Excerpt: The National Environmental Monitoring Conference (NEMC) is the largest conference in North America focused on environmental measurements. NEMC 2017, held August 7th to 11th in Washington, DC, featured a half day citizen science session moderated by Jay Benforado, USEPA Office of Research and Development, and Leon Vinci, Drexel University. The session began with five talks from citizen science researchers and practitioners, which inspired a larger discussion about the limitations and possibilities for expanding the impact and scope of citizen science for environmental monitoring. This blog post summarizes and reflects on this session.

Source: Bowser, A., 2017. Citizen Science and Environmental Monitoring: Reflections on NEMC 2017, 11 August, 2017. Available at https://www.wilsoncenter.org/blog-post/citizen-science-and-environmental-monitoring-reflections-nemc-2017 [Last accessed 4 September 2017].

Editor’s Choice: What helps people connect with science on a personal level? Insights into this question may emerge in a new, compelling project coming out of Alaska. The investigators of “Winterberry” have designed this interdisciplinary project to integrate different ways of knowing and meaning-making into more familiar forms of participatory data collection. Their motivation? Making their work matter to Alaskan communities. The uncertainty of future berry harvests is not only the subject of scientific investigation, but it will also be the theme of storytelling workshops. –AWA–

Excerpt: Across Alaska, berry harvests have begun in earnest—and, this year, so has a project in which Alaskans will help track their berry patches scientifically. The new National Science Foundation project, dubbed “Winterberry,” aims not only to engage Alaskans in research on berry resources but also to find ways to make the findings more valuable to communities.
“Berries are an important resource for so many of us,” said principal investigator Katie Spellman, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks International Arctic Research Center. “This work is an attempt to empower participation in scientific research and make it more accessible and useful to Alaska and Arctic communities.”

Katie Spellman, who leads a new UAF effort to engage Alaskans in wild berry research, helps a student in Venetie cut rosehips during an earlier project. Credit: Katie Spellman

Source: Bauer, N., 2017. Berry research project seeks Alaskan volunteer citizen scientists, 17 August 2017. Available at https://phys.org/news/2017-08-berry-alaskan-volunteer-citizen-scientists.html [Last accessed 5 September 2017].

Excerpt: On Aug. 21, as the moon passes in front of the sun and casts a shadow across the United States, millions are expected to gaze at the totality. Meanwhile, a smaller crowd will be glued to 150 custom-made radio receivers set up across the country.

The project, called EclipseMob, is the largest experiment of its kind in history. By recording changes in the radio signal, these citizen scientists will collect data on the ionosphere — the region of the atmosphere where, miles above Earth’s surface, cosmic and solar radiation bumps electrons free from atoms and molecules. It plays a crucial role in some forms of long-distance communication: Like rocks skipped across a pond, radio waves can bounce along the top of the ionosphere to travel farther around the globe. But signals passing through the ionosphere sometimes behave in unpredictable ways, and scientists still have a lot of questions about its properties and behavior.

Source: Guarino, B., 2017. A massive atmospheric experiment is planned for August solar eclipse. The Washington Post, 12 July 2017.

Excerpt: In her introduction to the round table, Dr. Katrin Vohland, Director of the Research Programme “Public Engagement with Science” and Executive Chair of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), reflected on the importance and challenges for CS in the current situation in Europe. Two opposing trends that can be observed: On one hand, science appears to be firmly established in European societies. More people than ever attend universities, newspapers have their own science sections, science festivals grow everywhere, and there is a boom in Citizen Science, do-it-yourself science, FabLabs and other forms of participatory knowledge creation and innovation. Scientific evidence plays an increasing role in political decisions, at least science-policy platforms that promote such aims multiply, e.g. the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

On the other hand, increasing scepticism towards science can be observed. While critical discussions, e.g. on the representation of different knowledge systems or access to the benefits of science and technology, and scrutiny regarding scientific integrity are much needed for healthy research systems. Caution is warranted when overly emotional rhetoric and populism gain ground, like when narratives of a post-truth or post-factual age take hold. Another observation is a coming

Source: Göbel, C., Agnello, G., Baïz, I., Berditchevskaia, A., Evers, L., García, D., Pritchard, H., Luna, S., Ramanauskaite, E. M., Serrano, F., Boheemen, P. v., Völker, T., Wyszomirski, P., Vohland, K., 2017. European Stakeholder Round Table on Citizen and DIY Science and Responsible Research and Innovation. Doing-it-Together Science Report. URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1563626

Excerpt: Students from St Thomas Primary School discovered the small jumping Lycidas Karschi spider during a Bug Blitz field day in September. Experts have now verified the spider’s identification. “They’re a tiny little jumping spider, about 5 millimetres long,” Bug Blitz program director John Caldow said.

“Children are catching things with nets and bringing them up to me all day and I’m madly photographing things, but it wasn’t until later on that we realised we had discovered something interesting.” Year 5 student Hannah Abdalla said it had been an exciting, hands-on way to learn about science. “We were searching in trees and on the ground and the only thing I found at first was a yellow ladybug, and I was thinking ‘Geez, I hope I find something else’,” she said.

Source: Lazzaro, K., 2017. Scientists verify spider discovered by young citizen scientists not seen before in Victoria. Australian Broadcasting Corporation News, 28 Jun 2017. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-29/rare-spider-discovered-by-young-citizen-scientists-verified/866250 [Last accessed 1 August 2017].

Excerpt: Old guys who hunt have been stepping up to help the Snapshot Wisconsin project, a booming citizen-based science initiative that’s using trail cameras to document what’s going on in our woodlands and other wild places when we’re not looking. Since its launch in spring 2016, Snapshot Wisconsin has worked with 604 citizen volunteers to set up 726 trail cameras in 18 counties around the state. According to the Department of Natural Resources, Snapshot Wisconsin has compiled nearly 12.18 million photos of birds, mammals, people and anything else triggering its cameras’ motion sensors.

Source: Durkin, P., 2017. Snapshot Wisconsin is citizen science success story. Green Bay Press Gazette, 13 July 2017.

Excerpt: Citizens who research and gather data: digital media are opening up whole new ways for science to arrive at new insights. Citizen science is in gold rush fever, with researchers around the world – at University of Zurich (UZH) as well − sounding out the potential of crowd-sourced research and hatching promising new project ideas. This year’s LERU (League of European Research Universities) Doctoral Summer School, organized by the Graduate Campus at UZH under the banner “Citizen Science – Nexus between Research and Public Engagement,” revolved around participatory research. Forty-four junior researchers from all over Europe met to exchange and develop professionally. At the end of last week at UZH, seven Summer School working groups presented their ideas for citizen science projects, and discussed them with their peers and a range of experts.

Under great pressure – they had only around 24 hours –they came up with project outlines covering an astonishingly broad array of research topics. The ideas included enlisting the help of laypeople to ferret out and document old lost movies, analyze and measure medical images to improve the diagnosis of disease, and track down harmful asbestos in cities.

Source: Nickl, Roger, 2017. Friendly Wake-up Calls and Fine Tomatoes, 14 July 2017. Available at UHZ News: http://www.news.uzh.ch/en/articles/2017/doctoral-summer-school-0.html [Last accessed 1 August 2017]

UZH – UZH News – Friendly Wake-up Calls and Fine Tomatoes

Abstract: The number of emerging tree diseases has increased rapidly in recent times, with severe environmental and economic consequences. Systematic regulatory surveys to detect and establish the distribution of pests are crucial for successful management efforts, but resource-intensive and costly. Volunteers who identify potential invasive species can form an important early warning network in tree health; however, what these data can tell us and how they can be best used to inform and direct official survey effort is not clear. Here, we use an extensive dataset on acute oak decline (AOD) as an opportunity to ask how verified data received from the public can be used. Information on the distribution of AOD was available as (i) systematic regulatory surveys conducted throughout England and Wales, and (ii) ad hoc sightings reported by landowners, land managers and members of the public (i.e. ‘self-reported’ cases). By using the available self-reported cases at the design stage, the systematic survey could focus on defining the boundaries of the affected area. This maximized the use of available resources and highlights the benefits to be gained by developing strategies to enhance volunteer efforts in future programmes.

Source: Brown, N., van den Bosch, F., Parnell, S., Denman, S., 2017. Integrating regulatory surveys and citizen science to map outbreaks of forest diseases: acute oak decline in England and Wales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Vol 284(1859). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0547

Abstract: Neighborhood level air pollution represents a long-standing issue for many communities that, until recently, has been difficult to address due to the cost of equipment and lack of related expertise. Changes in available technology and subsequent increases in community-based participatory research (CBPR) have drastically improved the ability to address this issue. However, much still needs to be learned as these types of studies are expected to increase in the future. To assist, we review the literature in an effort to improve understanding of the motivations, approaches, and outcomes of air monitoring studies that incorporate CBPR and citizen science (CS) principles. We found that the primary motivations for conducting community-based air monitoring were concerns for air pollution health risks, residing near potential pollution sources, urban sprawl, living in “unmonitored” areas, and a general quest for improved air quality knowledge. Studies were mainly conducted using community led partnerships. Fixed site monitoring was primarily used, while mobile, personal, school-based, and occupational sampling approaches were less frequent. Low-cost sensors can enable thorough neighborhood level characterization; however, keeping the community involved at every step, understanding the limitations and benefits of this type of monitoring, recognizing potential areas of debate, and addressing study challenges are vital for achieving harmony between expected and observed study outcomes. Future directions include assessing currently unregulated pollutants, establishing long-term neighborhood monitoring sites, performing saturation studies, evaluating interventions, and creating CS databases.

Source: Commodore, A., Wilson, S., Muhammad, O. et al., 2017. Community-based participatory research for the study of air pollution: a review of motivations, approaches, and outcomes. Environ Monit Assess 189: 378. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-6063-7

Abstract: Fisheries management is potentially a short-term measure for reducing floodplain fisheries degradation. This objective can only be achieved if adequate measures to improve fishery governance and ecosystem conservation are taken. The monitoring of fisheries management is likely to be important for understanding the effectiveness of local rules and the impacts on aquatic biodiversity. Given that monitoring is the periodic assessment of fish stock characteristics regarding reference data, adopting tools and procedures for monitoring at different scales is a challenging task. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have enabled local communities to gather data on key resources in a cost-effective way. This article presents a community-based monitoring of fisheries based of smartphones that supports the annual fishing quotas and legal harvest permits procedures. The precision of community-based monitoring data is assessed and a model to integrate these data into a large-scale monitoring scheme examined. Data collection performance was evaluated at communities in the Kaxinawá Nova Olinda Indigenous Territory, in the State of Acre, where fishery management was monitored. The results indicate that voluntary collectors are able to provide data with precision comparable with government agency measurements, but at lower cost.

Source: Oviedo, A.F.P., Bursztyn, M., 2017. Community-based monitoring of small-scale fisheries with digital devices in Brazilian Amazon. Fisheries Management and Ecology, Vol 24(4): 320–329. DOI: 10.1111/fme.12231