My Friend is Going to Mars This Weekend #Mars #CitizenScience

The Mars Society is a private group running Mars simulation research, and Crew 265 is about to launch. I know because my friend is taking his second trip to the Desert Research Station.

Desert Research Station

Serious research will be underway, so there is absolutely no public access to the station or crew. Check out the links above to stay informed. (I trust the Mars Society link will be updated as the 2022 season begins.)

The Mars Desert Research Station (MDRS), owned and operated by the Mars Society, is a space analog facility in Utah that supports Earth-based research in pursuit of the technology, operations, and science required for human space exploration. We host an eight month field season for professional scientists and engineers as well as college students of all levels, in training for human operations specifically on Mars… The campus is surrounded by a landscape that is an actual geologic Mars analogue. Mission Support

While there has been renewed interest in Mars lately, the Mars Society has been active for over 20 years. While crew applications are closed for the upcoming season, there are volunteer opportunities too: click here.

I’ve enjoyed writing science fiction about the first Mars Colony (let’s hope the real first colony has better luck!) but I’m not likely to set my own personal booted foot on the Red Planet. But someone will, in the near-future, I hope. Until then, give a cheer for the professionals and citizen scientists of the Mars Society.

Learn more: “The Mars Society is a U.S. registered non-profit organization that leads a worldwide movement, with dozens of chapters.” says Wikipedia, or go straight to the source: The Mars Society.

Climate Data From my Yard #climate #citizenscience

If you follow climate science, you may have seen this:

The required rain gauge in my yard.

Every 10 years the National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI) calculates new climate normals for the United States. The 1981-2010 normals have been used for the past 10 years. On May 4th, the normals for the period 1991-2020 were released and will serve as the base period with which to compare our current weather until 2031. CoCoRaHS

Data for the updates come from many sources. For the first time ever, CoCoRaHS stations are included in the calculation of normals. CoCoRaHS is an organization of citizens across the country who record precipitation daily: rain and snow. My spousal unit and I have been members for enough years that our data qualified to be included.

There’s more detail here: https://www.cocorahs.org/Content.aspx?page=climate-normals

Understanding the Earth’s climate is a big task, and its importance to you, me, and future generations is huge. I’m glad to play a tiny part. You – if you live in the USA, Canada, or the Bahamas – you can too 🙂 Learn about joining here.

Lost Apple Project Scores #citizenscientist #history #agriculture

In the fall, in Mimbres Valley farmers markets in southwest New Mexico, I can buy Red Delicious apples. And they are… delicious, that is. Not those mealy things found in supermarkets. That’s because there are orchards here with trees over 80 years old. Apparently, the Pacific Northwest has its own bounty.

There were once at least 17,000 named varieties of apples in North America, but only about 4,500 are known to exist today. By the 20th century, farmers stopped growing most apple types.

The Lost Apple Project [is] a nonprofit organization that searches abandoned farms and orchards in the Pacific Northwest to locate old varieties. Benscoter recently found seven types of apples in old orchards in Oregon, Washington and Idaho that were thought to have gone extinct as long as a century ago. NPR

These old varieties can be identified using a resource from the Federal government I’d never heard of before: the USDA’s Pomological Watercolors Digital Collection. Between 1886 to 1942, 7,584 watercolor paintings of American fruits and nuts were collected, including 3,807 images of apples. That leaves over 13,000 still lost, but maybe a few more will emerge from private collections.

The Project’s finds aren’t simply interesting, they can be useful. “The rediscoveries are a step toward increased genetic diversity of apples. He can test the historic varieties to find out what farmers and buyers will want. The USDA can then piece together that information to help farmers more reliably grow apples, not use as much pesticides and increase nutritional quality.”

Apple trees are often propagated by grafting, so cuttings from the newly rediscovered apples can be rescued immediately. It’s nice to know this piece of history is not lost, and perhaps people can join bears, deer, and squirrels in an annual feast. Congratulations, citizen scientists.

Citizen Scientists Study Hummingbirds in SW New Mexico #bird #birdwatching #citizenscience #ornithology

I visited the Mimbres Culture Heritage Center when they hosted a hummingbird banding weekend. Hummingbirds are fierce little warriors and fascinating to watch. I have three feeders out for them at my house now, and my windy ridgetop is not the best birding location in the county.

On your vacation through southwest New Mexico, be sure to visit the Mimbres ruins and, if you time it right, see the hummers.