and Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Visit the BioBlitz website for educational materials to conduct your own bioblitz at home or in a local park.
Journey North Monarch Migration
Photo: sidebarJourney North engages schoolchildren across North America in tracking the migration of monarch butterflies from their winter destinations in Mexico to locations throughout the United States and Canada in the spring and summer. Visit their website for a wealth of standards-based lessons that guide students in reporting, mapping, and predicting butterfly migration routes; and building skills in biological, mathematical, and geographic analysis. Newsletters and slide shows serve as great tools for home-based learners, too.
Vote for Geotourism
Photo: sidebarVoting for the Global Geotourism Challenge sponsored by National Geographic and Ashoka Changemakers opens tomorrow, July 15. Select your favorite proposal from among the pool of finalists to do your part in sustaining the futures of destinations. Last month, National Geographic announced the release of its first urban geotourism MapGuide; explore the power of place through the charming city of Montréal.
Vote for Conservation
Photo: sidebarSunChips® and National Geographic have just announced the top ten finalists for the Green Effect, an initiative inspiring people to take small steps to create big change in their communities. Four of the five $20,000 grant winners will be selected by a panel of expert judges; the final winner will be determined by the public. Vote for your favorite conservation project today at greeneffect.com. Voting ends July 20. Official rules at greeneffect.com.
North American Association for Environmental Education (NAAEE) Conference
Photo: sidebarEnvironmental educators teach many skills required to address the environmental, economic, and social challenges that face our world. Learn how these educators are leading students and communities toward positive decision-making for sustainable solutions at the 38th annual NAAEE conference, October 7–10, 2009, in Portland, Oregon. The conference will include workshops, field experiences, and a research symposium. Visit the NAAEE website to register.
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Take Action
Photo:Project Budburst Asks, "Can Plants Reveal Climate Change?"
Perhaps chasing after birds and insects is not your cup of tea. If you prefer studying flora to fauna, then Project Budburst is the citizen science program for you! The project engages the public in observing stages of plant development—from first leaf to full flower to leaf fall—over the course of the growing season.

Now in its second year, Project Budburst combines plant observations from students and teachers, families, naturalists, gardeners, and scientists with other phenological (relating to the timing of plant and animal life-cycle events) data about animal behavior and climate. The project hopes that by studying how these factors vary over seasons and across regions, potential links to climate change can be identified.

Log on to Project Budburst to start collecting data. Use interactive maps to compare your findings with hundreds of others across geographic areas, and learn how Budburst is using the latest technologies to improve data accuracy and reach. This August, look for educational materials aligned with state standards, developed in partnership with National Geographic. And check out our article on the blog for more insights from Project Budburst director Sandra Henderson.
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Take Action
Photo:Apollo Turns 40
On July 20, 1969, Apollo 11 touched down on the moon as the world watched in awe. This year, NASA celebrates the 40th anniversary of the Apollo program. While moon exploration receives the bulk of public attention, for geographers, the more important "leap for mankind" was the new perspectives gained of Earth. Iconic images like "Earthrise" and the "Blue Marble" broadened our understanding of scale and place, and helped us see the Earth as an interconnected system; many even cite the "Blue Marble" as a key factor underlying the global environmental movement in the 1970s.

While NASA is one of the most ambitious government-supported programs in modern history, astronomy is one of the oldest citizen sciences on the planet. Because astronomy is still primarily an observational science, researchers rely on both formal and anecdotal cultural and historical records to develop astronomical theories. Celebrate Apollo's 40th anniversary this month by participating in real astronomy research with the Galaxy Zoo and GLOBE at Night citizen science projects. And check out some of the great resources offered on NASA and other websites; we highlight our favorites on the blog.
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Take Action
How to Find a Fossa
National Geographic Emerging Explorer Luke Dollar always knew while growing up that he wanted to be either a doctor or a scientist. The summer after his freshman year of college, he returned home to his rural Alabama town to find that the forest where he had spent hours exploring as a kid had been clear-cut to make room for a new development. To Dollar it was "as traumatic as losing a loved one to an avoidable accident." At that moment, he decided that he would devote his life's work to conservation science. "I realized that people had enough help, but nature didn't."

Read our blog interview to learn about the fossa—an elusive predator found only on the African island of Madagascar—which Luke studies with the help of citizen scientists from Earthwatch, and find out how Luke made the journey from curious southern kid to world-renowned researcher.
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