Can you figure out what species this is? Computers can

Protecting wild animals requires far more data than scientists could collect alone, so researchers often enlist the help of amateur “citizen scientists” to help identify animals in photos. However, with more and more large scale projects that need help from citizen scientists, it is taking an increasingly long time to process all of the photos from any individual study. Marco Willi from the University of Minnesota and his colleagues thought there might be a way to speed things up: by getting computers to identify most of the easy animals, and leaving humans to figure out the extra hard ones. 

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For urban snails, yellow is the new pink

Pavement, smog, and lack of shade can increase temperatures in cities by up to 6ºF above the surrounding rural and suburban areas. We know the higher temperatures directly impact many species of animals, but is it possible that they could also affect the course of evolution and change the physiology of future generations? To answer this question, researchers from the Netherlands used a popular citizen science platform to gather data about the appearance of snails throughout a wide range of habitats.

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How newts transformed our understanding of space travel

How did the Iberian ribbed newt become the world’s favorite amphibious astronaut? In this story from the 1990s, a team of three scientists from Russia and Germany set out to better understand how space affects the process of regenerating tissue in humans and other animals. With their ability to regenerate virtually every part of their body, Iberian ribbed newts were the perfect model organism.

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What gives glacier algae their wild colors?

When a British expedition reported seeing pink mountain snow in 1818, the London Times said: “Our credulity is put to an extreme test upon this occasion, but we cannot learn that there is any reason to doubt the fact as stated.” Two hundred years later, we now can confirm that pink snow (“watermelon snow”) is real and it is caused by certain types of algae. But why is it that snow algae take on such distinctive red and purple colors? And how does this connect to melting glaciers or global sea level rise?

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George Washington: General, Founding Father, and … Ecologist?

Before George Washington became the military general and Founding Father we know today, he spent years traveling the wilderness and helping divide up land for colonial settlement. His meticulous notes about the natural landscapes have been preserved over time because of his later prominence as a political figure. Today, these documents can be used to reconstruct what forests looked like over 250 years ago.

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Your resolution to eat healthy is saving the earth (more than you realize)

How much energy went into your last meal? According to a recent study, probably way more than you think. Food is responsible for 20-30% of global carbon emissions, but most people are terrible at judging the environmental cost of what they eat. Why is this? And what can we do?

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This website helps ordinary people collect data to save snakes

With a limited amount of time and money available for conservation efforts, it’s critical to know which species are the most vulnerable. Unfortunately, that assessment requires a virtually impossible amount of data. Citizen scientists from North and South Carolina have filled this critical gap by collecting 7,684 snake observations from every county in the two states over the course of eight years. Here’s what they found.

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