MPR Fall 2017

Margaret Chase Smith Essay

Citizen Science and Maine’s Fishermen: An Enlightened Approach to the Search for Ecological Solutions

Ted Ames shares his view on the efforts of Maine’s commercial fishermen to engage in citizen science initiatives.

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From Executive Editor Linda Silka

  • Introduction to the Issue
  • Cutting-Edge Citizen Science in the Desert and at a Museum
    Linda Silka examines the University of Arizona’s Project Harvest and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science’s Genetics of Taste Lab.
  • Citizen Science Book Resources
    Reviews of The Rightful Place of Science: Citizen Science; Citizen Science for All: A Guide for Citizen Science Practitioners; Citizen Science: How Ordinary People Are Changing the Face of Discovery; Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction; Lewis & Clark: Pioneering Naturalists; and Braiding Sweetgrass.


A View from the Edge:A Teacher’s Perspective on Citizen Science

dragonflyOld Town High School teacher Ed Lindsey examines the benefits of engaging high school students in citizen science, based on his experience collecting stream organisms and analyzing the level of mercury in their bodies.

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Citizen Science in a Maine Middle School Classroom

Rhonda Tate describes her experiences designing a middle school science curriculum that focuses on citizen science activities in her classroom in Dedham, Maine.

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Citizen Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge—Values of Inclusion in the Wabanaki Youth Science Program

tish carr and Darren Ranco describe the Wabanaki Youth Science Program (WaYS) and how it strives to incorporate traditional ecological knowledge with Western science.

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The Power of Place in Citizen Science

Bridie McGreavy  and her coauthors address the question, What are the links between motivations for citizen science, connec­tions to place, and conservation decision outcomes?

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The Complexities of Counting Fish: Engaging Citizen Scientists in Fish Monitoring

river herringby Karen H. Bieluch, Theodore V. Willis, Jason Smith, and Karen A. Wilson

Data gathered by citizen scientists can help ecologists understand long-term trends and can improve the quality and quantity of data about a resource. In Maine and Massa­chusetts, numerous citizen science programs collect data on river herring, anadromous fish that migrate each spring from the ocean to spawn in rivers and lakes. In collabora­tion with state and local resource managers and academic institutions, these programs aim to protect and restore river herring, improve local watersheds, and in some cases, support commercial harvesting. To better understand how programs are run and how data are used by managers, we interviewed program coordinators and resource manag­ers. Interviews revealed that resource managers consider citizen science–generated river herring data in decision making, but that their concerns about data quality affect if and how data are used. Although not without challenges, standardizing monitoring approaches could improve data collection and use. We offer six considerations related to standardization for managers.

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Signs of the Seasons: A New England Phenology Program

rockweedby Esperanza Stancioff, Beth Bisson, Sara Randall, Jessica Muhlin, Caitlin McDonough, and Susan Gallo

As global climate records continue to break, average New England air temperature increases are among the highest in the continental United States, and sea surface temperatures in the Gulf of Maine have increased faster than 99 percent of the rest of the world’s oceans. Little is known about how marine and upland biota respond to these environmental changes. Citizen science is being used to document and compare current phenology for individual species with histori­cally documented relationships between temperature changes and the onset of partic­ular phenophases, such as leafout or gamete release. Signs of the Seasons (SOS) is a citizen science–driven phenology-monitoring program in northern New England that observes 19 upland and coastal indicator species and was developed by University of Maine Cooperative Extension, Maine Sea Grant, and partnering research scientists. This article provides an overview of SOS structure, research partnerships, lessons learned, challenges, and next steps.

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Citizen Science and Wildlife Conservation: Lessons from 34 Years of the Maine Loon Count

loonsby Sally Stockwell and Susan Gallo

Since the early 1980s—long before the term citizen science was widely adopted—Maine Audubon has engaged thousands of dedicated volunteers in myriad wildlife surveys and studies, from bat colony monitoring to spring amphibian surveys to loon counts. In this article, the authors describe some of those citizen science projects and use the longest-running program, the Maine Loon Project and its annual Loon Count, to showcase what it takes to run a successful program. They also review key lessons learned from these projects over the last three decades.

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Community-based Strategies for Strengthening Science and Influencing Policy: Vernal Pool Initiatives in Maine

amphibians in winterby Jessica S. Jansujwicz and Aram Calhoun

Scientific research is not having the impact it could and should have on natural resources conservation. Rather than conceptualize and conduct research in isolation, we need new approaches to identify and investigate problems in coordination with stakeholders, poli­cymakers, and others who would benefit from the research. By supporting partnerships between researchers and the public, citizen science creates new opportunities for stake­holders to interact with scientific experts. As scientists, we learned from diverse stakeholders at multiple levels of decision making, and this feedback led to improvements in our citizen science programs, gradual adaptations to our scientific research process, and locally based, innovative vernal pool policy initiatives.

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Documenting the Diversity, Distribution, and Status of Maine Bumble Bees: The Maine Bumble Bee Atlas and Citizen Scientists

bumble beeby Kalyn Bickerman-Martens, Beth Swartz, Ron Butler, and Frank Drummond

The Maine Bumble Bee Atlas (MBBA) is a multiyear (2015–2019) citizen science proj­ect coordinated by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) in partnership with the University of Maine. The project’s goals are to increase scientific knowledge of Maine’s bumble bee fauna and raise public appreciation for native pollina­tors and their conservation. Project partners accomplish these goals by training citizen scientists to conduct surveys statewide using standardized data-collection methods and by providing outreach to both project volunteers and the public on bumble bees and native pollinator conservation. During the project’s first three years, 230 volunteers have been trained to participate in MBBA at six workshops held across the state. As of the end of the second field season, MBBA citizen scientists have documented over 10,300 species records in nearly 500 townships statewide. These data have already made a valuable contribution to species status assessments conducted by MDIFW and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. MBBA staff also maintain a website, Facebook page, and blog to keep volunteers and the public informed about the project and raise awareness of, and support for, native pollinator conservation.

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Collecting Data on Charismatic Mini-Fauna: Public Participation and the Dragonfly Mercury Project

exoskeletonsby Colleen Flanagan Pritz and Sarah J. Nelson

The Dragonfly Mercury Project (DMP) engages citizen scientists in collection of drag­onfly larvae for mercury analysis in national parks, allowing for national-scale assess­ment of this neurotoxic pollutant. DMP goals for citizen scientist engagement are to (1) provide opportunity for biodiversity discovery; (2) connect people to parks; and (3) provide a vehicle for mercury education and outreach. Over 90 parks and 3,000 citizen scientists have participated in the project. We summarize information about citizen groups who participated in 2014–2016. High school students, interns and youth groups, and local community groups constituted the majority of partici­pants. Park liaisons reported that the project achieved internal and external communica­tion that otherwise would not have occurred. Ultimately, citizen scientists gained new perspectives and practiced civic skills while project scientists and resource managers gained data and insights on mercury in foodwebs.

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Will the Adoption of Science Standards Push Maine Schools Away from Authentic Science?

by Bill Zoellick and Jennifer Page

Maine is considering revision of rules that provide guidance to school districts about the science knowledge students are expected to have as they graduate from high school. Some science educators suggest adoption of the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) as a substantial component of the rules. In this paper, we argue that the NGSS are overly prescriptive and narrow and that a NGSS-based standard would push science instruction toward school science where outcomes are known in advance and away from authentic science where students explore questions that are useful to the community because answers are not yet known. Our experience has been that authentic science learning is more likely to re-engage students who have decided that science learning is for others, not for them. We seek to stimulate a deep, careful consideration of the consequences of moving toward standards based on the NGSS.

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Citizen Science for Maine’s Classrooms: The Case for Improving STEM Learning

by Christine Voyer

Education, business, and community leaders recognize the need for increased empha­sis on science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) education to prepare students for future careers and citizenship. STEM education best practices increasingly call for engaging students in doing the work of science, and citizen science offers an exciting opportunity for this type of teaching and learning. Maine has a unique opportu­nity, because of the size of our state and the number of research and education organi­zations engaged in citizen science, to offer citizen science experiences to a statewide cohort of students. Through this work, Maine can serve as a model to school districts, states, and regions for impactful and authentic STEM learning that reaches all students.

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Next Generation Citizen Science Using

by Jane Disney, Duncan Bailey, Anna Farrell, and Ashley Taylor

Crowdsourcing scientific data, also known as citizen science, is a new and rapidly growing field. The MDI Biological Laboratory in Bar Harbor, Maine, has developed, an innovative online platform for citizen science projects to collect, manage, and share environmental data. Anecdata currently hosts 48 projects from organizations around the United States and abroad, with new projects emerging every year. Anecdata provides features that help both project managers and participants collect actionable data and interpret what the data mean, so that effective environmental improvements can be achieved. These features include self-designed datasheets, photo uploading and archiving, and data visualization through graphing and mapping. New features are being developed to meet emerging project needs, including video upload, predictive modeling, and community-building communications tools.

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Design Principles of Online Learning Communities in Citizen Science

by Ruth Kermish-Allen

Online communities for citizen science are expanding rapidly, giving participants the opportunity to take part in a wide range of activities, from monitoring invasive species to targeting pollution sources. These communities bring together the virtual and physical worlds in new ways that are egalitarian, collaborative, applied, localized and globalized to solve real environmental problems. Rural communities especially can leverage these learning and sharing spaces to take advantage of resources they would otherwise not be able to access. A small number of citizen science projects truly use an online commu­nity to connect, engage, and empower participants to make local change happen. This multiple case study looked at three online citizen communities that have successful­ly fostered online collaboration and on-the-ground environmental actions. The findings provide insight into potential design principles for online citizen science communities that support environmental actions in our backyards.

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Interview with Old Town High School Student Emma Hargreaves

by Ed Lindsey

Old Town High School student Emma Hargreaves describes what she learned from working on a citizen science project a marine worm that is a pest of oysters.

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Reflections on the Strong Growth of Citizen Science: An Interview with Abe Miller-Rushing

Abe Miller-Rushing shares his thoughts on the growth of citizen science, which he thinks is driven by a happy set of coincidences—developments in technology, computing, communication, and data analysis; growing interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) education; growing recognition that volunteers can contribute meaningfully to science (after more than 100 years of science trending in the opposite direction, towards professionalization); and an emphasis on making science more relevant to society and translating science to action.

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