BAR HARBOR, MAINE – Citizen science has been changing the way science is practiced since the mid-1990s, allowing scientists to crowd-source data from citizen volunteers. But the face of citizen science is now changing: citizens are increasingly collecting data for for civic use in addressing environmental and other problems at the grassroots level.
MDI Biological Laboratory Education Director Jane E. Disney, Ph.D., and systems developer Duncan Bailey will talk about this trend at an MDI Science Café presentation entitled “Knowledge to Action: The New Face of Citizen Science” to be held Monday, Sept. 11, at 5 p.m. in the Kinne Library on the laboratory’s Bar Harbor campus.
“The knowledge-to-action movement in citizen science is being driven by a variety of factors including an increasingly challenging funding climate, particularly for environmental initiatives; the dismantling of regulatory protections; and increased public concern about climate change and the degradation of the environment.
“This movement empowers citizen scientists to come together to address serious public issues,” said Disney, who has been engaging citizens as scientists for 25 years.
“With the right data — and the ability to analyze, visualize and share it — citizen scientists have the ability to effect large-scale change,” added Bailey, who created a novel online platform for citizen science projects called Anecdata.org.
The speakers will discuss the origins of Anecdata.org and the projects that have emerged on the site from all over the globe. These range from a local project aimed at restoring declining eelgrass populations to climate change projects on the East and West Coasts and a whiptail stingray population study in the Bahamas.
They will also discuss how data collected by citizen scientists has brought about environmental reform. The Litter-Free Legacy project, which was initiated by the South Carolina Aquarium in Charleston, for instance, has resulted in marine conservation regulations that ban the use of plastic bags and other plastics at local beaches.
“We want to go beyond the traditional model by looking at how science can be driven by citizens as well as by scientists,” Disney said. “The ability of citizens to collect data on discarded plastics in South Carolina led directly to the plastic bag ban. That kind of success can easily be translated to other communities.”
MDI Science Cafés are offered in fulfillment of the institution’s mission to promote scientific literacy and increase public engagement with science. The popular events offer a chance to hear directly from speakers about trends in science. Short presentations delivered in everyday language are followed by lively, informal discussion.
The cafés are sponsored by Bar Harbor Bank & Trust and Cross Insurance. Refreshments will be served. For more information, please visit mdibl.org/events/ or call 207-288-3147.
About the MDI Biological Laboratory
Our scientists are pioneering new approaches to regenerative medicine focused on drugs that activate our natural ability to heal, and that slow age-related degenerative changes. Our unique approach has identified new drugs with the potential to treat major diseases, demonstrating that regeneration could be as simple as taking a pill. As innovators and entrepreneurs, we also teach what we know. Our Maine Center for Biomedical Innovation prepares students for 21st century careers and equips entrepreneurs with the skills and resources to turn great ideas into successful products. For more information, please visit mdibl.org.