Abstract: A growing number of ‘wicked problems’ faced by society including climate change and biodiversity loss need to be engaged with as sustainability challenges. Addressing such problems might appear to necessitate science educators and environmental educators working together. However, science education, which has tended to focus primarily on teaching knowledge and skills, and environmental education which is characterised by the incorporation of values and a focus on changing behaviours have, over the years, moved apart significantly. In order to address the wicked problems, a convergence of science and environmental education is now needed. One strategy might involve collaborative research among scientists, educators and the public which could link science and society with place and identity. The outcome of this convergence would be more effective processes of public engagement and learning that could result in meaningful socioecological outcomes. The data gathered and shared using information and communication technologies can provide useful input to scientists. At the same time, such projects can empower citizens to engage in debates about local and global environmental and sustainability issues. More importantly, perhaps, they can support the public in taking action to address the key issues and challenges faced by society.

Source: Dillon, J., 2018. On the Convergence Between Science and Environmental Education. In: Yeo J., Teo T., Tang KS. (eds) Science Education Research and Practice in Asia-Pacific and Beyond. Springer, Singapore. pp 87-94.

Abstract: Physical inactivity across the lifespan remains a public health issue for many developed countries. Inactivity has contributed considerably to the pervasiveness of lifestyle diseases. Government, national and local agencies and organizations have been unable to systematically, and in a coordinated way, translate behavioral research into practice that makes a difference at a population level. One approach for mobilizing multi-level efforts to improve the environment for physical activity is to engage in a process of citizen science. Citizen Science here is defined as a participatory research approach involving members of the public working closely with research investigators to initiate and advance scientific research projects. However, there are no common measures or protocols to guide citizen science research at the local community setting.
We describe overarching categories of constructs that can be considered when designing citizen science projects expected to yield multi-level interventions, and provide an example of the citizen science approach to promoting PA. We also recommend potential measures across different levels of impact.

Source: Hinckson, E., et al, 2017. Citizen science applied to building healthier community environments: advancing the field through shared construct and measurement development. International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity 14:133. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1186/s12966-017-0588-6

Excerpt: The latest version [of citizen science game platform Eterna] sees players tasked with designing a CRISPR-controlling molecule. The design of the challenge is to develop an RNA molecule that’s capable of acting as an on/off switch for CRISPR. The resulting molecules will then be tested by molecular biologists.“Great ideas can come from anywhere, so this is also an experiment in the democratization of science,” the [Eterna] team say. “A lot of people have hidden talents that they don’t even know about. This could be their calling. Maybe there’s somebody out there who is a security guard and a fantastic RNA biochemist, and they don’t even know it.”

Source: Gaskell, A., 2017. Eterna Citizen Science Game Turns Its Attention to CRISPR, 5 September 2017. Available at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eterna-citizen-science-game-turns-its-attention-to_us_59aea162e4b0c50640cd61c9 [Last accessed 2 October 2017].

Abstract: A species’ distribution and abundance in both space and time play a pivotal role in ecology and wildlife management. Collection of such large-scale information typically requires engagement of volunteer citizens and tends to consist of non-repeated surveys made with a survey effort varying over space and time. We here used a hierarchical single-census open population N-mixture model, which was recently developed to handle such challenging census data, to describe the dynamics in the Finnish population sizes of the reintroduced native Eurasian beaver (Castor fiber) and the invasive North American beaver (Castor canadensis). The numbers of beaver winter lodges (i.e., family groups) were counted by volunteers in the municipalities of Finland every third year during 1995–2013. The dynamics of both species followed Gompertz logistic growth with immigration. Initial abundance of North American beavers increased with proximity to the introduction sites as well as with the amount of water in the municipality. The intensively hunted North American beaver population declined and the Eurasian beaver population increased during the study period. The model generated reasonable estimates of both total Finnish and local numbers of lodges, corrected for the incomplete detection. We conclude that the single-census N-mixture model approach has clear potential when using citizen-science data for understanding spatio-temporal dynamics of wild populations.

Source: Brommer, J.E., Alakoski, R., Selonen, V., Kauhala, K., 2017. Population dynamics of two beaver species in Finland inferred from citizen-science census data. Ecosphere 8(9), DOI: 10.1002/ecs2.1947

Excerpt: Smith River floaters will be asked next year to help the state document algae blooms in what officials are calling a “test pilot” project for citizen science on one of Montana’s most renowned rivers.

As letters go out next year to the winners of highly coveted float permits, they will come with a request to download a yet-to-be-completed cellphone app. Once downloaded, floaters may take photos of algae blooms and upload the data to state officials after takeout.

The Montana Department of Environmental Quality and Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will then have the data as the agencies study a recent increase in reports of algae in the river.

“This is a new one for us as we’re really looking at how to retool our citizen engagement, and getting people on the ground,” said Eric Urban, water quality planning bureau chief with DEQ. “It’s pretty remote, so getting on the ground and seeing it ourselves poses some challenges.”

Source: Kuglin, T., 2017. Smith River float permit winners will be asked to help document algae on their adventures, 21 September 2017. Available at a href=”http://helenair.com/lifestyles/recreation/smith-river-float-permit-winners-will-be-asked-to-help/article_68bffda6-5b99-5f50-99ab-8745ac2fd222.html” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>http://helenair.com/lifestyles/recreation/smith-river-float-permit-winners-will-be-asked-to-help/article_68bffda6-5b99-5f50-99ab-8745ac2fd222.html [Last accessed 2 October 2017].

Excerpt: A cellphone and a few seconds of time. That’s all residents of northern Michigan need to take part in a new project designed to improve management and conservation of a vital natural resource: fresh water.

The idea behind the endeavor is simple but impactful. Fishermen, boaters and other outdoor enthusiasts text data on river levels and temperature to scientists. Then, the project team feeds this and other information into a computer model that generates a seven-day forecast of water conditions.

The pilot location is the Boyne River in Michigan, where researchers have set up five citizen-science stations that feature stream height gauges, with temperature gauges to be installed in the fall. Three additional state-of-the-art gauges will collect similar data at other spots along the Boyne.

Source: Hsu, C., 2017. Citizen scientists to help with forecasts for rivers, streams with texted data. Available at http://www.buffalo.edu/ubnow/stories/2017/09/lowry-stream-forecast.html [Last accessed 2 October 2017].

Editor’s Choice: Now focusing on imagery from Hurricane Maria, the Planetary Response Network continues the important work outlined here for the devastation caused by Hurricane Irma. This effort and others like it still need your help – this is where citizen science can actually save lives! –LFF–

Excerpt: A highly unusual collaboration between information engineers at Oxford, the Zooniverse citizen science platform and international disaster response organization Rescue Global is enabling a rapid and effective response to Hurricane Irma.

The project draws on the power of the Zooniverse, the world’s largest and most popular people-powered research platform, to work with volunteers and crowd source the data needed to understand Irma’s path of destruction and the damage caused. Combining these insights with detailed artificial intelligence will support rescue relief organisations to understand the scale of the crisis, and deliver aid to those worst affected as soon as possible.

Photo of Hurricane Irma by NOAA/CIR

Source: University of Oxford, 2017. Using AI, citizen science and disaster response to help victims of Hurricane Irma, 20 September 2017. Available at: https://phys.org/news/2017-09-ai-citizen-science-disaster-response.html [Last accessed 2 October, 2017].

Abstract: In this paper, we share our findings from a 2-year citizen science program called Mosquito Stoppers. This pest-oriented citizen science project is part of a larger coupled natural-human systems project seeking to understand the fundamental drivers of mosquito population density and spatial variability in potential exposure to mosquito-borne pathogens in a matrix of human construction, urban renewal, and individual behaviors. Focusing on residents in West Baltimore, participants were recruited through neighborhood workshops and festivals. Citizen scientists participated in yard surveys of potential mosquito habitat and in evaluating mosquito nuisance. We found that citizen scientists, with minimal education and training, were able to accurately collect data that reflect trends found in a comparable researcher-generated database.

Source: Jordan, R.C., Sorensen, A.E., Ladeau, S., 2017. Citizen Science as a Tool for Mosquito Control. Journal of the American Mosquito Control Association 33(3): 241-245. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2987/17-6644R.1

Abstract: Although data is increasingly shared online and accessible for re-use, we still witness heterogeneous coverage of thematic areas and geographic regions. This especially becomes an issue when data is needed for large territories and including different nations, as, for example, required to support macro-regional development policies. Once identified, data gaps might be closed using different approaches. Existing—but so far non accessible—data might be made available; new public sector information could be gathered; or data might be acquired from the private sector. Our work explores a fourth option: closing data gaps with direct contributions from citizen (Citizen Science). This work summarizes a particular case study that was conducted in 2016 in the Danube Region. We provide a gap analysis over an existing macro-regional data infrastructure, and examine potential Citizen Science approaches that might help to close these gaps. We highlight already existing Citizen Science projects that could address a large part of the identified gaps, and suggest one particular new application in order to indicate how a—so far uncovered—gap might be approached. This new application addresses bioenergy as a particular field of the circular economy. On this basis we discuss the emerging opportunities and challenges for this particular way of public participation in regional development policy. We close by highlighting areas for future research.

Source: Lisjak, J., Schade, S., Kotsev, A., 2017. Closing Data Gaps with Citizen Science? Findings from the Danube Region. International Journal of Geo-Information 6(9): 277. DOI 10.3390/ijgi6090277

Abstract: Understanding the factors that underlie the production of non-timber forest products (NTFPs), as well as regularly monitoring production levels, are key to allow sustainability assessments of NTFP extractive economies. Brazil nut (Bertholletia excelsa, Lecythidaceae) seed harvesting from natural forests is one of the cornerstone NTFP economies in Amazonia. In the Peruvian Amazon it is organized in a concession system. Drawing on seed production estimates of >135,000 individual Brazil nut trees from >400 concessions and ethno-ecological interviews with >80 concession holders, here we aimed to (i) assess the accuracy of seed production estimates by Brazil nut seed harvesters, and (ii) validate their traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) about the variables that influence Brazil nut production. We compared productivity estimates with actual field measurements carried out in the study area and found a positive correlation between them. Furthermore, we compared the relationships between seed production and a number of phenotypic, phytosanitary and environmental variables described in literature with those obtained for the seed production estimates and found high consistency between them, justifying the use of the dataset for validating TEK and innovative hypothesis testing. As expected, nearly all TEK on Brazil nut productivity was corroborated by our data. This is reassuring as Brazil nut concession holders, and NTFP harvesters at large, rely on their knowledge to guide the management of the trees upon which their extractive economies are based. Our findings suggest that productivity estimates of Brazil nut trees and possibly other NTFP-producing species could replace or complement actual measurements, which are very expensive and labour intensive, at least in areas where harvesters have a tradition of collecting NTFPs from the same trees over multiple years or decades. Productivity estimates might even be sourced from harvesters through registers on an annual basis, thus allowing a more cost-efficient and robust monitoring of productivity levels.

Source: Thomas, E., Valdivia, J., Alcázar Caicedo, C., Quaedvlieg, J., Wadt, L.H.O., Corvera, R., 2017. NFTP harvesters as citizen scientists: Validating traditional and crowdsourced knowledge on seed production of Brazil nut trees in the Peruvian Amazon. PLoS ONE 12(8). DOI: e0183743