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Exploring Earth with Citizen Science - The GLOBE Program

Written by Rusty Low, IGES and Morgan Woroner, IGES.

This week, we’re focusing on a major environmental education initiative, The GLOBE Program. As the name suggests, this is a worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program focused on the environment. GLOBE promotes and supports the collaboration of students, educators, as well as professional and citizen scientists on inquiry-based investigations of the Earth system. The program currently operates in 109 countries, 45 States, and two U.S. territories. NASA serves as lead agency, NSF is joint sponsor, and NOAA and the U.S. Department of State play supporting roles.

GLOBE participants conduct environmental research in five areas: climate, meteorology, hydrology, pedology (study of soils), ecology, and environmental quality. All participants employ a standardized set of scientific measurement and analysis techniques as they measure and monitor changes in their environment. By applying the same scientific protocols as other researchers in the program, participants ensure that the data they collect can be compared with the data collected by others. With the guidance of formal and informal educators trained in the use of GLOBE protocols, students and youth learn to practice the scientific process – from rigorous observation, hypothesis generation, data collection and analysis to peer communication of research results.

This is a particularly exciting year for citizen science within The GLOBE Program, with four opportunities to take part in GLOBE student research campaigns related to NASA Earth science missions: CloudSat, CALIPSO, Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) and the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Mission. Each satellite partnership allows students to research different aspects of NASA Earth science.

CloudSat is a mission gathering data on how clouds influence Earth’s weather and climate. Students and teachers have the chance to help calibrate the instruments aboard the satellite by collecting and entering data through cloud observations. The CALIPSO partnership also focuses on studying clouds, but adds an aerosol observation component, allowing students to learn about the interconnections between weather, climate, and air quality.

Launched in early 2014, the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission uses a number of satellites to study rain, snow, and other precipitation data. This mission can collect worldwide data every three hours! Students are invited to collect local precipitation data using GLOBE Protocols, and explore other related GPM mission resources to learn more about the importance of this new mission.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) mission is getting ready for launch in November of 2014. Students are invited to take local soil moisture and temperature measurements close to the time when the SMAP satellite passes overhead. SMAP is also seeking to engage schools clustered near the SMAP calibration/validation sites (areas used to calibrate instruments onboard the satellite) at over 30 locations worldwide. The students at these schools will also have the opportunity to interact with the SMAP scientists and compare their measurements with the mission data themselves.

In addition to these citizen science opportunities, GLOBE has a number of resources available to bring Earth science to your students. Including activities, demonstrations, videos, student observations, and more, these resources compliment the science presented as part of the NASA mission partnerships.

As you can see, there are many opportunities for students to engage in ongoing NASA Earth and space science research via citizen science. Many of the projects we’ve covered provide periodic updates and do a good job communicating to students how their efforts have contributed to the broader understanding of Earth and our universe. These projects are a great way to excite and motivate students about the world of science, while simultaneously providing a glimpse into the world of STEM careers.

Check out our other posts on citizen science in the classroom: