Organizing Rural Communities for Effective Citizen Science Programs

by Holden, Anna Dean

Abstract (Summary)
Citizen science, or the use of volunteers for scientific projects, is becoming a popular way for agencies and organizations to collect data. The benefits of citizen science include saving the agency or organization resources, educating the community about conservation issues, and promoting land stewardship. Currently, many citizen monitoring organizations are based in urban areas, whereas their projects are located near more rural towns. Research shows that demographics such as area of residence can be a factor in the publics attitude toward any scientific or land management project (Williams et al, 2002; Kellert, 1978, 1985; Vaske et al, 2001). This fact was supported by a citizen science project, led by the author, on the Clearwater National Forest. Currently, no citizen science organizing manuals address the issue of rural/urban difference in volunteer recruitment. Additionally, the question of what qualities citizen science must have to be used by government agencies must be determined so that non-governmental organizations can produce useful data. I interviewed 11 successful urban-based citizen science conservation organizations in order to establish the characteristics of successful volunteer recruitment and retention. Additionally, I interviewed five state or federal agencies that used citizen science data in order to establish the characteristics of effective citizen science programs. Using Glesne (1999) as a guide, interviews were numbered and coded. Results showed that successful recruitment methods differ between rural and urban areas, with word of mouth and local newspapers as most effective. Citizens must believe in the program, have a social atmosphere associated with the program, and have a personal relationship with the project organizer in order to volunteer again. There is a difference in rural and urban communities, having to do with different values, priorities, and environmental awareness. Effective citizen science programs share three main characteristics: a proper training program, scientific accuracy, and a quality control program.
Bibliographical Information:

Advisor:Len Broberg; Laurie Yung; Neva Hassanein; Adam Switalski

School:The University of Montana

School Location:USA - Montana

Source Type:Master's Thesis

Keywords:environmental studies


Date of Publication:07/23/2007

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