Category: Collaboration & partnerships

Australian Citizen Science Association statement on 2019/20 bushfires

The unprecedented Australian fires are devastating. They have led to the loss of lives, homes, habitats and livelihoods. Members of the Australian Citizen Science Association extend our deepest sympathies to those affected personally and also recognise the ecological grief that may be prompted by the scale of this crisis. 

In this time of extreme loss, we are also buoyed by the extraordinary response of individuals and communities in a time of crisis.  We believe there is a role for citizen science to assist across multiple disciplines, in many research and monitoring capacities. 

ACSA is a member-based community that supports, informs and develops citizen science. With this in mind, we are seeking to support conversations and plans that help further connect the citizen science community to contribute to the extraordinary and complex efforts required to organise a safe, strategic and coordinated response – both short and long-term.

We understand that there are many people who want to help with response. We do too. Please appreciate that the safety of you and others is paramount.  If considering citizen science activities, always ensure that the area you visit is cleared for entry, you are safe and that your activities do not interfere with the critical frontline work of emergency first responders. We are not currently promoting field based data collection. Emergency responses need to come first. Many volunteers are actively contributing to response efforts as firefighters, relief centre workers, and wildlife carers, while other people returning to their homes are putting out water or vegetables for wildlife remaining. Our thanks goes out to those contributing to these efforts.

The first four steps of ACSA’s approach is outlined below:

STEP 1 – Rapid community feedback

ACSA has commenced multiple processes for crowdsourcing information about what and how citizen science projects might contribute to the recovery of forests and ecosystems, monitor the effects of climate change, and empower citizens to create datasets that may positively influence climate policy.  

A quick call for ideas is open for feedback. No idea is too big or too small. You can share information about  existing projects and new concepts that could address a critical gap. As a community, we can work together to create and support imaginative, robust and impactful projects that will contribute to positive outcomes for science and society. We’ll share the ideas generated with you and use them as part of our citizen science advocacy in consultations with government and industry. 

STEP 2 – Community of practice discussion

We encourage our members to join the WILDLABS Bushfires Slack channels, in which several of our committee members, and representatives from response organizations such as Conservation Volunteers Australia, are already active. Please get involved in these conversations to share your insights and details of any active groups or discussions around citizen science bushfire responses so that we can link to these initiatives. There are several citizen science threads. The WILDLABS Slack link is <https://www.wildlabs.net/community/thread/825>. 

STEP 3 – Project audit & key needs

We are partnering with SciStarter and Atlas of Living Australia on a survey to compile a list of projects where citizen science data and data processing could be useful in helping to monitor the impacts and recovery from the bushfires and of a changing climate more broadly. We will be posting this survey soon – please stay tuned. 

This survey will be a first step in helping to support the broader conversations around how to maximise the positive contributions from citizen science for response and recovery efforts. If you manage or know about good projects, we very much value your feedback.  There are a huge range of existing citizen science projects that are already collecting data around relevant topics. 

Potential categories of needs and goals identified so far include:

    • post fire assessment and recovery (ecology and or biodiversity monitoring, documenting regrowth, identifying remaining patches of habitat, soil condition)
    • Wildlife and endangered species support (presence/absence, abundance, distribution, predator control)
    • Air quality, cloud, smoke monitoring etc. (empowering citizens to self-monitor or access nearby monitoring, coordinating citizen data)
    • Water quality, including runoff/ash issues (projects exist, coordinating/sharing role)
    • Health and well-being (respiratory issues, mental health, community sustainability)
    • Climate change observations, local weather conditions
    • Research (Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC
    • Shared global goals (Earth Challenge 2020, SDGs). 

We have also had a number of science, research and conservation organisations reach out. This conversation linking key needs from science, management and policy organisations and the Australian and global citizen science community is where ACSA seeks to focus our efforts. To help us consider ways to best connect the citizen science community with key needs, we welcome feedback on critical information gaps and key research needs where citizen science can help. 

STEP 4 – Long-term strategy

An effective response to coordinate citizen science contributions at this scale will require extensive strategy, consideration and collaboration. ACSA will work to develop a more long-term response together with you, our community. This will include approaches to best align the key data needs identified by science, management and communities with citizen science data collection, processing, analysis and sharing activities. 

We’re exploring ideas around how we can support constructive sessions at the upcoming ACSA National Citizen Science Conference (Oct 2020) and through other key advocacy and collaborative activities. We welcome your feedback to shape next steps. If you are interested in being part of a working group for a disaster recovery research stream of the conference, please contact cobi.calyx@unsw.edu.au.

ACSA stands with you and your communities, and we will support Australia’s response to the bushfire and climate crisis as best we can. As climate change continues to influence more aspects of our lives through both extreme events and other environmental, social, cultural and economic changes, we want to continue strengthening ACSA as a platform that can advocate for your priorities.

ACSA Seed Grant Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of ACSA’s Seed Grants for 2019! The Seed Grants were designed as a way of giving back and investing in our members, with two $1,000 grants available to ACSA members to seed their professional or project’s growth in line with ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice.

And the winners are:

  • Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries – Pupils for Parasitoid Wasps: The ‘Pupils for Parasitoid Wasps’ project involves school children running insect traps to collect parasitic wasps in their local environment, and being involved in naming and describing newly discovered species.

  • Jodie Valpied – Bachhus Marsh Platypus Alliance: The Seed Grant will help provide the necessary resources to the new Bacchus Marsh Platypus Alliance community group to begin a citizen science project on platypus habitat health, and to facilitate community engagement in this project.

Congratulations to Erinn, Jodie and your teams on winning this Grant, and we look forward to hearing how your projects progress.

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/