From Sarah: This photo was taken while I was painting ceramics by the beach of our Cancun resort…and I’m sure you observant readers can detect the sunburn on my face even though we had only been outside for 30 minutes.  (And by the way, don’t think I wasn’t coated in SPF 50 sunscreen!)  I am not one of those lucky people that can tan easily…or at all.  My skin is two colors: as close to albino white you can get without being clinically albino, or bright red…and so, I am indebted to the folks at the Maryland Science Center for studying those pesky UV rays.
Earth by Aura is an ongoing research program sponsored by NASA and the Maryland Science Center that focuses on determining how accurate forecasters are at predicting the daily UV index.  Citizen scientist researchers go out into Baltimore’s Inner Harbor daily to take UV radiation readings and interact with other citizens, encouraging them to protect themselves from UV radiation and to get involved with the project.
One of the really neat things about this project is that you do not have to live in Baltimore to participate.  Earth by Aura uses a data-uploading website called Volksdata to coordinate all of their participants.  I personally think my collaborators and I should start using this site – it is wicked cool!  Volksdata is a tool that combines the power of social networking with citizen science data collection.  Using it (from my limited experience this afternoon) also appears to be very easy.  Simply create a free account and log on, and you are able to instantly create online science projects and invite others to add their observations to yours.  Or, you can use their networking tools to look for others who are already working on something that interests you (like Earth by Aura), and join their projects.
If you would like to receive more information about Earth by Aura,  sign up to receive their informative emails by clicking here (and if you don’t want to also hear about museum events, edit your email preferences to include only citizen science).

  • Topics: climate, sunshine, UV index
  • Location: from anywhere, especially in Baltimore
  • Duration: as long as the sun is shining!
  • Cost: free
  • Gear: computer to submit results, measuring device for UV index (can find out more info when you enroll)
  • Level of Difficulty: easy

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