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Backyard Brains Fellowship 2018

Call for Undergraduates in Biology or Engineering Fields:

Are you a neuroscience nerd? Do you want to learn how the brains of animals like squids or dragonflies work? Is your background in Electrical, Mechanical or Computer Engineering? Want to develop your own innovative experiments and publish your results? Learn to communicate those stunning results with the public? Maybe even all of the above? Then you’re in luck!

2017 Fellows from left to right: Top: Greg Gage (Not a fellow), Zach, Jaimie, Spencer, Nathan, Ilya. Bottom: Joud, Christy, Haley.

The Backyard Brains Summer Research Fellowship is an intensive 10 week program for undergraduates to participate in hands-on neuroscience research and experiment design with award winning neuroscientists. This is the 5th year of running our prestigious (and paid) summer program and this year it will run from May 21, 2018 to Aug 3, 2018 in Downtown Ann Arbor, MI.   All applications must be received by noon eastern time (12:00 PM, EST) on March 22, 2018 to be eligible. We will be notifying applicants of their status by March 29, 2018.

 

Apply to the Summer Fellowship Today!

 

 

This is our 5th iteration of the program, and it just gets better every year. Like a fine wine! Our summer fellowship program is run much like a graduate school laboratory. All participants will be working on their own independent research projects for the whole summer.  We will have daily journal clubs to go over key papers and expand knowledge in the area, and each participant will be trained how to develop their own experiments and to build their own devices to perform those experiments.  You, future BYB scientist, will be collecting data, analyzing it, and presenting your results.

The end result of your summer fellowship will be a publishable experiment and video for our website, as well as a poster to be delivered at Undergraduate Research Poster Session of the Society for Neuroscience.  In 2017, all of our participants presented their research at a Undergraduate Research conference and some were selected to be posters at the Society for Neuroscience Conference. We also brought home the hardware to show for the hard work: all of our research fellows will be featured in a new TED show called “DIY Neuroscience,” which will begin airing on March 14. We will work with each student to prepare a 10 minute TED-style talk for a public event in Ann Arbor, with the possibility of presenting at our annual TEDx event. We have also worked with students to continue refining their experiment writeups into manuscripts in order to publish first-authored papers in peer-reviewed journals.

 

Apply to the Summer Fellowship Today!

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Listening In On Our Backyards

Acoustic Wildlife Recording promotes Citizen Science!

Here at Backyard Brains, we are all about citizen science, or the idea that the scientific community benefits from the collaboration with members of the general public for collecting and analyzing information about the natural world. Very DIY, very much the “for everyone” in our slogan. In 2017, Backyard Brains partnered with the University of Michigan’s Multidisciplinary Design Project (MDP) to focus neuroscience education on another kind of brain: birds! With the help of BYB, a team of undergraduate engineering students worked to develop a new kind of “Backyard Brain.” The idea was this: Create a low-cost device that could be deployed in backyards that would identify and record birdsongs!  This could be used to help track and log bird populations across the country, which is an important index of environmental health. Development of this project continued over the course of our 2017 summer fellowship , and that progress is detailed in Zach’s summer blog posts.  BYB and MDP will team up again for the project this year, with a new team and a new, expanded goal. But first, how did such a project come to mind? Naturally, it is the technological next step of a classic, “analog,” cataloging method…

 

The Audubon Christmas Bird Count

The National Audubon Society‘s annual “Christmas Bird Count” is perhaps the greatest example of democratized citizen science. Since 1900, volunteers have braved harsh, wintry conditions to help count and identify bird populations in their hometowns, as seen in Audubon’s photo above. These volunteers, from all across the country, then send in their findings, thus informing a national bird census.

The data gathered by initiatives like the Christmas Bird Count and Birdsong Identification project is incredibly important. Bird populations are very sensitive to environmental changes, making them a strong indicator of environmental health, stability, and possible effects of climate change. In this way, bird population trends can also be a lens to see our own world through.

This is the kind of citizen science that has inspired us, and others, to come up with devices which could help perform this task. Our work began in this field last year with the development of a “Birdsong Identification” device. The aim was to create a low cost, easily-distributed listening device which could be deployed to identify songbirds, and Zach’s project this summer started to do just that.

 

Birds, Rain, Wind, and More

The newest iteration of this project doesn’t stop at birdsongs. For 2018, the BYB-MDP partnership is looking to expand the reach of the project to create an acoustic environmental recorder that can also be listening for rainfall, wind, bats, coyotes, and other wildlife! There is a lot of information to be gleaned by turning an ear on our wilderness. Birdsongs are still on the menu, but with a new team (see above) and a new direction, the goal is to create a low-cost device which can be deployed and modified by both students and scientists to focus on whatever environmental indices interest them most!


Neuroscience Mind-Meld: Vsauce and Backyard Brains Collaborate on Episode of Mind Field

 

We’re excited to announce the Backyard Brains will be featured in an episode of “Mind Field,” a YouTube Red original series created by the famous math and science YouTuber, Vsauce!

If you aren’t familiar with Vsauce, definitely give his youtube channel a look! He has become a staple of online science education, as his YouTube videos are created to break down and explain complex ideas in a relatable and almost comedic manner. His new show, Mind Field, dives into the world of human psychology, perception, cognition, and neuroscience. Sounds like our kind of show!

Which is why we were so amped when our co-founder Tim Marzullo traveled to sunny Los Angeles to visit and film at the YouTube production studio! Our very own little slice of neuroscience education would now be exposed to the masses! (Cue mad scientist laughter.) Arriving early in the morning with his trusty toolbox packed full of neuroscience experiments, Tim got right to work filming with Michael Stevens (creator of Vsauce), Alie Ward (TV Science Personality), and the production team at the YouTube studio.

Tim explains, “It was a really novel experience. The only other film shoots I’ve been a part of had small crews and were done ‘semi-live,’ where we only had one or two takes to get something to work. For this episode, we spent all day filming just two experiments, and a lot of work went into each. We would reshoot each take several times, making sure everything turned out beautifully on camera, and refining our script so the descriptions were tight and entertaining. There were ~20 people on the Mind Field crew, so it was really a cool experience to be a part of a high-budget, professional shoot.”


Season 2, Episode 8: The Electric Brain was just dropped this month, and we were so excited to see the fruits of Tim’s trip. It is a YouTube Red show, so you’ll need a subscription to YouTube to see it, but believe us when we tell you that it will be worth it. No spoilers for the show, so we don’t want to say which of our experiments are appearing, but what we can tell you is that they are two of our more provocative experiments…