Category: Collaboration & partnerships

Meet ACSA’s new host

We are thrilled to formally announce that ACSA’s new host institution for the next three years is The University of Sydney. 

The University of Sydney was founded in 1850 and is Australia’s first University. Citizen Science is a burgeoning area of growth in both research and practice at the University of Sydney, and one that is set to expand over the next decade.

ACSA will be housed with the Faculty of Science, which is also home to Inspiring Australia NSW. This will be fantastic for strengthening our ties with Inspiring Australia going forward. ACSA will also work closely with the newly formed Citizen Science Node at the University, which oversees all the projects across the university that fall under the citizen science banner.

The node’s co-director, Dr. Alice Motion, was featured recently in this article about the official recognition and support of citizen science within academic institutions. With the vision to “become a world-leading hub for the advancement of citizen science that is ethically and methodologically rigorous.” ACSA is very excited about its new home!

ACSA Chair Erin Roger signing the Affiliation Agreement with our new Host Representative Dr Alice Motion

Q&A with ACSA’s Patron…Dr Geoff Garrett AO

One of our Member’s recently mentioned that they’d like to know a little bit more about ACSA’s Patron Dr Geoff Garrett AO, and the work he is doing behind the scenes for ACSA. What follows here is an amusing, honest and engaging account of the years since citizen science first crossed Geoff’s radar (which was not as early as you might have expected for a Chief Scientist!) But perhaps that is just testament to the times that were. Not anymore! Read on to find out a little more about our Patron.

Geoff and his avid birdwatcher wife, Janet

ACSA: How did you get interested in Citizen Science? And why?

Geoff Garrett: To my considerable embarrassment, during my time as CSIRO’s Chief Executive and, thereafter, as Queensland’s Chief Scientist, citizen science hadn’t really crossed my radar.

I was probably not alone in this as, for example, up to that point I can’t recall any discussion on the topic with the other States’ Chief Scientists, who regularly got together under the leadership of Australia’s Chief Scientist, Dr Alan Finkel.

But then, late in 2016, towards the end of our time in Queensland, I got an interesting (and some might say pushy!) letter from a devoted citizen science evangelist, Libby Hepburn.

She wanted to meet. I didn’t at that stage know her from the proverbial bar of soap so (as one does, or did) I politely ducked her kind invitation saying I was finishing off, then going to be overseas for the first half of 2017 but “please feel free to contact me again when I’m back in Canberra”…. thinking (of course) that it would go away. It didn’t.

Early in July 2017 Libby got in touch again, too passionate on the topic for me to put off meeting with her. And at our first meeting the scales started falling from my eyes, around the scope, potential and importance of better involving – meaningfully – the broader community, young and old, in science, and scientific research.

My emerging enthusiasm was further ignited a couple of weeks later when Libby suggested I get in touch with Canberra-based Andrew Robinson of Questagame.

I had mentioned to Andrew our visiting UK brother-in-law, Ron Johns (for a decade Britain’s top ‘twitcher’), so birding was a prime topic. We had an awesome meeting and compelling roadshow through Questagame‘s objectives and activities.

Also around that time I had just joined the Board of the brilliant National Youth Science Forum, so enthusing young kids around science was also pretty much top of mind.

I was hooked.

And the rest just unfolded. ACSA was emerging as the organising vehicle here in Australia and I had some intriguing conversations with Erin Roger as Chairperson, especially around science leadership, politics, engaging key decision-makers and funding – stuff I’ve spent, happily(?), quite a lot of my career getting to grips with. I offered to help.

ACSA: So how, as Patron, have you been involved?

GG: First off, I was – and am – honoured, and indeed flattered, to have been invited by Erin and the Committee to take up this role.

Now – relationships are key…..

I still had some useful connections into, for example, the Office of the Commonwealth Chief Scientist, and we persuaded Alan to do a keynote address – which was great! – at ACSA’s February 2018 conference; into Department decision-makers around extending core funding; to my ‘old’ colleagues back in Queensland and the then Acting Chief Scientist, Dr Christine Williams and my former boss, the excellent Minister Leeanne Enoch. These ladies both got as excited as I was and devoted time and resources to getting Citizen Science well and truly launched in Queensland through a formal Strategy piece and $500+k initial grant funding for Citizen Science projects. And so on.

And all a great pleasure to be able to assist.

ACSA: So why do you think Citizen Science is important?

Geoff sharing a science story with one of his granddaughters, Evie

GG: For any ACSA Newsletter reader looking for a motivational briefing on this question – for pals, colleagues, family or bosses – if you haven’t yet come across it, this link might be helpful…

https://govoluntouring.com/what-is-citizen-science-why-is-it-important/

From my side, in particular, there are a couple of key drivers here…

Firstly, on capacity…. involving enthusiastic lay people in research studies can drastically expand for researchers the volume and spread of valuable data collection. My previously-noted brother-in-law and engaging the birdwatching community at large is a great example.

Secondly, debunking elitism and mystique…. which sometimes, unfortunately, scientists like to hide behind: “this is all very hard, and complicated, and you need to be very clever (like me) with decades of training behind you (also like me), to be able to contribute.”

Citizen science projects open up how science actually works, and exposing scientists to the broader community as real people, nice people, helpful people doing important work for the benefit of all of us, is very beneficial.

Thirdly, promoting collaboration… which we are still struggling with here in Australia, sadly.

I’m fond of quoting that “all business is people business” and that “communication excellence is the baton of leadership” (and that’s maybe twice as much listening as talking – the two ears/one mouth story!) Key skills essential for the broader ‘professional’ scientific corps, to hone and improve. Learning through doing.

ACSA: And finally, what would be your vision for citizen science in Australia in say 3 to 5 years time?

GG:

  1.  Track record. A burgeoning engagement of citizens in science projects – and results – of importance to communities, meaningfully influencing policy at local, State and Federal level.
  2. No Heads of Science Agencies or Chief Scientists (mea culpa again!) – nor indeed any Ministers of Science – that don’t have citizen science on their priority action list. With funding.
  3. The secret of success. Word-of-mouth spreading like wildfire with both professional scientists and community groups.

 

Thank you Geoff!

How Cooloola Coastcare hatched Cooloola TurtleCare with a seed grant from the Australian Citizen Science Association

By Lindy Orwin, Cooloola Coastcare

Worldwide, marine turtles are at risk. But on the Cooloola Coast in the Gympie region of Queensland, where several endangered, vulnerable and threatened species (including the green, loggerhead, hawksbill and flatback turtles) live, there are some extra challenges. This is an area of dynamic sand movement and many 4WD tourist vehicles use the beach daily, especially during school holidays, because the beach is a gazetted ‘road’. Young hatchlings whose nests survive the king tides and storm surge of the crazy Queensland storms, have to run the gauntlet to survive.

The Cooloola Coast turtle breeding beaches urgently need monitoring and the community needs education about marine turtle behaviour if the turtles trying to nest in this area are to be successful. These beaches and those to the south are vitally important because sand temperature determines the gender of the hatchlings. Only beaches south of Bundeberg are cool enough to result in male turtles, to balance the feminisation of turtles north of this location.

In 2017, one nest was laid right next to the Lifesaver’s Tower on the main swimming beach. It was sadly lost during the first night to the ravages of a large high tide. Luckily for Cooloola turtles, a very experienced turtle carer with extensive experience around the world in turtle rescues, relocating turtle nests and tagging turtles, Joan Burnett, moved into our area. Now her work has been fast tracked thanks to an ACSA Seed Grant!

(Left) Joan Burnett, Turtle Citizen Scientist and (Right) Treasurer and Turtle Volunteer, Nancy Haire, prepare materials for turtle education events.

Cooloola Coastcare has been able to rally a merry band of volunteers together and start an education program for the community. In the last few weeks, members of the public have reported stranded and sick turtles and our team has been able to help out in the rescues and collect data about several turtles. With the help of the ACSA Seed Grant, the TurtleCare Program is well underway and plans are being ‘hatched’ for more Cooloola volunteers to be trained at the Mon Repos Turtle Research Centre in the 2019-20 turtle season. We’re changing the survival rate of marine turtles one turtle at a time. In July and August, we’ve been involved in rescuing a turtle from a crab pot, assisting a turtle found floating on the surface and collecting data about deceased turtles.

Turtle education will also be a feature of the upcoming National Science Week STEAMzone Festival in Gympie with Joan’s newest educational resource…a realistic model of a hatching turtle nest complete with the moonrise over the sea.

Our newest educational resource…a realistic model of a hatching turtle nest complete with the moonrise over the sea

While there are many tourist photos of marine turtles in the Cooloola Coast area taken by campers, kayakers, fishermen and divers, there is little scientific data about the numbers of marine turtles trying to lay their eggs on Rainbow Beach.  Data collected about turtles stranded and rescued by the Citizen Scientists is adding to the knowledge base.

A partnership has been established with the Sunshine Coast TurtleCarers for shared training and collaboration. Cooloola TurtleCare will promote broad and meaningful participation in citizen science by our TurtleCare volunteers, local residents and tourist visitors.

Dr Lindy Orwin, Coordinator, Cooloola Coastcare and turtle volunteer, Murray, look for any remaining eggs in a nest site exposed during Cyclone Oma

Seed Grants 2019 – Call for applications!

What’s in it for you?

  • $1000 to seed your professional development or your project’s growth.
  • Exposure for your project and/or organisation.
  • Motivation to initiate something you have always wanted to do.
  • Quick and easy application process (online application form).

ACSA is excited to announce our second round of Seed Grants.  As a way of giving back and investing in our members we are offering grants of $1000 each to two ACSA members to seed their professional growth or their project’s growth.

Last year, three ACSA members won ACSA Seed Grants:

  1. Jodi Salmond of Reef Check Australia – Life coaching to work more effectively with volunteers
  2. Geetha Ortac of Bellingen Riverwatch – Printing of training manuals
  3. Dr Lindy Orwin of Cooloola Turtlecare – Training of a certified carer

Could you be next?

To be eligible for Seed Grant funding, proposed activities must be in line with ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice. These goals are:

Participation – Encourage & promote broad and meaningful participation of society in citizen science so people become partners in creating science & increasing science literacy.

For example (but not limited to):

  • Activities that encourages participation in a citizen science project, could be a workshop, an event or a school outreach program or an app.
  • Development of a citizen science project that aims to meet these goals
  • Resources or training for citizen scientists participating in a project you run

Practice – Support the development of tools, methods, infrastructure, and resources to strengthen the practice, use and study of citizen science.

For example (but not limited to):

  • Attendance at a relevant course or event, such as a conference.  Can include registration, accommodation, flights etc.
  • Development of tools or infrastructure that aims to meet this goal.

Who can enter?

This grant is open to all current ACSA members. Not a member? Join us!

How to apply

Complete the Seed Grants Application Form before Friday 13 September, 2019 5pm AEDT.

Please note, applications should be kept short to reflect the value of the grants. A maximum character limit applies to each judging criteria.

Seed Grant Application Form

Judging criteria

Applications will be judged on the applicant’s response to the following:

  1. Short description of proposed activity (maximum 200 characters).
  2. Context or background to your proposed activity (maximum 1500 characters).
  3. Detailed description of how the Seed Grant will be spent (maximum 1000 characters).
  4. In what way does your proposal address ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice (maximum 1000 characters)?
  5. Describe the expected outcomes and benefits of your proposed activity (maximum 500 characters).
  6. Brief timeline for the delivery of your proposed activity (maximum 500 characters).

Key dates

Entries must be received by Friday 13 September, 2019 5pm AEDT.

The recipients of the Seed Grants will be announced at the ACSA Annual General meeting in [insert month], and on the ACSA website by [insert date], 2019.  Recipients will also be contacted by email or phone.

Terms and conditions

  • The grant is open to current ACSA members only.
  • The activity outlined application must be able to be completed within the year following the awarding of the Seed Grant.
  • The Seed Grants are two (2) grants of $1000 each.
  • Recipients will be asked to provide photos and a blog outlining how they intend to use the Seed Grants, for publication on the ACSA website. Additional information may be required for a year following the awarding of the Seed Grant.
  • Information provided by the recipients may be used by ACSA for promotional/publicity purposes. This may include, and is not restricted to, the information being used on websites, social media, printed material, press releases etc.
  • Personal information provided to ACSA can be used by ACSA, however such use will only be in connection with the Seed Grants.
  • The deliberations of the judging panel remain confidential. All recommendations and decisions taken are binding and final and no correspondence will be entered into on such matters.
  • The judges reserve the right not to award the grants if, in their view, the quality of entries is insufficiently meritorious.
  • No entries will be received or considered after the close of entries.
  • Failure to meet all conditions of entry will automatically disqualify an entry.

Apply now!

Engaging and Retaining those elusive volunteers…

By Jodi Salmond, Reef Check Australia

Volunteer engagement and retention have long been an issue for the not for profit sector.  Organisations reliant on unpaid workers have substantial investments in time, training, and financial input, as well as an ongoing mentoring/upskilling programs to ensure volunteers feel both valued and supported, in addition to having the right skills to conduct the tasks required of them.  Despite this, some volunteers still cancel last minute, or cease to show up at all- leaving organisers stretched, frustrated, and unable to meet funding milestones.

We all invest a lot in all our volunteers.  I believe that overall, we are great at supporting them; we train them, we guide them, we answer their questions, we thank them for, validate their efforts and make sure everyone feels comfortable in their sparkly new roles.  And yet the turnover rate is still high.  Personally (and professionally) I continue to be interested in how we can all find and recruit dedicated, accountable, reliable volunteers for the long game.

Following my successful application for an ACSA Seed Grant, I chose to look at several different life coaching programs and books to help me gain a better understanding as to how I might better manage my own thoughts, feelings and expectations around volunteerism, how to create accountability to ourselves and each other, how to ensure less burnout in an industry that is known for it, and how to create engaged, energised long term volunteers.

I signed up for several different courses, and admittedly, I didn’t complete them all.  Some required too much time, some just didn’t suit my learning style, and for some, the expectation of what needed to be achieved daily was not realistic for someone working (almost) full time.  I did however find a few programs that really stood out for me, giving me small pieces of gold that I have taken on board not only for myself, but that I have since passed along to my volunteers through different training programs over the past 9 months.  I have found these to be truly helpful for both myself and my volunteer engagement, and would recommend everyone give them a go! The biggest nuggets of gold I have learnt and want to share include:

  • According to recent research, a habit takes 66 days (not 21 as many people believe) to create.  This really pushes people to genuinely create habits.  The first 50 days were hard.  I personally found that I really enjoy the routine I have created for myself in getting ready for the day.
  • When required to do something that is not for yourself, it is easy to push it aside.  Volunteers have to feel ownership over a task to see it through.  Ensure this ownership is facilitated!
  • Do a personality profile on yourself, and learn to recognise the characteristics of your volunteers.  Understanding each other’s needs, learning, and communication styles etc INSTANTLY increases understanding for both parties, and creates an open space of compassion and empathy.
  • When the number of tasks is too high, or the size (perceived or real) of the task is too large, many peoples default is to feel overwhelmed and thus retreat.  It is vitally important to remember this one thing: ‘How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time’.  We need to change our default state to one of encompassing challenges rather than hiding from them.
  • The greatest thing we can do as leaders is to create more leaders; then let them fail forward.  Failure is key to success, so celebrate them!  Only through failing can you identify what doesn’t work.  If you are successful at everything you ever do, you are not pushing hard enough.
  • Self Care in paramount.  We all know this, yet it’s the first thing that disappears when time is at a premium.  Start your day focussed on YOU.  Take time to plan your day, meditate, journal and exercise.  THEN you can start the day feeling your absolute best because you spent time on you, your mindset and yourself.

I learnt a lot about myself during my search.  This has guided me on a path of continual self-development that I thoroughly believe has made me a better trainer, better leader and better overall human.  My volunteers seem active, engaged and eager to join in the wide array of activities we are a part of.  They understand there are boundaries to our relationship, and I no longer work all hours of every day, but purposely take time out to practice gratitude, to reset and re-energise.  I believe learning is the key to growth, and if we can all learn and grow together as an organisation, a team, a company, that we will all benefit and our volunteers will be around for a lot longer.

Quality training manuals thanks to ACSA grant

By Geeta Ortac, Bellingen Riverwatch

I still remember the excitement when I saw the email from ACSA announcing an opportunity for a small grant. The timing couldn’t be better! Bellingen Riverwatch was gaining momentum and we really needed support to print out some good quality copies of our volunteer training manual.

Bellingen Riverwatch is a water quality monitoring citizen science project supporting recovery actions for the critically endangered Bellingen River Snapping turtle (Myuchelys georgesi). These manuals were incredibly important as they served as an ongoing reference and training guide for our volunteers. The manuals aided data collection and ensured volunteer safety at sites. As the manuals were intended for frequent use (mostly in outdoor settings), it was recommended that they should be printed and bounded with good quality materials to withstand wear and stand. Long-term cost savings were a big consideration too. Better quality manuals meant lesser damage, hence lesser need for reprinting.

The training manuals have since been printed and distributed to our volunteers in May 2019. The funding supported production of 16 copies with six more to go. The final six copies will be placed in the water quality kits. I was informed by our Project Coordinator, Amy Denshire (from OzGreen), that the manuals received numerous positive feedback from the volunteers. I think the pictures say it all.

 

I want to thank ACSA for this wonderful funding opportunity. It definitely brought some great benefits to our Bellingen Riverwatch project. For more information about Bellingen Riverwatch, please visit this page.

Invitation to interview re “expertise” in citizen science projects

Researchers at the University of Waterloo, Canada, are looking for citizen scientists, and researchers running citizen science projects, to participate in a study concerning how “expertise” is defined and identified in citizen science projects.

This research is part of a bigger project called “Networked Expertise in Multidisciplinary STEM Collaboration,” that is being conducted by Dr. Ashley Rose Mehlenbacher at the University of Waterloo. The goal of this research is to better understand the implicit and explicit assessment of expertise that researchers use in multidisciplinary STEM collaborations. Understanding these mechanisms has significance to training initiatives at local and national levels.

Would you like to participate?

All you need to do is join in a 30-minute interview (via Skype / FaceTime etc.) with Dr. Mehlenbacher or a member of her research team. Individuals can sign-up to participate here. Participants will receive a $5 Amazon card for participating in the study!

This study has been reviewed and received ethics clearance through a University of Waterloo Research Ethics Committee.

Earth Challenge 2020: Research Questions to Help Citizen Science Scale

A message from the Wilson Centre, USA:


Your knowledge + Small digital acts of science = Answers to the world’s most pressing challenges

April 22​nd​, 2020 marks the 50​th anniversary of Earth Day. In recognition of this milestone a consortium of partners is launching Earth Challenge 2020 (EC2020) as the world’s largest coordinated citizen science campaign to date. By working with existing citizen science projects and building capacity for new activities, EC2020 will foster the collecting and integration of one billion open, interoperable data points to strengthen links between science, the environment, and society. In addition to integrating existing citizen science data, Earth Challenge 2020 will also create a new mobile application and app framework, available in six UN languages, to help communities around the world participate in citizen science.

To make sure that Earth Challenge 2020 is relevant to everyday people’s lives, we launched a public call for questions and insights around​“critical topics in environmental and human health” in fall 2018. We collected hundreds of responses, with engagement from all seven continents. After analyzing common themes with our partners, we identified six high-level questions to become focal points for our work:

1. What is the extent of plastic pollution?
2. What’s in my drinking water?
3. What are the local impacts of climate change?
4. How are insect populations changing?
5. How does air quality vary locally?
6. Is my food supply sustainable?

We’ve mapped United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to each research question to highlight their intersectional nature, create links to an international policy framework, and further engage the global community. Now, we’re reaching out to a range of communities, including experts working in citizen science and complementary research areas, to understand where exactly Earth Challenge 2020 can provide the most value and to invite potential partners to join us on this endeavor.

Contribute Your Expertise

Join us in developing the research methods we’ll use to guide the Earth Challenge 2020 effort. We understand that partnering with the research community is critical for making sure that Earth Challenge 2020 data are useful, usable, and used. We’re enlisting citizen science practitioners, other scientists, educators, and others to decide what data and information will be most helpful to answer these questions using citizen science. We’re organizing six Research Teams—each focused around one of the research questions.

Research Teams will work with us and each other to:

  • Take a critical look at how the research questions align with the relevant SDGs.
  • Decide how the SDG indicator and target structure will influence data collection and integration in Earth Challenge 2020.
  • Identify what citizen science data already exists.
  • Ensure existing data can be documented in a harmonized way.
  • Determine what new data should be collected using the Earth Challenge 2020 mobile app.
  • Help identify and/or design protocols for data collection, validation, and integration.
  • Identify complementary data and information, including data from sensors (Earth observations and low cost/ open source).
  • Offer strategic advice on other aspects of the project, including the design of educational materials and a what-you-can-do toolkit.

We’re seeking individuals to serve as volunteer advisors to research teams who:

  • Are committed to helping collaborative citizen science scale.
  • Have an interest in one or more of the research questions.
  • Value and/or have expertise in data interoperability.
  • Value scientific rigor.
  • Value and/or have experience in engagement, education, and impact evaluation.
  • Are willing to share their knowledge with a broader community.
  • Can commit to monthly or bimonthly phone calls and periodic emails.

Join a Research Team

Some of you previously expressed interest in becoming a member of one of the Earth Challenge 2020 research teams. Others of you may be learning of this project for the first time. Either way, please ​email Sarah Newman, Research Team Coordinator, at ​sarah.newman@colostate.edu​ if you are interested in participating AND indicate which research team question(s) you are interested in​.

Earth Challenge 2020 is a collaboration between the Wilson Center, Earth Day Network, and U.S. Department of State and many more partners. Learn more at: ​http://earthchallenge2020.earthday.org/

@CitSciTC – A Citizen Science Conference For Everyone

Towards the end of 2019 we will see something that has never happened in citizen science before – our first ever worldwide twitter conference!

Do you have a smartphone? An internet connected laptop? A computer with wifi? Does your local library have public computers connected to the internet or provides access to wifi? If so then you can participate. But here’s the great thing – there is no venue to pay for and no accommodation needed so this is the cheapest conference you will ever attend!

What is a Twitter Conference?

A Twitter conference is a virtual conference that takes place on Twitter under the hashtag #CitSciTC. Just like a regular conference, #CitSciTC will feature research presentations and even keynotes, but the talks will be delivered via a series of tweets under the conference hashtag.

At this stage #CitSciTC is still in the planning stages. However the conference organisers would love some help including some tweeters to be our “Spam Police” both leading up and during the conference. If you would like to help in any way please contact the twitter account for the conference @CitSciTC or email CitSciTC@gmail.com.

Never tweeted before or not sure how to set up an account? Have a look at this really helpful video.

If you would like to see a twitter conference in action the 5th World Seabird Twitter Conference (#WSTC5) starts next week and you can already follow the online conversation here.

#CitSci2019, Raleigh, NC USA!

By Michelle Neil (ACSA Secretary and social media moderator)

We come together at this conference to learn and work together for positive, productive outcomes.”

Every year ACSA sends a member of the Management Committee to a sister citizen science association conference somewhere in the world. This year I was the lucky one, so earlier this month I set off to attend the Citizen Science Association’s #CitSci2019 Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina USA.

Flying into Raleigh NC. Population 464,000. Pic: Michelle Neil

After more than 30 hours of travel I flew into Raleigh at 4am on Tuesday the 12th of March, grabbed an UBER and headed to the hotel.

The first day of the conference dawned cold and fine. I headed across the road to the Raleigh Convention Centre to help with the expected 800+ registrations!

I was very impressed by CSA’s organization of this event. At #CitSciOz18 we had 3 concurrent sessions running at any one time. However at #CitSci2019, CSA had up to 7 sessions running concurrently! This made me very busy trying to figure out which sessions I had already pre-booked and which ones I had already nominated to go to. I would have loved to go on the excursions but I wasn’t sure what I would miss out on that day.  Thank goodness for the conference app!

Raleigh Convention Centre. Pic: Michelle Neil

The theme for the conference was “Growing Our Family Tree”.  There were 4 main sub-themes intertwined throughout the conference. The themes were Equity (not equality), Education, Environmental Justice and Applied Ecology.  These themes were very well represented by the keynote speakers each morning and the Environmental Justice Panel on the Friday night.

This is what 800+ delegates looks like! Pic: Michelle Neil

Equity

Of the 4 keynote speakers I was particularly impressed with Dr Max Liboiron from Memorial University and Director of CLEAR, the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, which is an explicitly feminist and anticolonial laboratory that studies marine microplastics in Newfoundland, Canada.

Dr Liboiron spoke about the difference between equity and equality, the power relations within citizen science, humbleness and paying her citizen scientists. I thoroughly recommend you read her speech as she has transcribed it here.

She neatly summed it up in the end with the words “Let’s use citizen science as an opportunity to be more equitable, more humble, more diverse.”

I was so impressed with Dr Libiron’s speech I even tweeted to #CitSciOz18 keynote speaker Dr Emilie Ens (We Study Country, Macquaire Uni) and e-introduced these two amazing citizen science researchers. I found their methods of citizen science very interesting and thought that they should at least be aware of one another.

Education

Education, particularly STEM, is a subject very dear to my heart so it was fantastic to hear Marine Biologist-turned-science teacher Rachael Polmanteer and three of her students from River Bend Middle School in Raleigh talk about how citizen science had been incorporated into their classroom and how much they now like to go to science class and what they want to do in science in the future.

Rachael, in conjunction with citizen science practitioners, is literally writing the book on how to incorporate citizen science into classrooms with their local curriculum.  This means that students (and teachers) can do more hands-on science with citizen science plus further the field of scientific knowledge. I would love to see more of this work in the open access journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice”. Perhaps there should be a student edition?

I was very impressed with both Rachael’s and her students’ talks.  It’s not easy standing up in front of so many people to talk!I gave them each a little clip on koala as a keepsake, I think they were a hit, don’t you?

Environmental JusticeSource: https://www.epa.gov/environmentaljustice (29.03.19)

Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA have developed an “Air Sensor Toolbox”?  The EPA site “provides information for citizen scientists and others on how to select and use low-cost, portable air sensor technology and understand results from monitoring activities. The information can help the public learn more about air quality in their communities.” Enviromental Justice (EJ) is really just starting out here in AUstralia but in the USA it is in full swing and has been for many years. The EJ panel brought together citizen scientists and practitioners in a compelling arguement for equity.

https://www.epa.gov/air-sensor-toolbox

I attended one of the Air Quality Workshops presented by the EPA USA where we talked about what sort of air monitoring we would need in different situations and also about which commercially available sensors were the best fit for each situation. Then we got to go out and put the sensors to the test! My personal favourite was the AirBeam air pollution monitor which wifi’d to an Android tablet. I did find out that it wasnt available on iphone or ipads as yet.

Trying out the AirBeam air pollution monitor. Pic: Michelle Neil

Environmental Justice (EJ) is really just starting out here in Australia but in the USA it is in full swing and has been for many years. The EJ panel brought together citizen scientists and practitioners in a compelling arguement for equity.

The panel was live streamed and I recommend you watch the entire program on the CSA YouTube site here. It will be very interesting to see how Australia develops in citizen science in this sector. Should we be proactive and have an Environmental Justice working group? Food for thought…

 

Applied Ecology

Have you ever wondered if sour dough bread is the same in USA as it is in Australia? Or what are the microbes in your belly button?  Rob Dunn from North Carolina State University spoke about the smaller things in life – ants and microbes and what they can tell us about our environment and how it is shaping us!

Rob’s team of citizen science practitioners run all sorts of cool projects. In fact you can ask to do the Sour Dough Project here in Australia through the SciStarter website. In fact there is even a project to make beer from the yeast wild bees pick up!

Tragedy…

On the Friday night we had all heard the news about the terrible Christchurch Mosque Shooting. It was a tough day for our Kiwi friends in our ACSA contingent and also those of us who have family and friends “across the ditch” in New Zealand. The Environmental Justice panel Chair Dr Sacoby Wilson asked everyone to pay their respects and stand for a moment of silence for the victims of gun violence.

 

Everyone stood before bowing their heads for the moment of silence to pay their respects to the victims in NZ of gun violence. Pic: Michelle Neil

Podcast with SciStarter

One of my highlights was chatting with and recording a podcast with SciStarter’s Caroline Knickerson and finally getting to meet the founder of SciStarter, Darlene Cavalier with whom I have been tweeting and interacting back and forth on Facebook with for ages.  I even got to sit in on a few workshops with Darlene and the SciStarter crew including the all-important Citizen Science Day working group. Citizen Science Day falls on the 13th of April this year.

Caroline and I after taping the podcast. I loved the badges! She loved the koala!

Finally got a moment to say hello to the amazing Darlene and pose for a #CitSciSelfie!

Citizen Science Day

So how do you run Citizen Science Day if you’re the moderator of the Australian Citizen Science Association’s social media platforms?

The answer is to encourage everyone to go to the Citizen Science Day website and sign up to do the Stall Catchers Megathon to help scientists find a cure for Alzheimers!

https://scistarter.org/citizen-science-day

If you are running a Bioblitz or any other citizen science day event please let us know via email so that we may help you promote it on our ACSA channels.

The CitSciDay organisers covered most of the globe! Pic: Michelle Neil

City Nature Challenge

While at CitSci2019 I also wanted to find out more about the City Nature Challenge that is run every year in the last weekend of April using the iNaturalist app. I was too late to sign up this year as an organiser but I have put my name down for next year to get some people together and Bioblitz my hometown in SE Qld.

Team to beat: Boston, USA!

Boston USA organisers. Pic: Michelle Neil
One of my absolute favourite symposia was led by our own International Liasion Officer, Jessie Oliver as a fireside-style chat. With a truly stellar line up Jessie and her team talked tech design with around 30 audience participants. This was great because this style got everyone involved. In fact I was quite hard pressed to keep up with the minutes! You can check out the blog I co-wrote with Muki Haklay here. Collaborative note taking! Yay!

Jessie and I were also invited to attend a working group for the emerging Iberamericano (South American) Citizen Science Association and share our memories and ‘dos and donuts’ of setting up a citizen science association from scratch. I was amazed at just how much we had done, when Jessie and I started putting it all down on paper. Redricap (as it is known) has the added problem of language barrier. Portuguese, Spanish and English are the three main languages of South America. I suggested that Twitter and Facebook, with their translation abilities, would be ideal platforms to start on. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops!

On the final day of the conference I got up in front of everyone and asked 7 important words “Who would like to go to Australia?”

And the whole room leapt to their feet!

So I extended the invitation to come along to our ACSA #CitSciOz20 conference in SE Qld next year.

I wonder how many will come along?

I also announced the creation of a new conference which a few of us had been discussing last year in April – the first ever Citizen Science Twitter Conference to be held later this year.  @CitSciTC  is currently seeking moderators so if you are interested please contact the twitter account.

In closing, I would like to thank ACSA and CSA for supporting me to go to #CitSci2019. It was a fantastic experience working with amazing people. The work we have done in various symposia and workshops continues to this day as I am now contributing to Jessie’s HCI Group, Dr Andrea Wiggin’s Risk and Responsibility Group and the Iberoamericana (South American Citizen Science Association) formation working groups document.
Now to try and catch up on my sleep!
The stayers going out for dinner on the last night…. we didn’t want the week to end!