University of Minnesota
Office of the Vice President for Research

Research Advancement homefiller

Convergence Colloquia

Citizen Science

Citizen science has emerged as a powerful mechanism for engaging the public in scientific research. Engaging the public as observers, collectors and analysts, citizen science generates critical information and builds relationships between researchers and the broader community. Citizen science offers opportunities to engage across all age groups, in cities and in rural areas. New applications in citizen science utilize technology for generating and sharing data, complementing traditional methods of observing the world around us. The Colloquium will explore mechanisms for building stronger networks of professional and citizen scientists and advance a deeper understanding of the benefits that citizen science offers for scientific discovery as well as public understanding science.

Read the report: Citizen Science

Serendipity grants awarded

Center for Citizen Science at the University of Minnesota

Robert Blair, Professor, Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Lucy Fortson, Associate Professor, Physics & Astronomy (Co-PI); Karen Oberhauser, Professor, Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology (Co-PI); Loren Terveen, Professor, Computer Science (Co-PI); George Weiblen, Professor, Plant Biology (Co-PI); Claudia Neuhauser, VP, Professor, Ecology Evolution & Behavior; Phil Herold, Associate Librarian, Libraries; Nita Krvans, Associate Professor, Center for Near Eastern Studies; Andrea Lorek Strauss, Associate Professor, Extension; Craig Packer, Professor, Ecology, Evolution & Behavior; Evan Roberts, Assistant Professor, MN Population Center; Lawrence Rudnick, Professor, Astrophysics

External Collaborators: Josh Leonard, Teacher, St. Paul Public Schools (Co-PI); Laurie Fink, Director, Science Programs, Science Museum of Minnesota (Co-PI); Krista Larson, Non-Game Wildlife Biologist, Ecological and Water Resources

This project will provide a comprehensive assessment of the feasibility of establishing a nationally- and internationally-prominent Center for Citizen Science (CCS) at the University of Minnesota. Over the course of the year, we intend to complete a formal needs assessment that will document how a Citizen Science Center at UMN could best serve the community; review and report on the range of Citizen Science methodologies, identifying those likely to resonate with the CCS; research the current state-of-the-art of other comparable centers now in development (because none exist); identify possible participants at the University along with others from academia, industry and non-profits within Minnesota, across the U.S., and internationally; identify potential funding strategies including a visit to the NSF; create a vision statement for the CCS; and craft a strategic plan in the form of a white paper.

Citizen Science to Assess the Long-term "Health" of the St. Louis River and Lake Superior Watersheds: On-line Bulletin Board and Workshop to Estabilsh a Community of Practitioners

Ryan Hueffmeier, Researcher, Natural Resources Research Institute (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Chanlan Chun, Assistant Professor, Civil Engineering (Co-PI); Richard Axler, Senior Research Associate, Natural Resources Research Institute (Co-PI); Marte Kitson, Extension Educator, MN Sea Grant (Co-PI)

External Collaborators: Courtney Kowalczak, Director, Environmental Institute (Co-PI); Tom Hollenhorst, Ecologist, Mid-Continent Ecology Division

There is considerable interest from University of Minnesota Duluth and research communities in applying citizen science to assessing ecosystem health of the St. Louis River Estuary and western Lake Superior as well as engaging communities with scientific findings. In this project we will 1) compile a detailed list of existing citizen science programs and their goals in the region, 2) conduct a comprehensive review of the citizen science literature relevant to the region, and 3) conduct an open house workshop to bring together and establish a community network of users and create an online bulletin board for networking and sharing of ideas and resources. This will culminate in a regional citizen science symposium for interested groups with the objective of developing a shared list of potential projects and outcomes to move citizen science forward. We intend to begin with the idea of creating a volunteer citizen science based approach to assessing watershed health in terms of both human and environmental health at the neighborhood-park-stream scale and at the larger major watershed scale (i.e. St. Louis River, or western Lake Superior Basin).

Citizen Science as a Catalyst to Address the Achievement Gap

Sarah Weaver, Program Coordinator, Fisheries, Wildlife & Conservation Biology (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Mohamed Yakub, Education & Outreach Coordinator, Plant Pathology (Co-PI); Gillian Roehrig, Professor, Curriculum & Instruction

External Collaborators: Josh Leonard, Belwin Outdoor Learning Center Coordinator, St. Paul Public Schools (Co-PI); Billy Koenig, Teacher, Shakopee Schools

The Driven to Discover Citizen Science project currently running under PI’s Karen Oberhauser and Rob Blair aims to bring citizen science to secondary classrooms across multiple school districts in MN. This proposal will utilize the established project to examine the impact citizen science has on underrepresented students. School districts want to see improvements in test scores and high levels of classroom engagement. Schools serving the high needs students are reluctant to change teaching and learning tactics without compelling evidence that citizen science is effective for all students.

Studying potential shifts in student learning and engagement position the UMN to better serve our local urban school districts - who have the some of the largest achievement gaps in the country- and beyond our state. Studying the following two questions, not currently assessed in the current Driven to Discover: citizen science project, will position the UMN and partners to address critical education issues and lead opportunities to future research.

Connecting Teachers to Researchers: Citizen Science in Ongoing Research

Mohamed Yakub, Outreach Education Coordinator, Center for Sustainable Plant Health (PI)

U of M Collaborators: Cory Hirsch, Faculty, Plant Pathology; Peter Tiffin, Faculty, Plant Biology; Julie Weisenhorn, Associate Extension Professor, Horticulture/Extension; Nic Jelinski, Faculty, Soil, Water, & Climate

External Collaborators: Henry Brock, High School Teacher, Loring-Nicollet Alternative School (Co-PI); Carmen Gavin-Vanegas, Teacher, South High School; Jessica Merchant, Teacher, Minnesota Transitions School; Rachel Yoon, Teacher, The FAIR School; Anna Shindler, Teacher, PEASE Academy; Torrey Lau, Teacher, North Community High School; Kathy Porter, Teacher, MERC Alternative School

The University of Minnesota has many scientists conducting ongoing research; yet the public view of research tends to be thought of as done and complete. We want to bridge the gap between cutting edge researchers and high-school educators by including high school teachers and students in on-going research conducted by University of Minnesota faculty. In the beginning of the fall semester we will invite eight high-school teachers, faculty to a fall symposium. Four researchers will present their research with the potential for projects to be conducted at schools. The teachers will then design experiments that they would be able to setup at their schools, with advise from the faculty. The faculty (and/or their graduate students) will be encouraged to visit these schools to participate in ongoing discussions. During the spring semester, we will invite the teachers to present their findings at a symposium, open to more teachers, faculty, and local political representatives. Teachers will also have the opportunity to work on data analyses, with the possibility to continue data collection the following year. We want students to participate in an authentic research experience, and teachers to be in communication with researchers who can address research questions as they arise.