2010 Annual Science Report

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Reporting  |  SEP 2009 – AUG 2010

EPO Activity: Online E/PO Activities

Project Progress

We are engaging in a number of online EPO activities, all available via our primary web presence at http://www.complex-life.org/. We have applied a number of interactive, social, and multimedia 'web 2.0’ type techniques to disseminate information about the scientific activities of the Advent of Complex Life team, as well as to generate excitement about science, to connect with the broader scientific community, and with the science education community. Our primary activities are summarized below.

We are creating a series of WebQuests, which are self-contained education activities that can be used to help teachers address specific parts of the National Science Education Standards in the context of learning about astrobiology. WebQuests are inquiry-based, such that students seek information to solve a problem or complete an activity. Students are challenged to explore, understand, and potentially resolve an issue individually and/or in groups. They are provided with guidance to resources on the web in order to adequately address their issue. The activities are designed to be self-contained and completed within one to two class periods. They can be adapted for middle or high-school use. WebQuests are created with teacher guides and include online and offline assessment tools for teachers and in order to provide feedback to us. See more about these under Ediacaran Fauna and Environments EPO report.

Videos and Screencasts:
We have produced 39 videos and screencasts, including video biographies of many team members as well as short (2-3 minute) videos that address specific scientific questions, such as “What happened to the Ediacaran organisms?” and “In what habitats did the Ediacaran organisms live?”. A full list of the videos available is at the end of this section.

The short videos are used as resources for the webquests, but they are designed to be stand-alone resources as well. All of the video content we have created as a part of our Ediacaran WebQuests are posted on our website, on our YouTube channel, as well as a school-friendly site called TeacherTube (all URLs are available at the end of this section). The video bios enable the public to learn more about the scientists on the team and see them as real people instead of just names.

Social Media:
We have a Facebook page and a Twitter account (@ComplexLifeNAI) where we link to interesting articles relating to the work taking place in our team, as well as announce new papers by team members, and upcoming E/PO events. All URLs are listed at the end of this section.

Hundreds of photos of the team trip to the Ediacaran Hills of Australia and to Mistaken Point in Newfoundland have been posted in the team’s Flickr group and are available for public use under Creative Commons licensing. Team member Marc LaFlamme has assisted the E/PO team in tagging and captioning all images of fossils with their appropriate names, making this the biggest and most comprehensive collection of Ediacaran fossil images available on the web. These images will also be placed in the Encyclopedia of Life Flickr group, and harvested for inclusion in the Encyclopedia of Life (EOL) website. We will then have EOL species pages with images for the Ediacaran biota.

Many of these images have also been uploaded into our online group LifeDesk system which is used to collect information about the Ediacaran biota. LifeDesks provide content management tools to allow communities to assemble expert web-resources. The comple.lifedesk includes a database of all taxa, a taxonomy of the Ediacaran fauna, images, and a complete list of references for all published taxa. The site is able to accept text descriptions and is available for public use. As the site can be used by all team members to submit content, we plan to turn it into an active research tool as well as an educational resource.

Complex Life Team Video Bios: http://www.complex-life.org/video_bios
Complex Life Resources (including all short videos): http://www.complex-life.org/resources
TeacherTube: http://www.teachertube.com/members/viewProfile.php?user=Complexlife
YouTube Channel: http://www.youtube.com/user/AdventOfComplexLife
Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Complex-Life-NASA-Astrobiology-node/137433959611189
Twitter Feed: http://www.twitter.com/ComplexLifeNAI
Team Flickr Group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/complex_life
EOL Flickr Group: http://www.flickr.com/groups/encyclopedia_of_life
ACL LifeDesk: http://complex.lifedesks.org/
Encyclopedia of Life: http://www.eol.org

Complex-life.org website: ~11,000 page views, and ~2,800 unique visitors in the last 12 months, including 2,589 page views and 669 visitors in the last month (see Figure 3)
Number of videos produced: 39
TeacherTube video views as of October 17, 2010: 5,603
YouTube video views as of October 17, 2010: 921 views, 11 subscribers to our channel.
Facebook: 68 'friends’ from July 15th to October 7th, 2010. See Figure 1 for friend add information and Figure 2 for unique page views of our facebook page.
Twitter: 54 followers from September 1 to October 17, 2010

Complete List of Short Videos and Screencasts Produced (excluding team member video bios):

  • How Do We Know How Old Fossils Are?
  • How Do We Look for Life on Other Planets?
  • How Do You Tell A Fossil from Other Markings on Rocks?
  • How Old Are the Ediacaran Fossils and Where Are They Found?
  • In What Habitats Did the Ediacaran Organisms Live?
  • Neoproterozoic Time
  • Overview of Ediacaran Fauna
  • Phylogenetic Trees
  • The Ediacaran Organisms: Are they animals?
  • The Ediacaran Organisms: Did they move? What did they eat?
  • The Significance of the Ediacaran Fossils
  • Was There Life on Earth Before the Ediacaran Fossils?
  • What happened to the Ediacaran organisms?
  • What is an animal?
  • What is complex life and why did it evolve?
  • What is the Ediacaran, what is a fossil, what is the completeness of the fossil record?
  • What was the Earth Like During the Ediacaran?