The University of Arizona and its research partners value the involvement and dedication of community members in contributing to scientific knowledge. Citizen scientists work in collaboration with scientists and researchers on a variety of projects to help researchers more quickly and efficiently address societal and environmental needs, accelerate science and innovation, and improve understanding of the natural world.
Project Harvest is a three-year citizen scientist program that teaches participants about rainwater harvesting to irrigate home and community gardens and trains them to measure bacteria, organic and inorganic contaminants in samples. The resulting dataset will inform guidelines and recommendations for safe, harvested rainwater use on gardens. A critical part of the program’s citizen-scientist training is providing clear, impactful and meaningful data visualizations to help participants visualize their data in order to make more informed environmental decisions.
The project’s website also contains instructional videos, contact information for environmental health experts throughout southern Arizona, and information on numerous rainwater harvesting programs and resources.
This project was developed by Mónica Ramírez-Andreotta in response to home gardening concerns in the Dewey-Humboldt, Arizona community over possible metal contamination from the neighboring Iron King Mine and Humboldt Smelter Superfund site. The overall objective of Gardenroots was to determine whether home garden vegetables grown in the community had elevated levels of arsenic. It also aimed to educate, build human capacity, and increase community networking in resource-related issues in the community.
Gardenroots combined a home garden experiment with controlled greenhouse studies to develop a citizen-science program to inform and engage community members, characterize arsenic uptake in homegrown and greenhouse-grown vegetables, estimate arsenic exposure and characterize potential risk, and finally report results back to participants effectively and meaningfully.
National Phenology Network
The U.S. National Phenology Network, a program of the U.S. Geological Survey based at UArizona, invites individuals to participate in a variety of citizen-science efforts to monitor the annual timing of processes in the natural world. These include: Nature’s Notebook: Participants select plants and animals in their vicinities to observe and record their observations, which feed into a national database. The data help scientists predict threats to people and the environment, such as wildfires, drought or flooding, help determine when to harvest, irrigate or conduct controlled burns, and aid in determining the effects of climate change on the natural world. First Bloom and First Leaf Indices: Participants track the leaf-out and flowering of cloned and common lilacs. Since these plants are among the first to show their leaves in the spring, they are good indicators of the onset of spring across the U.S.
GLOBE at Night Program
The GLOBE at Night program is an international citizen-science campaign to raise public awareness of the impact of light pollution by inviting citizen-scientists to measure their night sky brightness and submit their observations to a website from a computer or smart phone. Light pollution threatens not only our “right to starlight,” but can affect energy consumption, wildlife and health.
People in 115 countries have contributed over 65,000 measurements, making GLOBE at Night the most successful light pollution awareness campaign to date. See the program’s website for campaign dates each month. The program uses a simple 6-step program and utilizes smart phone technology for recording measurements.
RainLog is a network of over 1,000 volunteers that use backyard rain gauges to monitor precipitation across Arizona and in neighboring states. Data collected are used for research, watershed management activities, drought monitoring, and educational programs at local, county and state levels. Volunteers only need a rain gauge and access to the Internet to participate and report daily total rainfall amounts through the online data entry form. All data posted by volunteers is available in real-time in maps and graphics.
RainMapper is a free companion service that sends email notices to subscribers about recent precipitation amounts in their neighborhoods. Subscribers can adjust their irrigation systems and watering schedules according to these local conditions, and those who are also RainLog participants are reminded to report their precipitation.
Tucson Bird Count
Tucson Bird Count is a citizen-science program coordinated by the Tucson Audubon Society in partnership with the University of Arizona. The goal of the count is to determine how parts of Tucson are utilized by native birds in order to make more of Tucson into productive urban habitat.
Any birder who can readily identify the birds of Tucson is invited to adopt a route to survey one morning of their choice between April 15 and May 15. Participants conduct 5-minute counts at each of the stops along their route. Many of the routes are in urban Tucson, don’t require hiking, and are easily drivable. Other routes are in more natural areas and require hiking.