During this fall semester, our Science National Honors Society visited Arizona State University to learn about Human Origins. This in depth discussion was led by an University student that shared the story of how we became human. There were multiple molds of different species skulls. We talked about the differences and close similarities each one had when compared side by side. Some major differences were the nasal cavities and the area behind the eyes. Each different aspect helped the species in that way, such as the gorilla. The gorilla has a large jaw that helps it crunch down the mass amounts of food it has to eat everyday, while the human had a smaller jaw because they don’t put so much work into chewing. Overall, this was a great experience, because the graduate student there was able to answer all of our questions and furthered our understandings of Human Origins.
For my citizen science project, I chose to do one called “Measuring Giraffes” that I found on Zooniverse. In this project, I spent some time marking key points on several different giraffes seen in pictures. These key points included the highest point of their horns, the top of their head, where their neck meets their chest, and the bottom-front corner of their front-most hoof. However, each picture was different and not all of the points could be marked. For example, some of the hooves weren’t visible because of the tall grass and for those pictures I could not mark anything. In other pictures, there was more than one giraffe, so I had to focus on the giraffe in the center of the photo. I had fun doing this and I enjoyed seeing all the giraffes in their natural habitats. I also learned that the site’s research and studies are contributing to giraffe conservation, which is important considering their numbers are declining fast.
My citizen science was called Chimp and See, which can be found on Zooniverse. I had to look at different images and pictures of Chimpanzee monkeys and be able to tell what actions they were performing. By looking through the camera I had to learn on what they do on a day to day basis. There were multiple kinds of monkeys that needed to be identified and when watching them I found them most of the time being with their families or never being too far from others. Once I identified them I needed to specify how many there were of that species of monkey. Through this citizen science I was able to see how Chimpanzees live and act in the wild with no people being around to interfere with them.
For my community outreach, I took a field trip to Arizona State University where I learned about human origins. We met this nice young woman, who talked about her area of study, which is anthropology. It was very interesting to hear from someone who is involved and passionate about the actual subject itself. I got to look at a various number of skulls from creatures that included humans, gorillas, orangutans, and even our early ancestors. It was very fascinating to look at all of the skulls and then compare the similarities and differences of each. In addition, I also enjoyed learning about the different characteristics you can pinpoint to each one just from a specific feature they have. The study of human origins is very important because it relates directly to us and helps explain more about us as a species. Overall, I had a lot of fun on this trip and am very thankful I got the opportunity to go.
For my first citizen science project, I spent 20 minutes depicting pictures of squirrels. First, I was asked how many squirrels were in the picture, some were blurry so I couldn’t really make them out; meanwhile, others were clear where they had one squirrel or numerous squirrels. Secondly, I was asked to determine what color the species of squirrel was, between the options of gray, black, and other. Most of the squirrels were gray, and by most, I mean the vast majority, with a few being black and a few being other. From this I learned, that there are now more gray squirrels then black squirrels because of genetics and adaptation.
For my second citizen science project, I played a project called “Run, Herring, Run” where I would have to pinpoint where there was a fish in the picture. Some of them had numerous fish, some had none, and one had a picture of a school of shrimp. In the pictures where it was darker there was more fish, which I found really cool and interesting.
As a Community Outreach project, I got to help make and put together an enclosed canopy around the Burrowing Owl burrows that were made earlier in the year. This whole process was to was to make sure the owls do not fly back to their original burrows, and have them get accustomed to their new homes. The process will ensure the owls will stay in protected areas to help stall or even increase the decreasing population of these owls. Setting up and help building the cages wasn’t as hard as I thought, but the overall process did have many steps as well as dangers. With the group I was in, we had to set a layer of chicken wire down around the perimeter of the burrows, making sure the ground was leveled, and set metal frames on top of them, and then cover the wire with sand. Chicken wire was in place to make sure the owls don’t dig around or dig out. We’d later hammer in stakes in the corners and duct tape them with the frame to make sure it was secured and so the owls will not get stuck between the gaps. Covering the frame with a tarp was the last step where we would then fold in the sides, secure the tarp to the frame, pick a spot for the feeders, then cover the rest of the sides with sand. The experience was overall informational, including information about burrowing owl protection and the importance of relocating these owls due to habitat loss. I personally enjoyed this trip and gained more knowledge about the process of relocating ever owl to its new enclosure.
Sundance Science Fair
Being a part of SNHS at Youngker High School has given me plenty of opportunities to contribute to the community I live in. Earlier this semester, I had the opportunity to go to Sundance Elementary School to act as a judge for their science fair, where me and other SNHS members were able to grade younger students’ projects. The projects we saw and graded were all unique; many displayed levels of creativity I found surprising for kids their age, and some brought up questions I’d never even thought about. I was very impressed by many of the projects and would love to do it again. It was a great experience to take the time to analyze all the different projects students had come up with and give feedback on what I liked and where I saw the students could improve in the future.
For one of my projects, I spent about 30 minutes identifying animals that were seen passing sets of cameras. It was really interesting because i learned that there were a lot more species of animals than i thought. For my next project, i was also on zooniverse, and this time i played “smash the bug” and you get to look at pictures of viruses and the different dosages they give to see how high the dosage has to be to kill the virus. It was really cool to see the different types of viruses and the way they grow.
Sundance Science Fair
At the Sundance Science Fair, I graded projects made by students of all elementary and middle school grades. Although I’ve already gone to similar events, I really enjoyed going. It’s fascinating to see the interesting ideas that the students come up with and how they carry out their experiments and studies, sometimes putting a twist on the scientific method with their own approaches. Some of the different approached students took were unconventional, and while some of them led to issues with a project, I think its very good for students to explore different ideas and methods, as it adds creativity to the field. I hope that the students that enjoyed participating in the science fair, especially those whose projects had sophistication and visible effort put into them, consider joining clubs like SNHS to further their interest and experience in science in the future.
For my final Zooniverse project, I transcribed Australian criminal records from the 18th and 19th century. It was honestly really interesting, but also pretty hard. A lot of the handwriting was hard to read, but it became pretty fun after a while. Lots of the questions were just asking how many charges the person had or just other things like their height and their name. Overall, I had a lot of fun working on this project, it was a nice and productive way to pass some time.