Enter the Zooniverse

Post written by Ben Gondrez, Digital Dome Manager.

Enter the Zooniverse

Have you ever wondered if there was an easy way to help scientists and researchers make new discoveries from your very own home? Well, whether you’ve had that thought or not, you can indeed be a vital participant in actual research through the Zooniverse! The Zooniverse is the world’s largest and most popular platform for people-powered research. By utilizing the power of volunteers – more than a million people around the world who come together to assist professional researchers – Zooniverse makes it easy for anyone, including you, to contribute to real academic research from their homes on their own computers. As many of us are spending more time than usual at home observing social distancing in response to COVID-19, now is the perfect time to become a citizen scientist and Zooniverse makes it easy for all ages of people to get involved. So how does Zooniverse work? Check out this short animation to learn more:

Ready to get started helping with real research projects from your own home? You can visit zooniverse.org to see all active projects including projects like Planet Four, a project exploring the surface and weather of Mar’s south polar region, or the project Bash The Bug, helping researchers find effective antibiotics to fight tuberculosis. Not sure where to start? Here are a couple of curated lists of projects and other links from Zooniverse to help you get started:

Designed for 5-12 year olds:

  • Curated list of age-appropriate Zooniverse projects for younger learners
  • Zooniverse-based Activity for 5-12 year olds
  •  Classroom.zooniverse.org
    • Wildcam Labs
      • Designed for 11-13 year olds, but the content can easily scale down for younger audiences.
      • Great way to engage if you love looking at photos of wild animals and want to investigate ecological questions. The interactive map allows you to explore trail camera data and filter and download data to carry out analyses and test hypotheses.
      • Educators can set up private classrooms, invite students to join, curate data sets, and get access to the guided activities and supporting educational resources.
      • Individual explorers also welcome – you don’t need to be part of a classroom to participate. · Planet Hunters Educators Guide

Designed for 11-13 year olds:

Designed for teens and adults:

  • Curated list of Zooniverse projects
  • Zooniverse-based Lesson Plan for teens and adults
  • Classroom.zooniverse.org
    • Wildcam Labs
      • Designed for middle school classrooms, but the content can easily scale up for older audiences.
      • See description above.
    • Astro101 with Galaxy Zoo
      • Designed for undergraduate non-major introductory astronomy courses, but the content has been used in many high-school classrooms as well.
      • Students learn about stars and galaxies through 4 half-hour guided activities and a 15-20 hour research project experience in which they analyze real data (including a curated Galaxy Zoo dataset), test hypotheses, make plots, and summarize their findings.
      • Developed by Julie Feldt, Thomas Nelson, Cody Dirks, Dave Meyer, Molly Simon, and colleagues.
    • For both Wildcam and Astro101 Activities
      • Educators can set up private classrooms, invite students to join, curate data sets, and get access to the guided activities and supporting educational resources.
      • Individual explorers also welcome – you don’t need to be part of a classroom to participate.
  • Planet Hunters Educators Guide
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds, but the content can easily scale up for older audiences.
    • See description above.
  • Notes from Nature Activity
    • Designed for 11-13 year olds, but the content can easily scale up for older audiences.
    • See description above.
  • Snapshot Safari-based Lesson Plans and Interactive Timeline
    • Developed by University of Minnesota PhD student Jessica Dewey
  • Kelp Forest Ecology Lab
    • Through the Zooniverse FloatingForests.org project, researchers are striving to understand the impact of climate change on giant kelp forests, an indicator of the health of our oceans. In this lab, students analyze Floating Forest and other ocean data to explore their own research questions.
    • Developed by Cal State – Monterey Bay faculty Dr. Alison Haupt and colleagues
  • NEH Teacher’s Guide for Digital Humanities and Online Education
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Traveling from your own home!

Traveling from the comforts of your own home!

Here at FCMoD, we believe in the importance of exploration. And during times like this, we want to provide resources to continue discovery and exploration.

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended virtual tours to travel from the comfort of your home during this time. Learn more below!

  • Have you ever wanted to visit the Great Wall of China? Well, now is your chance to visit this wonder of the world that stretches more than 3000 miles across several provinces through this virtual tour.
  • Take a virtual tour of Arconic Foundation hub in Alcoa, TN and learn about the exciting ways robotics and digital technology impact the skills needed to succeed in Advanced Manufacturing.
  • Visit Manitoba, Canada for the annual polar bear migration. Thanks to Discovery Education we can study the science of polar bears and their Arctic habitat from afar.
  • Staying indoors? No problem! Join us as we explore the great outdoors virtually. Enjoy this virtual tour of Mammoth Hot Springs Trails.
  • Discover Mud Volcano Trail in Yellowstone. Learn about the sights, smells, and sounds you would uncover in this virtual tour.
  • Lastly, on our outdoors journey, stop in at Yellowstone National Park and experience it in 3-D – from beautiful landscape, wildlife, and geysers – explore the park like never before.

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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At Home Music Resources

At Home Music Resources

Here at FCMoD, we believe in the importance of music. And during times like this, we want to provide resources to continue discovery.

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended education resources during this time. Learn more below!

  • A list of live virtual concerts to watch during the shutdown!
  • Follow the NOCO Live from Home Show to support local Northern Colorado artists.
  • Create your own instruments at home through our #dailydiscovery blog series!
  • Here are some tips for gigging musicians!
  • Moog and Korg make synth apps free to help musicians stuck at home.
  • Smart Music is offering free virtual tutorials and online subscription access until June 30, 2020.

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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At Home Animal Cameras

At Home Animal Cameras

Here at FCMoD, we love animals. And during times like this, we want to provide resources to our furry friends – both close and far away!

  • Need a pick-me-up about now? The Atlanta Zoo has their PandaCam up for your daily does of cuteness.
  • Who doesn’t love animals? Hang out with jelly fish, beluga whales, and more through the live cams from the Georgia Aquarium.
  • With ten live cams to choose from, you can experience the wonder of the ocean no matter where you are. Thanks to the Monterey Aquarium.
  • The San Diego Zoo has live cams of Panda’s, Baboon’s, Penguins, and so many more animals! Hop on today to tell our furry friends hello!
  • Tune in to the Houston Zoo webcams and enjoy a live look at animals that call the Houston Zoo home!
  • Want to know what our black-footed ferrets are up to during the closure? Check it out via our Ferret Cam!
  • Iowa is showing off their fishy friends on their webcam!
  • Chattanooga introduces their Meerkats, Snow Leopards, Tamarins, and Spotted Genet daily!
  • Can you spot the fastest animal on the planet – a cheetah! Try on the live cam from the Pittsburgh Zoo.
  • A little closer to home – the Cheyenne Mountain Zoo has live feed of their Giraffes.
  • Kansas City has everything from penguins, giraffes, and polar bears waiting to make and meet new friends online!
  • Can you spot the jellyfish on the live broadcast from the National Aquarium?

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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At Home Education Resources

At Home Education Resources

Here at FCMoD, we believe in education. And during times like this, we want you to know that education can be found anywhere and learning does not stop!

In this blog post, we’ve compiled a list of our recommended education resources during this time. Learn more below!

  • Whether you’re in the mood to virtually explore ancient Rome, read past presidents’ personal papers or download coloring pages from dozens of international cultural institutions, this roundup has you covered. Check it out here!
  • The Adler Planetarium  shared this awesome #MuseumAtHome resource: 10 experiments from their “Let’s Do Science” series!
  • Here’s another awesome virtual resource for staying engaged with cultural institutions!
  • Have you ever wondered how space exploration impacts your daily life? NASA has put together this website about just that!
  • Missing Little STEAMers? Us too. But we found this handy resource of 100+ indoor craft activities for kids!
  • Speaking of online resources, here’s 13.8 billion years of history online for free!
  • Missing Storytime in the Dome? How about storytime in space?! Check out the latest storytime in space reading.

Even though the museum is closed, we want to continue to inspire creativity and encourage hands-on learning for all!

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These Artifacts Aren’t Playing Coy with History 

Post written by Linda Moore, Curator of Collections at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

These Artifacts Aren’t Playing Coy with History

Though all historic documents and artifacts are open to interpretation, the material nature of authentic artifacts give them a level of trust-worthiness that is unique. A thumbprint pressed into clay by its maker, a bare spot worn into the brim of a tophat that has been politely tipped hundreds of times, or the impossibly narrow width of a wedding shoe from 200 years ago —these are all ways that artifacts can speak to us about the nature of the people whose lives touched them.

Even in the case of people who are well represented in the written record, artifacts can add aspects of humanity to their story. Elizabeth “Libbie” Coy was born in Fort Collins in 1865, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John G. Coy, who had arrived here in 1862. She is well-known in our local history as one of the first three people to graduate from what was known then as Colorado Agricultural College —today’s Colorado State University, in 1884. Libbie was, in fact, the first woman to graduate from any institution of higher learning in the state of Colorado. She was intensely engaged in the early civic life of our community, advocating strongly for the women’s suffrage at both the state and national level.

Libbie Coy is represented in the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery’s historic artifact collection by a small, diverse set of objects. The most personal is this cream wool skirt and bodice ensemble which she wore for her wedding to James W. Lawrence on June 19, 1890, after which she was known as Mrs. James Lawrence. This formal outfit echoes Libbie’s diminutive form, as well as the prevailing fashion of her time. The sleeves with full puffs at the top, known as “leg-of-mutton” were the height of fashion in the late 1880s, and a suit which could be worn for other occasions rather than a gown designed to be worn for the wedding day only, was a common choice for brides of her day.

Other objects in the museum’s collection represent the Coy family’s settlement in this area, and the agricultural life they led here. The family brought this pump organ overland by an ox team when they traveled here from the eastern United States in 1873. It attests to the important place that music played in their family life, and is on exhibit in the Music & Sound Lab of FCMoD.

These two rough wood objects reflect the work of Libbie’s father, John G. Coy. The donation record states that he shaped this potato masher by hand, and he may also have made this grain flail, which he used to beat the hulls off of whole grains produced on the family’s farm.

Lastly, we have this framed motto, stitched by Libbie Coy’s own hand. Local historian Evadene Swanson, recalls seeing it displayed on the kitchen wall of the Pioneer Cabin, once it had become a Fort Collins meeting place. Shaped by her hands, do you think this motto reflects Libbie’s spirit as well?

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World Wildlife Day 2020: “Sustaining All Life On Earth”

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator

Happy World Wildlife Day!

 

Wildlife, while traditionally meaning all non-domesticated animals in an area, has expanded to mean all the fauna, flora, and other kinds of life. All species have evolved to be dependent on each other. Sustaining all kinds of life on our planet can only help the human race survive and prosper.

Some individual species are so vitally important to an individual ecosystem that they are considered to be a keystone species. So many other kinds of life depend on the keystone species that it would have a disproportionate effect if it should be removed from the ecosystem.

Colorado has amazing diversity in its wildlife. With the massive changes in altitude from the Rocky Mountains down to the Great Plains, the wildlife that live here have adapted to a wide range of micro-climates. With the variety of ecologies in the area, there are many keystone species that keep the whole system healthy. Some local examples include:

In the Mountains: Aspen trees

Quaking Aspen (Populus tremuloides) are, for many, a symbol of the Rocky Mountains. They cover 20% of Colorado’s forested land, or 5 million acres.

Aspen are a keystone species, supporting many birds, insects and mammals throughout the year and creating a highly biodiverse ecosystem. Because aspen love sunlight, groves are more open and bright than an evergreen forest. More variety of plant species can grow in the understory below an aspen grove. Additionally, as aspen are short-lived (70-150 years), they quickly add nutrients back into the soil around where they fall. Aspen propagate both with seeds and via cloning. A grove of clones can send up tens of thousands shoots per acre – which many grazing animals love to eat. Aspen shoots are actually higher in fat than many plant species, making it an especially important winter food source for deer and elk. The white bark of the aspen tree can also be used by many species as a food source in winter (elk, deer, beaver, rabbits, voles, mice, etc.), and year-round by a wide variety of insects. Several kinds of woodpecker, chickadees, nuthatches, kestrels, owls, and wood ducks will nest in the aspen.

Aspen trees are unfortunately in decline throughout the Rockies, up to a loss of 60-90% depending on the local climate. The primary cause is believed to be human behavior. Human efforts at fire suppression have allowed conifers to spread into aspen groves, shading the aspen and preventing them from thriving in the sunlight they love. Fire is also a natural part of the aspen’s life cycle: as the older above-ground aspen declines in health it should be cleared out by fire, prompting new sprouts. Without the fire, the sprouts are fewer and grazing animals have more impact on the grove. As the Aspen trees decline, hundreds of species will suffer.

In the Prairie: Prairie Dogs

Prairie dogs (genus Cynomys) are a group of intelligent, burrowing rodents – actually a kind of ground squirrel – native to North American Grasslands. In Fort Collins area, you will see the Black-tailed Prairie Dog (Cynomys ludovicianus). Prairie dog colonies will dig a complex maze of burrows as their colony’s home for breeding, raising their young, and hiding from predators, maintaining the town over several generations.

Prairie dog activities change the grassland ecosystem that they live in; they are often labeled “ecological engineers” for the way they shape the world around themselves. Burrowing will actually alter soil chemistry, as well as aerating the soil. Their grazing (both above and below ground) affects the plant life they live in, encouraging more diversity of plant species and plant productivity. The soil becomes richer in nitrogen and more fertile, supporting both more plants and a wider variety of insect life. Because of the positive effect prairie dogs have on the soil and the plant life above, grazing animals (including domestic cattle) often prefer to eat in the middle of prairie dog towns as the forage is better. Prairie dog burrows provide shelter and nesting habitat for many animals, including black-footed ferrets and burrowing owls. Prairie dogs are also a vital food source for a wide variety of predators: hawks, owls, ferrets, coyotes, badgers, bobcats, and rattlesnakes.

Prairie dogs numbers are vastly reduced from their historic populations. Many people believe that prairie dogs are pests, damaging crops or putting domestic animals at risk, and have actively persecuted the animals (e.g. target shooting, poisoning). Humans have also taken up most of what was originally prairie dog territory for agriculture and suburban sprawl. Between 1900 and 1960, 98.5% of prairie dog habitat was lost. Additionally, humans accidentally introduced the bacteria that caused the plague to spread, which can quickly wipe out entire colonies of prairie dogs. Even if you agree that they are pests, the loss of prairie dogs to our grassland ecosystems would have an enormous negative effect on hundreds of other species.

Celebrate World Wildlife Day

Celebrate World Wildlife Day this year by learning more about your local wildlife! Explore one of our many beautiful natural areas and observe the way that the wildlife interacts with each other. Or, visit the Fort Collins Museum of Discovery this weekend and see our Natural Areas Exhibit. Watch the Ferret Feeding Frenzy at 2:30 on Saturday or Sunday! This is not for the faint or squeamish of heart…

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National Inventors’ Day

Post written by Morgan Wilson, Collections Assistant.

National Inventors’ Day

In the wake of National Inventors’ Day, it is natural that we should honor a local invention that began right here, in Fort Collins.

One invention that has spanned well beyond Fort Collins is the oral irrigator, known to most people as the “waterpik” or “water flosser”. The water flosser is a dental tool which uses a stream of pressurized water to clean between the teeth, like liquid floss! It has a motor and a water reservoir which it draws water from. It was invented by Aqua-Tec, a local company founded in 1962. Aqua-Tec, now known as Water Pik, Inc., has since put forth many more products, such as the Touch-Tronic electric toothbrush and luxury shower heads.

What many people may not know is that at the time of Aqua-Tec’s founding, there was a competing invention, similar to the “water flosser”. In 1958, Dr. C.D. Matteson obtained the patent for his “dental syringe”, which performed a similar function to the water flosser except that it had a metal base which attached directly to a faucet to supply water to the irrigator. In the end, Aqua-Tec’s water flosser became the better-known dental irrigator that we still use and love today.

Water Pik, Inc. is still present in Fort Collins, located on Prospect and Riverside Avenue and will hopefully continue to be an innovative presence in Fort Collins for many years to come.

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The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades!

Post written by staff members at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery.

The Future’s So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades!

As we enter the year 2020, let’s stay focused on using 20/20 vision to look at our past, present, and future through the archives and collections at Fort Collins Museum of Discovery!

The Archive has hundreds of fantastic photos of fabulous Fort Collins eye wear over the years; check out these examples of spectacular spectacles.

 

Martha Trimble, looking cool in some shades, 1914

Paul Marshall in hexagonal specs, 1940s

John Matushima in some classic wire-rims, 1944

Margaret Martinez in some flashy cat-eyes, 1961

Donald Mai in bold frames, 1966

More cat-eye style on Barb Mason, 1967

Helen and Ed Martin sporting some eyeglasses, 1969

Michael Murry in a later style of specs, 1993

An artistic view of downtown Fort Collins through some checkerboard sunglasses, 1967

Fred Evans was a prominent optometrist in Fort Collins in the 1910s and ‘20s.

Here’s an ad for his business, 1921

Here is a view of his office at 116 South College, circa 1924.

Can you see his sign? “Eye” can!

Fred Evans shows up in our artifact collections too, in these amber tinted eyeglasses, for example, with their case from his shop.

The museum’s artifact collections offer a retrospective look (which is 20/20, of course) at the history of innovation in eyewear. Pince-nez spectacles, which had no earpieces and stayed in place with a nose clip were quite popular early in the 20th century but fell out of fashion as they became associated with older generations.

The ideas behind some innovations are difficult to understand today. These “railway spectacles,” with their hinged double lens swung to the sides offered the eyes added the protection from sun, wind, and flying cinders. Placed in front they offered added magnification. But why was only one side of this particular pair tinted green?

Earpieces appear in many different configurations, like these retractable, spring-loaded ones.

The availability and development of strong plastics led to an explosion in eyeglass styles and colors.

Check out these and many more historic glasses and other artifacts on the History Connection, FCMoD’s online archives and collections database. They’re off the charts!

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National Bird Day: Winter Birds

Post written by Alexa Leinaweaver, Live Animal Husbandry Coordinator.

National Bird Day: Winter Birds

Weather changes, snow is falling. But when you look out your window, there are still a bunch of birds hanging out. Which birds are here in the winter, and how do they survive?

Migration

Migration is a strategy that many animals use to cope with seasonal changes. Generally migration seems to be triggered by birds following their food supply or seeking a new type of food, as well as seeking more comfortable weather conditions.

We are most familiar with migration from an area closer to the poles in summer, and toward the equator in winter. This is known as Longitudinal Migration, as it is on a north-south axis. Migration distance can range from thousands of miles each way to only a short distance. While we mostly think of birds leaving Colorado for warmer weather, we get some migrants coming to stay here from much further north. Some examples of birds that migrate to the Fort Collins area for winter:

  • The Dark-eyed Junco spends its summers breeding in Canada and Alaska, and moves down into the continental United States during winter. Juncos are easily recognized by their behavior, hopping around the ground seeking food, and the black and white flash of their tail when they take flight. They are colloquially known as “Snowbirds”.

  • The Rough-legged Hawk breeds in the Arctic, but winters in the U.S. and southern Canada. It gets its name from the fluffy feathers covering its legs – an excellent adaptation for a bird that spends its summers in the Arctic as well as for our snowy Colorado winters.

  • Most Bald Eagles spend their summers further north in Canada and Alaska. They will migrate into Colorado in winter where they breed, usually January through March. (We do have some year-round resident bald eagles in the area as well.)

There are also birds that migrate a short distance, but for a big change in altitude: Altitudinal migrants. Most of the altitudinal migrants in the U.S. are in the American West, thanks to our Rocky Mountains. Many of us humans have experienced the dramatic difference in weather and temperature between the plains and up in the Rockies.

  • Most Prairie Falcons winter in the Great Plains, hunting Horned Larks and Western Meadowlarks. In summer, they move up to 11,000 feet in search of abundant ground squirrels and pikas.
  • The Townsend’s Solitaire spends its summers in the mountains, then moves to lower elevations in winter. They switch food sources from mostly insects in summer to fruit, mostly juniper berries, in winter. They can get extremely territorial over their chosen patch of juniper trees, defending them against solitaires and other bird species.

  • Immature Mountain Chickadees are known to migrate to lower elevations. However, once they are old enough to select a breeding territory, they will generally stay there year-round. (It can be very challenging to distinguish them from our usual Black-capped Chickadees who stay in Fort Collins area year-round. Look for a white “eyebrow” on the Mountain chickadee that the Black-capped lacks.)

Other Adaptations for Winter Survival

For us humans, it seems logical to escape the cold and snow by going south for warmer weather. But birds have amazing adaptations to help them survive weather that we find daunting.

  • Feathers are the best insulation we know of. Imagine curling up inside a cozy down overcoat – birds have one naturally! They can retain heat by fluffing out their feathers, trapping more air underneath to keep them warm. Birds like chickadees or wrens fluff up so much that they look twice as fat in winter! Many birds, like the American Goldfinch, will also change out their sleeker, brighter summer coat for a thicker, drabber winter one. They get better camouflage as well as better insulation.
  • Some birds, like crows, will cluster together and share body warmth. Smart birds like crows and other corvids can also communicate about food sources and predators.
  • Many birds will also plan for the winter by putting on fat. It acts both as insulation to keep warm and as an energy source if hunting for food doesn’t go so well.
  • Birds are also good at predicting when the weather will turn bad and a blizzard is coming. They will eat extra food in advance of the storm, then hunker down and save calories for body heat while it snows.
  • Several species will change what kind of food they eat. The Townsend’s Solitaire and Prairie Falcon, described above, are great examples. Some birds will also stash food in preparation for the cold – if you have a birdfeeder that gets extra busy in fall, some of your avian visitors are probably caching food for later.

Birding in Winter

Celebrate National Bird Day this year by spending some time outside, looking at our seasonal visitors! But remember, winter can be a difficult season for any wild animal. Keep your distance so they don’t waste their precious energy flying or running away from you when you get too close.

Photo courtesy of  Alexa Leinaweaver.

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