Earth Trek

Sunday, May 24, 2009
Gary Lewis
What is EarthTrek? EarthTrek is a citizen science program that links scientists undertaking real scientific research with the broader community through their active participation in the collection of real scientific data. EarthTrek projects will focus on environmental issues in which community involvement is the key to understanding the real nature of the issue at a local, regional or even global scale. 
Scientists involved in EarthTrek can increase the amount of data collected on their local, regional or global projects as well as dramatically raise the profile of their research in the broader community. Scientists also have the opportunity to mentor young people in career paths which lead to being involved in their scientific field. 
Participants involved in EarthTrek contribute to scientific research by collecting data following scientific protocols, and then see their contributions reflected in the real outcomes of scientific research. 
Participants, especially the young, can also discover potential pathways for careers in science. Participant receive rewards for their participation in the form of EarthTrek statistics based on the number and scope of projects in which they participate. 
EarthTrek projects involve people collecting data outside using their GPS unit to locate a feature, or to record the coordinates of a data point. The basic EarthTrek data point contains the latitude, longitude, date and time of the data collection point, followed by the data needed to fulfill the project needs. 

Gravestone Project

This project aims to map the location of graveyards around the globe and then use marble gravestones in those graveyards to measure the weathering rate of marble at that location. The weathering rates of gravestones are an indication of changes in the acidity of rainfall between locations and over time. The acidity is affected by air pollution and other factors, and could be used as a measure of changes in climate and pollution levels. 
Every time it rains the raindrops contain more than just water. As well as the small particles of dust that the water drops formed around, the water can contain chemicals found in the atmosphere. Often the rain will end up being slightly acidic. This “acid rain” can then chemically affect (weather) materials in which it comes in contact. The amount of weathering that occurs from place to place differs and may be changing over time. 
Marble is a common stone used to make gravestones. Marble is mostly made up of the mineral calcite. Calcite is a carbonate mineral, and so it reacts with any acid, including the weak rainfall acids, and dissolves. This means that over time, marble headstones are slowly weathering away. 
This project aims to measure how fast the marble gravestones in graveyards you visit are weathering and see how that may be changing over time. This could be an indicator of changes in pollution or climate.