Citizen Science Symposium Held Saturday in Long Beach;  1st National Citizen Science Day on April 16

February 23, 2016

Several dozen citizen scientists and others attended the 1st Citizen Science for Conservation in Southern California Symposium Saturday at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, listening to numerous speakers from various academic, governmental and non-profit organizations involved in numerous programs that involve public participation in scientific research.

Known by many names but popularized in recent years as “citizen science,” the voluntary work performed by participants, such as conducting bird counts with binoculars or studying fish inhabiting coral reefs through scuba diving, has now been recognized so well that the 1st National Citizen Science Day will be held on Saturday, April 16. More details will be made available soon.

Having given a talk last month here at CFI-L.A. about the history and practice of citizen science with my own first Earthwatch Expedition studying the environmental impact on the web of life by wolves, elk, aspen trees and fire in the Canadian Rockies as an example, I attended the conference sponsored by the Aquarium of the Pacific and its Marine Conservation Research Institute.

The symposium featured an opening keynote address by Caren Cooper, PhD, the assistant director of the Biodiversity Research Lab at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences and adjunct professor at North Carolina State University. She traced the history of citizen science in modern times from the logbooks of 19th Century scientists, such as Matthew Maury on whale migrations and William Whewell on tide charts. Cooper cited more recently how citizen scientists may spur scientific study of a phenomenon, which is what happened with the recent Flint, Michigan, water controversy. She also mentioned that half of knowledge is gained by citizen scientists through projects like one on migratory birds and climate change. Cooper also was involved in the formation of the Citizen Science Association, is creating an online journal, Citizen Science: Theory and Practice, and is writing a book about citizen science.

The keynote address was followed by a “lightning round” presentations of five minutes each by numerous speakers on specific projects, such as the Mission Bay Pollution Survey, sand crab monitoring, and Los Cerritos Wetlands Bird Counts.

In the afternoon, several special presentations were made aspects of citizen involvement in different organizations including one by Lila Higgins, manager of the Citizen Program at the Natural History Museum in L.A., on how citizen science can be used to engage communities in science education.

Two panel discussions in the afternoon included a discussion by Beth Pratt, California director of the National Wildlife Federation, on the planned $50 million wilderness overpass on the 101 to provide a corridor for animals to cross over. She also brought a life-size cutout of P22, the mountain lion in Griffith Park.

The symposium ended with an outside display of posters of various citizen science organizations and literature tables operated by organizations such as Earthwatch, The Audubon Society, and the National Wildlife Federation, followed by a food and drink reception.

SPECIAL NOTE: I had previously compiled a list of citizen science projects for those interested, and I will now update that with numerous projects I found out about at the symposium. Contact me at:  bob@cfiwest.org and I will email you an updated list when it is finished. Copies also will be made available in our bookstore.

-Bob Ladendorf

 

Sanden Totten, KPCC science reporter, moderator an afternoon panel discussion on “Engaging Local Communities”  
Sanden Totten, KPCC science reporter, moderator an afternoon panel discussion on “Engaging Local Communities”

 Attendees moved outside after the inside sessions to see posters and visit literature tables hosted by citizen science organizations.
Attendees moved outside after the inside sessions to see posters and visit literature tables hosted by citizen science organizations.

 Ladendorf poses with P22, the mountain lion in Griffith Park. (OK, it’s a cutout poster!)
Ladendorf poses with P22, the mountain lion in Griffith Park. (OK, it’s a cutout poster!)