In 2008, when people attended the first-ever Fort Hays Science Cafe, they heard geosciences professor John Heinrichs talk about loss of polar ice based on his Arctic research of ice patterns.
The event was held at the popular Cafe Semolino Coffee & Eatery downtown on 11th Street.
The idea back then was to share science with the public, and that’s still true of the 100th Science Cafe, set for Monday, Sept. 16.
“It’s a great town-gown connection, and we do not, except for rare occasions, do it on campus,” said Paul Adams, dean of the College of Education at FHSU. “This is to talk to the public at large.”
Now in its 11th year, Science Cafe is still held off campus, but Semolino has closed its doors and the monthly talk on a science topic of interest is held at The Venue room of Thirsty’s Brew Pub & Grill, 2704 Vine St.
The location isn’t the only thing that has changed.
Instead of just hearing about science, Adams at the first Science Cafe of the 2019-2020 season will invite guests to get involved as citizen scientists.
“What we’ll focus on in this one is how you can be involved in the scientific enterprise through citizen science activities,” said Adams, a professor of physics who helps set the cafe agendas.
Citizen scientists are people who participate in scientific research. There are many opportunities, often working from an app downloaded to a smartphone, he said.
“One that I was just introduced to, is if you have your cellphone and you see a dust storm, take a picture and put it in,” Adams said. “One of the indicators of changing climate is if we have an increase in dust storms.”
Another is NASA’s Globe Observer at scistarter.org, which asks citizen scientists to report their observations about cloud cover, land cover, tree height, mosquito habitat and other aspects of the environment.
“So they can report through their mobile device,” Adams said. He also likes zooniverse.org, where citizens can contribute to discoveries relating to cutting-edge research in the sciences and humanities.
“One of the ones I like to do with students and the public in general is Globe at Night, where there are a couple of nights during the year and you go out with a star chart, or your cellphone, and you look at a constellation that is fairly easy to pick out, like Orion, or Cygnus, and you report ‘I can see only three stars’ or ‘I can see six stars,’ and that helps map out where the dark areas are,” said Adams. “They take this data globally, and from that we’re able to make dark maps ... There are living animals that need darkness to live, so the data gets collected by citizens and it can be used by scientists.”
Another is Galaxy Zoo, where you go online and report what you observe, whether bars or spirals, then classify it.
“That’s even led to citizens coming up with some galaxy classes we don’t know, that we’ve never seen before, so it finds gaps in knowledge,” he said. “Some of these projects do things that computers can’t do.”
Whether a person’s interest is archaeology, oceanography or wildlife, there are cameras observing the ocean floor and wildlife habitat, and people can report what they see.
Oldweather.org, for example, asks people to transcribe Arctic and worldwide weather observations recorded in ship’s logs since the mid-19th century.
“For me, I like the astronomy stuff,” Adams said. “So we’ll share some of these opportunities for people to become engaged in.”
At the September kickoff event, there will also be some reminiscing about the first 99 events.
“My favorite was honeybees, and how you get different flavored honeys,” Adams said. “We even had honey that we tasted during the presentation — it was just done by a member of the community who did it as a hobby. It was fascinating.”
The Sept. 16 event will be held at the FHSU Robbins Center to accommodate a display of the posters that have accompanied the Cafe events over the years. The remaining Cafe events will be held at 7 p.m. Monday evenings at Thirstys in The Venue.
Others on the calendar are:
• Oct. 14 — Importance of Scientific Education in Western Kansas, presented by Keri Maricle, NCKTC. Engaging young students and adults to think critically about the world around them.
• Nov. 11 — Different kinds of reality in technology: virtual, augmented, mixed and XR, presented by Gordon Carlson, associate professor of FHSU Communication Studies.
• Jan. 27 — Water conservation in the landscape, Holly Dickman, City of Hays, water conservation specialist.
• February — Date and topic to be announced. Presented by Laura Wilson, associate professor and interim chair, FHSU Department of Geosciences.