Kendall Peacock, Teton Science Schools
This summer and fall, Teton Science Schools’ AmeriCorps national service program, typically an immersive, field-based, residential program, went fully remote. TSS program directors paired members, who served from their homes across the country, with organizations in the Jackson Hole with missions ranging in mission from education to conservation to social services. To meet community need, members analyzed thousands of wildlife camera images, studied urban bird mortality, guided the community in grizzly bear management and policy, studied local food and sustainable agriculture systems, wrote farm and garden curriculum and lessons, created online content for backcountry users, drafted a climate action plan for Teton County, researched metrics on nature’s impact on childhood cancer survivors, and brought awareness to many other science and conservation issues in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. At a time when community science could easily be put on the back burner, the TSS AmeriCorps program allowed wildlife, conservation, and science to come to the forefront.
Matt Wallace, Citizen Blitz
The City Nature Challenge (CNC) is an international competition for cities to find and document local urban biodiversity using iNaturalist. Cities compete by attempting to make the most observations, find the most species, and engage the most people. Calgary has been involved since 2019 encouraging people to engage with their urban environment and help collect a robust inventory of biodiversity data found throughout the city. As the most northern city in North America competing, Calgary faces challenges of climate and seasonality. Nonetheless, CNC has proven to be a catalyst for encouraging people to document urban biodiversity using iNaturalist throughout the year. This brief presentation will discuss how Calgary’s participation in CNC has led to an increase in the number of iNaturalist users helping to document and reveal our regional patterns of biodiversity.
Kendall Peacock, Teton Science Schools
This summer, science educators at Teton Science Schools adapted a field-based, hands-on, destination program for middle school aged Girl Scouts from across the country to experience Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks to a “virtual destination” program. By incorporating engaging lessons on multiple virtual platforms, community building and leadership development opportunities, outside-of-class experiences focused on field science skills, and an independent action project addressing a local conservation issue, educators connected participants to the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, instilled in them an understanding of science, and guided them through their first experiences in community science. The challenges of taking an entirely field-based program virtual (connecting participants to a landscape they could not see or feel, not relying too heavily on screen time or lectures, finding ways for discussions to flow and deepen) were compounded by the challenges of running this program with 20 young participants (time zone math, household distractions, (lack of) email and computer fluency, shyness, boisterousness). Despite those challenges, participants cited the virtual program as critical to their COVID summer, formative in their understanding of community science and conservation, and a great way to connect, not just to wildlife, but to new ecosystems and new friends.
Keith Bruno, Audubon Rockies
In June and July 2020, members of the Weminuche Audubon Society chapter and Audubon Rockies teamed up for the second year to conduct point counts documenting bird occurrence in the San Juan National Forest in SW Colorado. Specifically, this community science effort has sought to collaborate with the San Juan Headwaters Forest Health Partnership in determining the effects of forest fuels reduction treatments (the use of tree thinning, mastication, and prescription fire) on avian communities in the WUI (wildland urban interface) surrounding the community of Pagosa Springs. A volunteer-led effort, this project has not only sought to get more community members out into the forest to learn about local forest ecology and the role of fire on the landscape, but also to strengthen bird identification skills by sight and sound. Though the presence of COVID-19 provided unforeseen challenges in initiating our second year, we adapted our protocols accordingly to ensure participant safety. In spite of these challenges, we were able to successfully document migrant and year-round species on their breeding grounds. We continue to correlate the observation of bird species with different understory and canopy characteristics, evaluating how different feeding guilds may respond to these specific fuels reduction treatments.
Melanie Murphy, University of Wyoming
Global amphibian decline is current conservation crisis. A large portion of amphibian species are of conservation concern, while status of others is simply unknown due to lack of data. Thus, monitoring amphibian population is a critical conservation and management need. However, many amphibian species have low detectability in the field. In addition, funds for amphibian monitoring are extremely limited. We propose to address both these concerns through the integration of community science and environmental DNA. In 2011, the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest implemented a forest wide occupancy-based amphibian monitoring program in conjunction with Wyoming Natural Diversity Database (WYNDD). The program goal is to design and implement a long-term program to monitor trends in amphibian occupancy for all local species. The program uses multiple independent surveys from agency field technicians and community scientists. The program has been highly successful, however detection rates are insufficient for estimating trend for many species. Environmental DNA (eDNA), an innovative new technique where species presence can be determined from DNA in the environment, can increase detection rates. We will use eDNA samples collected by community scientists to estimate amphibian presence and relative abundance within south east Wyoming. We will present a framework for incorporating eDNA into the Rocky Mountain Amphibian Project (RMAP), training community scientists and implementing a community science eDNA program.
Amy Lorenz, Teton Science Schools; Mason Lee, UW Biodiversity Institute; Jacelyn Downey, Audubon Rockies
The annual Wyoming BioBlitz is traditionally held over a summer weekend in one region of the state, and averages 60-100 attendees. Due to limitations with in-person meetups this year, the Wyoming BioBlitz organizers opted to take the entire event virtual in 2020, and held the first statewide bioblitz by utilizing the iNaturalist platform. The virtual platform for the 2020 BioBlitz allowed for increased inclusivity by engaging people from around the state and neighboring communities who might not normally be able to participate in an in-person event. Participants joined from anywhere in Wyoming, divided into 8 geographic regions to encourage statewide coverage and introduce light competitive fun! 176 people registered officially, and 233 observers participated on iNaturalist. They contributed over 5,500 new observations to iNaturalist, and documented over 1300 species in Wyoming! This is a tenfold increase in observations species observed as compared to the same weekend in 2019, including the addition of over 300 new species into iNaturalist for Wyoming. In the future, we recommend continuing a statewide bioblitz in addition to our traditional in-person model. We also see the potential for collaboration among researchers and organizations to develop research questions that participants could address during this time.
Nichole Lumadue, University of Wyoming
The importance and need for science learning assessment in citizen science projects has been recognized by many citizen science researchers (Bonney et al., 2009; The National Research Council, 2009; Phillips et al. 2018; Shirk et al., 2012). Many projects claim to increase science learning through direct participation in the project (Bonney et al., 2009, Phillips et al., 2018, Shirk et al., 2012). But as Phillips et al. (2018) revealed, most citizen sciences projects are not designed with explicit science literacy learning outcomes nor do they measure science learning. In 2010, Nuhfer and colleagues developed the Science Literacy Concept Inventory (SLCI) to assess the impacts of college-level general education science courses on students’ science literacy (Nuhfer et al., 2016). However, the SLCI has never been used to assess citizen science learning outcomes. This presentation discusses the results of a pilot study which examined the practicality of the SLCI as an instrument to assess science literacy in citizen science projects. With proven success in higher education, the SLCI could offer a valuable instrument to advance the assessment of science literacy in citizen science projects and assist practitioners in identifying gaps in science learning.
Shannon Wachowski, Wyoming Department of Education
The STEM Teaching Tools (STT), developed as part of the National Science Foundation-funded Research+Practice Collaboratory, represent a new approach to collaboration between researchers and practitioners. Each “practice brief” focuses on a particular topic that provides information on a specific problem of practice as well as resources and instructional tools. The briefs are grouped by category including around the topics of equity and informal education. They are intended for use by all education enthusiasts including teachers, informal educators, and district curriculum specialists. The Wyoming Department of Education, along with a few Wyoming teachers, had the opportunity to further the work of the STT through the Advancing Coherent and Equitable Systems of Science Education (ACESSE) project, a group whose goal is to bring together education researchers and practitioners to promote equity and coherence in science education. We’d like to share information about the STT and how they can be used to support community science, especially around the issues of equity and social justice.
Trevor Bloom, The Nature Conservancy; Kate Gersh, Jackson Hole Wildlife Foundation
The Neighbors to Nature: Cache Creek Study brings together four partners to engage the public in a research project aimed to more effectively understand human recreation and wildlife co-existence in the front country of Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Jackson District. This project will directly inform recreation managers of by establishing existing conditions compared with desired conditions. Trail counters show the types of use, timing, and amount of use which provide accurate data to assess social changes over time. Wildlife cameras and observations show how wildlife populations are using Cache Creek, which, over time, can be used to evaluate how recreation use may be influencing wildlife behavior and inform management actions such as seasonal restrictions or future trail development. This project has captured hundreds of thousands of game camera images that need to be sorted. We use the online Zooniverse platform for citizen scientists to vet images. One major hurdle is getting volunteers to spend enough time and effort to get through our major backlog. Our target audiences range from young children to experienced adults including outdoor recreationists, citizen scientists, and students. We seek to build more meaningful engagement with participants, especially in the era of increased virtual learning.
Amy Lorenz and Leslie Cook, Teton Science Schools
Teton Science Schools practices a place-based educational (PBE) philosophy, in which learning centers around the local community’s ecology, culture, and economy to make learning relevant. Community science aligns with this educational philosophy and can be a powerful tool to engage students in the scientific process, build their connection to place, and promote agency/ownership in learning. In the last several years, the organization has been building opportunities and partnerships for participants across our programs to engage in community science and enhance their learning locally -with student groups, graduate students, and teachers in professional learning workshops. The impact of COVID-19 fell heavy on our community, resulting in the suspension of all in-person programming. We focused on new ways to connect and engage in pace-based learning, including through community science. This presentation will explore the intersections of PBE and community science, focusing on the opportunities to connect our participants in local projects and global impact when our community lost the “place” where they learn and work. We will highlight a few community science case studies spanning biodiversity to water and social justice that illustrate learning through a local-to-global context -and the impact from a learner perspective.
Dorothy Tuthill, UW Biodiversity Institute; Jacelyn Downey, Audubon Rockies
UW Biodiversity Institute and Audubon Rockies are spearheading the development of a Naturalist Program in Wyoming, one of a minority of states that does not already have such a program in place. The mission of the program is to cultivate an educated community of volunteers to deliver environmental education and active stewardship to protect the state’s natural resources. The Wyoming NP is:
Mel Lopez, National Institutes of Health
The All of Us Research Program’s mission is to speed up health research breakthroughs.
People from all walks of life will share their health information. Health data from diverse people will help fill gaps in knowledge about why people get sick or stay healthy. The data could help researchers develop new and better treatments that benefit all of us.
Why is diversity important to the All of Us Research Program? All of Us participants are from different races and ethnicities, age groups, and regions of the country. They are also diverse in gender identity, sexual orientation, and health status. Diversity in a research program is important for several reasons. First, where we live, how we live, and our background can all affect our health. Second, many groups of people have been left out of research in the past. This means we know less about their health. By studying data from a diverse group of people, researchers can learn more about what makes people sick or keeps them healthy. What researchers learn could lead to better treatment and disease prevention for all of us.
Mason Lee, UW Biodiversity Institute
The University of Wyoming Biodiversity Institute (BI), in collaboration with Bat Conservation International, hosted bat outreach events (Bat Walks) for the first time in 2020. During the Bat Walks, participants gain an introductory understanding of bat ecology, learn to dispel common bat myths, and are introduced to the bat species in their area. Participants observe bats on the walk using an acoustic listening device and app called the Echo Meter. The Echo Meter picks up bat calls within a 30-meter radius and automatically identifies species. The BI hopes to further develop this outreach event to include a community science component. Although the Echo Meter app identifies the species associated with each call, the identification is not always accurate. In order for this information to be useful to science, volunteers are needed to verify the species for each call and convert it into Kaleidoscope software so that it can be uploaded to iNaturalist in a format that can be easily identified by other iNaturalist users. This is a community science opportunity that can be conducted remotely and will provide participants exposure and experience with acoustic monitoring, as well as allowing them a deeper involvement in bat conservation efforts.
Charles R. Peterson, Idaho State University
Data on the occurrence and distribution of amphibians and reptiles are needed to identify and address conservation problems for these species. The goal of this project is to improve available data for amphibians and reptiles of the Greater Yellowstone Area by collecting observations using iNaturalist, a mobile application that allows people to contribute observations of organisms using their mobile devices. Observation records include photographs, time, date, geographic coordinates, and any other comments the observer wishes to make (e.g., life stage, habitat, and behavior). The Greater Yellowstone Amphibian and Reptile iNaturalist Project was initiated in June of 2017 by the ISU Herpetology Laboratory. As of October 2020, there are about 800 observations of 20 species of amphibians and reptiles from 28 participants for the Greater Yellowstone Area. Two of the species have been introduced.
Amy Phillips, Meeteetse Museums
As part of Wyoming’s Archaeology Awareness Month in September 2020, the Meeteetse Museums introduced the “Bison of the Bighorn Basin” project. The project’s goals are three-fold: 1) engaging the public and encouraging their participation in a museum-based research project; 2) developing a regionally-based data set derived from measuring bison crania found throughout the Bighorn Basin; and 3) applying these data to research questions about local and regional variation in bison cranial morphology. Comparisons with metric data collected at a continental scale will be included in the final, integrative analysis. The project functions to build community relations and foster citizen science throughout Northwestern Wyoming. Due to the interest in this research, the project was extended through October with two additional off-site events held at the Homesteader Museum in Powell and Washakie Museum and Cultural Center in Worland. So far, data from twenty-four bison crania brought in by twelve members of the public have been assembled.