Citizen Science

Citizen ScienceCitizen Science (start time: 5:32): For those who would love to track birds and other creatures or to test drinking water quality in their community, for instance, but think it would require a degree in science to contribute to important scientific discoveries, our guest today aims to set the record straight. Dr. Caren Cooper is an associate professor of Forestry and Environmental Resources at North Carolina State University. An ornithologist, she studies bird ecology, conservation and management through the use of citizen science. She wrote a recently published book called Citizen Science: How Ordinary People are Changing the Face of Discovery. It highlights many examples of inspiring and important citizen science projects, including a meteorological-forecasting program and some others here in Colorado. Dr. Cooper is also director of research partnerships at SciStarter.com, which connects interested volunteers to a diverse range of research projects that they can work on. Additional citizen science programs can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon Society’s Rockies chapter.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Alejandro Soto
Producer: Alejandro Soto
Engineer: Joel Parker
Additional contributionsBeth Bennett
Executive Producer: Joel Parker

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Pollinators Matter // Denver BioLabs

Butterfly girl

Photo credit: Butterfly Pavilion

Pollinators Matter (starts at 4:43): Now that backyard gardens are in full bloom it’s a good time to think about pollinators. Honeybees, butterflies, beetles and other pollinators depend on many flowering plants for nectar. And we depend on these pollinators for many foods we love in our diet, from almonds to apples to blueberries. Some of these pollinators, especially honeybees and monarch butterflies, are facing severe threats, here in Colorado as well as globally. Among the culprits are habitat destruction and insecticides called neonicotinoids.  The Butterfly Pavilion in Westminster is not only a popular destination for kids and adults who want to walk among butterflies, and tough tarantulas. It is also conducting research on pollinators and their habitat. Mary Ann Colley, vice president of science and conservation at the Pavilion, discusses with host Susan Moran some pollinator-focused research and educational campaigns. Info on Butterfly Pavilion’s citizen science efforts–Colorado Butterfly Monitoring Network and Urban Prairies Project–are on the Pavilion’s website. Related citizen science projects: The Bees’ Needs and Xerces Society. For more info on pollinators go to the National Wildlife Federation and USDA Agriculture Research Service.

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Denver Biolabs Co-founder RJ Duran shows how synthetic biology is used to make bacteria glow. Photo credit: Denver Biolabs

The New Biology (starts at 16:48): Denver Biolabs is the first community do-it-yourself bio-lab in Colorado. It focuses on making synthetic biology–where biology meets engineering–accessible to everyone. Biolabs is a community resource, giving students, researchers, entrepreneurs and others access to a community lab space. It also offers training in building bio-tools, learning lab fundamentals and experimenting with molecular gastronomy. Biolabs also develops technologies related to bioinformatics, biomimicry, bio-hacking and bio-printing. Dr. Heather Underwood is the co-founder and executive director of Denver Biolabs, which she discusses with host Leslie Dodson. For info on similar labs that have inspired Denver Biolabs, go to: Berkeley Biolabs, BioCurious, and Counter Culture Labs.

Hosts: Leslie Dodson, Susan Moran
Producer: Susan Moran
Engineer: Maeve Conran
Executive Producer: Shelley Schlender

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Monarch Migration // Better Batteries

Monarch caterpillar on milkweed. Courtesy Tom Ranker.

Feature #1: (start time 4:45) As we unpack our coats and boots from storage boxes, so are insects, in their own way, planning for a seasonal change.  Monarch butterflies in our neighborhood, east of the Rockies, fly south to very specific forests high in the mountains of Mexico. Their journey, and life at their destination, is a precarious one.  Dr. Deane Bowers, a professor and curator of entomology at the CU Boulder Museum of Natural History, speaks with co-host Susan Moran about what is happening now with monarchs and other butterflies. And she discusses how the ability of certain insects, such as caterpillars, to defend themselves against predators by making themselves taste disgusting is being affected by human disturbances, such as nitrogen fertilizer runoff. To get involved in monarch conservation, go to Monarch Watch.

Feature #2: (start time 14:30) One of the greatest limitations of effectively using clean and renewable energy sources is a simple device with which we are all undoubtedly familiar — the battery.  Dr. Conrad Stoldt is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at CU Boulder and co-founder of Solid Power, Inc., where he is developing an all-solid-state lithium metal battery. Stoldt talks with co-host Beth Bartel about how batteries work, why batteries are such a stumbling block in the current race to energy solutions, and how his research may just lead to the next big thing.

Hosts: Susan Moran, Beth Bartel
Producer: Susan Moran/Shelley Schlender
Engineer: Jim Pullen
Executive Producer: Susan Moran

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