Citizen Science on the Coast

In Observation and Ecology, we write a bunch about the observations of people outside of academia and how they are contributing to new scientific discoveries and ongoing scientific efforts.  These observers may be traditional knowledge holders–who have passed down knowledge for generations–or people who work everyday in the natural world–fishermen and foresters, for example–or even people who just dedicate a few hours a week to a “citizen science” project, where observations become part of a larger endeavor.

Here is a great article byKelly Servick  in the Santa Cruz Sentinel on a fairly long-term citizen science program on the California coast where people observe strandings of marine mammals and birds, as well as other environmental events like oil spills and marine debris.  Try to imagine, as you read these stories, how so much valuable data would be gathered if we only left it up to academic scientists.

http://www.mercurynews.com/science/ci_22307439/citizen-scientists-explain-mysterious-die-offs-trace-oil

About Rafe

Rafe Sagarin is a marine ecologist and environmental policy analyst at the University of Arizona. In both his science and policy work, Sagarin connects basic observations of nature to issues of broad societal interest, including conservation biology, protecting public trust resources, and making responses to terrorism and other security threats more adaptable. Dr. Sagarin is a recipient of a 2011 Guggenheim Fellowship and has recently published two books, Learning from the Octopus (Basic Books, March 2012) and Observation and Ecology (Island Press, July 2012), which show how nature observation--when extended across large scales and enhanced with both new technologies and greater deference to traditional knowledge sources—is revealing profound new insights about our dynamic social and ecological world. He was a Geological Society of America Congressional Science Fellow in the office of U.S. Representative (and later U.S. Secretary of Labor) Hilda Solis. He has taught ecology and environmental policy at Duke University, California State University Monterey Bay, Stanford University, University of California, Los Angeles and University of Arizona. His research has appeared in Science, Nature, Conservation Biology, Ecological Monographs, Trends in Ecology and Evolution, Foreign Policy, Homeland Security Affairs and other leading journals, magazines, and newspapers. He is the editor, with Terence Taylor of the volume Natural Security: A Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World (2008, University of California Press).
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