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Science and Photography Meet in Picture Post
Screenshot of the Picture Post website

An interactive map of Picture Post locations allows users to find posts and view recent images. Image Credit: Picture Post

One photograph can sometimes have a profound effect.

That's what the Picture Post team had in mind when they began installing wood posts in areas of environmental interest.

The posts are four feet tall, with an octagon on top that marks out the four cardinal and four ordinal directions. Citizen scientists are asked to take nine photographs at each post -- eight in the different directions and a ninth of the sky. Photos are then uploaded to a database where they can be compared with other photographs taken at the same post.

Both natural changes, like the seasons, and those caused by humans can be observed. Students can compare and help monitor haze; clouds; precipitation, including snow and ice; and vegetation.

While most of the Picture Posts are currently in the Northeast, you can establish one wherever you live. Picture Posts are a great way to connect a community with its surrounding environment, and people of any age can use them.

Some questions you might want to consider when establishing a post:
  1. What area might be of environmental interest nearby?
  2. What would you like to observe?
  3. Will the site change over time?
  4. Is the site accessible to the public?
Park trails, school grounds and other public locations are great potential sites.

Citizen scientists can set up their own backyard Picture Post project to monitor vegetation health and season changes. Once the Picture Post is added to the website, photographs can then be compared to the location daily image taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer aboard NASA’s Terra satellite.

Posts may be set up to monitor beaches, forests, rivers, lakes, wetlands, fields, marshes, gardens and more. Posts can be built from scratch or ordered online.

Picture Post is supported by NASA and is hosted by The University of New Hampshire.

Related Resources:
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Brandi Bernoskie/Institute for Global Environmental Strategies