Citizen science in space!

International Space Station citizen science SciStarter MicrobiomesThis morning, Space Florida announced that a research proposal submitted by SciStarter, Science Cheerleader and UCDavis won a competition to fly innovative research projects on the International Space Station via Space X in December 2013.

We are stoked.

This research will compare growth rates of microbiomes collected on Earth (by YOU and your fellow citizen scientists!) to those collected on high touch surfaces on the ISS. It will also enable all of us to contribute to a world population map of microbiomes and learn more about our own microbial environments. We spend most of our lives in “built environments” yet we understand very little about the make up of the millions of microbiomes living on us and in our houses/offices, etc. This project hopes to advance research in this area. SciStarter and the Science Cheerleaders will be leading the research with UCDavis and heading up the outreach components at public venues.

If you are interested in learning more, here’s the announcement:

And here’s the proposal:

Huge thanks to our newest member of the SciStarter and Science Cheerleader teams, Mark Severance, who helped make this possible. Mark, our Space Guy, will be leading and developing space oriented activities for both sites. Mark is a career NASA employee at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and was introduced to us by Science Cheerleader Summer Williams who also works at NASA in Houston ( in addition to being a former cheerleader for the Houston Texans and current Ms. Texas!). Very special thanks to Science Cheerleader (and PhD candidate) Wendy Brown for her expertise and guidance on the proposal. And, of course, it is the innovative research on microbiomes being done by Dr. Jonathan Eisen and his colleague Russell Neches at UCDavis that sparked this wild ride.

We want to immediately launch a broad campaign to engage the public in our experiment. Some of the areas we will need help with are:

  • Additional thoughts on how to use the collected microbes for research
  • Web page development and maintenance
  • App development (we also have plans for a Science of Cheerleading App…are you an app developer? Let us know if you can help!)
  • Development of space cheers and space cheer activities (for live events, online videos, and app)
  • Experiment sample tracking and results data collection and posting
  • Educational content development; Informal lessons and background information
  • Leave Behind documents and downloadable materials
  • Informal lessons and background information
  • Blog updates for both sites
  • Social Media contributors (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, YouTube, Instagram, Flicker, etc)
  • Liaison to our Participating Partners including the National Science Teachers Association, Pop Warner Youth Scholars, NFL, NBA
  • Cultivation of Industrial partners and Sponsors
  • Appearance Participation and Coordination
  • Point-of-Contact to venues
  • Media outreach and coordination (we already have national media interested in this…)
  • Kit distribution at venues and return to UC Davis
  • Leave Behind materials distribution
  • Travel coordination

We believe that that our experiment can create an unprecedented level of public participation in a space-based science experiment. However, our success will rely heavily on the expertise and participation of others. Please leave a comment here if you are interested in getting involved. Or email darlene @ scistarter . com .

It is our vision that this will be the first of a series of space based experiments we can conduct onboard, or launched from, the ISS. Although we are primarily focused on the implementation of our current proposal, Mark and I would welcome your ideas for other space experiments we could pursue. Feel free to share your ideas with us at any time.

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About the Author

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier

Darlene Cavalier is a Professor at Arizona State University's Center for Engagement and Training, part of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Cavalier is the founder of SciStarter. She is also the founder of Science Cheerleader, an organization of more than 300 current and former professional cheerleaders pursuing STEM careers, and a cofounder of ECAST: Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology, a network of universities, science centers, and think tanks that produces public deliberations to enhance science policymaking. She is a founding board member of the Citizen Science Association, a senior advisor at Discover Magazine, a member of the EPA's National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology, and was appointed to the National Academy of Sciences "Designing Citizen Science to Support Science Learning" committee. She is the author of The Science of Cheerleading and co-editor of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science, published by Arizona State University. Darlene holds degrees from Temple University and the University of Pennsylvania and was a high school, college and NBA cheerleader. Darlene lives in Philadelphia with her husband and four children.