Curiosity Run Wild: The Multiple Benefits of Citizen Science on Vashon Island
Bianca Perla, Director, Vashon Nature Center
From counting salmon and aquatic invertebrates in streams, to capturing photos of wild predators and roadkill, to monitoring beach health after bulkhead removal, I will discuss the multiple benefits of applying citizen science to adaptive resource management in local communities. How do we shift human attitudes to be more accepting of environmentally sound practices? How do we get environmental managers, scientists, and the public all on the same page and working toward ecosystem recovery in the Puget Sound?
At Vashon Nature Center we’ve started by asking people to be curious. At their root, citizen science opportunities pique the public’s curiosity about the natural world and provide communities avenues to explore problems or questions as part of a team alongside scientists and natural resource managers. By creating an equal playing field grounded in inquiry, the citizen science process can help diffuse conflict around environmental issues, raise awareness, and foster community participation in problem-solving. This ultimately creates an adaptive ecosystem management cycle that is authentic and successful.
There are multiple challenges to overcome in the citizen science process, including funding, data quality and management, and information flow. I will offer ideas for overcoming some of these challenges. When citizen science is part of the adaptive management process it becomes “community science” — both a powerful data collection tool and a bottom-up driver of the cultural change necessary to achieve environmental sustainability.
Bianca Perla is currently the Director of Vashon Nature Center, a nature research and education organization based on Vashon and Maury Islands in the Puget Sound. She has a BS in Earth Systems from Stanford University, an MS in Animal behavior from Northern Arizona University, and a doctorate in Ecology from University of Washington. For the past 18 years she has worked as a conservation biologist and science educator in many beautiful and wild places including Yosemite, Grand Canyon, Monterey Bay, and River of No Return Wilderness in Idaho. She has also worked with a diverse array of species including wolves, yellowfin tuna, prairie dogs, aquatic insects and flora and fauna of desert springs. Bianca is passionate about working to broaden our concept of community beyond humanity to include nature. She believes citizen science is one of the most effective tools for raising awareness of nature and helping us make informed decisions about how to live respectfully.
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