Calling all citizen scientists

 

By Heather Hansen, Red Lodge Clearing House

When I was a kid, my three sisters and I were compelled to go on what we called “forced marches” all over the country, from Death Valley (which we dubbed near-to-Death Valley) to Cape Cod National Seashore, where the August sand was so hot that our Jellies—you remember, those plastic shoes that were the preamble to Crocs—seemed to melt and to fuse with our tender feet. We gave copious blood samples in the mosquito-infested Everglades and tramped around maze-like groves among the mercifully-shady Sequoias.

We stopped to read every placard the park service had installed on interpretive trails (attention rangers: your hard work is not in vain), we examined leaves and rocks, we identified “v”- and “u”-shaped valleys, and watched wildlife. And we sisters complained consistently about our dry mouths, our rumbling bellies and our overall need to lay down somewhere, anywhere.

While it sounds like we were juvenile delinquents on a work crew, we were simply on school vacations with our mom, a first-grade teacher.

These memories played in the slideshow of my memory when I read recently about Citizen Science Projects, a venture of a group called Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation (ASC). They partner athletes with researchers needing scientific data from remote locales, including past and present projects in the Arctic, the Amazon, the Congo and on Mount Everest.

But, for those of us who aren’t going to be summiting K2 anytime soon (or ever), there is still work to be done. ASC also dispatches “citizen scientists” year-round in any geographical area to collect data, a process that often can be too costly or too time-intensive for researchers. Participants can propose a project, or ASC will give them a scientific mission in the volunteers’ preferred geographic area and find researchers who will benefit from their boots on the ground. It all starts with ASC’s easy to use web portal.

Not only is the result meaningful in adding to a body of scientific knowledge but ASC believes, as I do, that once we spend time getting to know an area, we’re then connected to it (psychologists call this “place attachment” and it’s instrumental for children in developing their identities and sense of belonging). We are then, presumably, more interested in what happens to these special spots and more likely to advocate for their protection. It’s no coincidence that, after years of family field trips, I co-authored a book called Disappearing Destinations about a lot of the places I’d been.

Once you’ve run the rapids of the Arkansas River, or picnicked on its banks, camped or hunted in a national forest, backpacked in Montana’s Beartooth Mountains or seen wolves roaming the Wyoming wilderness—all places that currently have management decisions pending that are open for public comment—you care enough to be engaged, to spend a few minutes emailing your opinion to the relevant officials.

Although my family still jokes about those compulsory walks of our youth, truth be told, I’m lucky enough still to travel with my mom. I’m half-worried she’ll read this post and insist we embark on a Citizen Science Project this summer. I’m half-hoping she will, too.

Essays in the Range blog are not written by High Country News. The authors are solely responsible for their content.

Heather Hansen is an environmental journalist working with the Red Lodge Clearinghouse /Natural Resources Law Center at CU Boulder, to help raise awareness of natural resource issues.

Images of the author and her sister on a "forced March" at Cape Cod, and of the author and her mother on a more recent trip to the Galapagos Islands.

 

High Country News Classifieds
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    The Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance (SUWA), Utah's largest conservation organization, has an immediate opening in its Salt Lake City office for a staff attorney. SUWA's...
  • DEVELOPMENT & COMMUNICATION SPECIALIST
    Idaho Walk Bike Alliance seeks a lover of bicycling, walking, and all modes of active transportation who willingly puts the car in the garage and...
  • COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR
    Friends of Inyo - the Communications Director is a full-time permanent position that reports to the Executive Director and utilizes communication strategies and production skills...
  • INDIGENOUS AFFAIRS EDITOR
    High Country News seeks an editor to oversee the work of our award-winning Indigenous Affairs Desk. This individual will lead a team of passionate journalists...
  • HIKING TO THE EDGE:
    Confronting Cancer in Rocky Mountain National Park. Poetry and photos on survival thinking. E-book and paperback available at Amazon.com.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Founded in 1936, the National Wildlife Federation has grown into America's largest and most trusted grassroots conservation organization with 53 state/territorial affiliates and more than...
  • IPLC RIGHTS AND EQUITY PROGRAM ASSOCIATE
    A LITTLE ABOUT US Founded in 1951, the Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all...
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR FUTURE WEST
    Future West seeks an executive director to lead this dynamic organization into the future. Based in Bozeman, MT this well-respected nonprofit provides communities in the...
  • PART-TIME EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
    Mitchell Museum of the American Indian Location: Evanston, IL Salary Range: $45,000 @ 24 hours per week. send resume: [email protected] www.mitchellmuseum.org
  • COMMUNICATIONS LEAD
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • SENIOR POLICY ADVISOR
    Since 1989, The Nature Conservancy in Alaska has been doing work you can believe in protecting the lands and waters that all life depends on....
  • OUTDOOR PROGRAM - ASSISTANT DIRECTOR
    St. Lawrence University seeks to fill the position of Assistant Director in the Outdoor Program. To view the complete position description, including minimum qualifications required,...
  • PUBLIC LANDS DIRECTOR
    Job Announcement Conserve Southwest Utah is seeking a dedicated advocate for conservation and public lands Public Lands Director a "make a difference" position Conserve Southwest...
  • FOR SALE
    Yellowstone Llamas Successful Yellowstone NP concession Flexible packages
  • DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT & MARKETING
    Grand Staircase Escalante Partners is seeking a full-time Director of Development & Marketing. This is a senior position responsible for the development of all marketing...
  • LEGAL DIRECTOR
    The Legal Director will work closely with the Executive Director in cultivating a renewed vision at NMELC that integrates diversity, equity, and justice. Black, Indigenous,...
  • WE'RE LOOKING FOR LEADERS!
    As we celebrate 50 years of great Western journalism, High Country News is looking for a few new board members to help set a course...
  • WIND RIVER WRITERS AND PHOTOGRAPHERS RETREAT BY THE NATIONAL BIGHORN SHEEP CENTER
    Enhance your writing or photography skills with world-class instructors in the beautiful Wind River Mountains. All skill levels welcome. Continuing education credits available.
  • EARTH CRUISER FX FOR SALE
    Overland Vehicle for travel on or off road. Fully self contained. Less than 41,000 miles. Recently fully serviced Located in Redmond, OR $215'000.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    identifies suspect buried trash, tanks, drums &/or utilities and conducts custom-designed subsurface investigations that support post-damage litigation.