Greetings from Acadia National Park on the coast of Maine, where I’m spending a week at a citizen science workshop. The beaches here are bouldery and small – kind of like a combination between Alaska and the San Juan Islands.
Don’t know that carcasses would last long here with no sand to grab onto them when the tide goes out. And it does go out – there’s a 12 foot tidal range here. Although I didn’t see any beached birds, I did get a gander at some live ones, Black Guillemots, Surf Scoters and Common Eiders bobbed just offshore of Schoodic Point, where I walked every day. All in all, this coastline is wild and pristine.
The workshop focused on documenting how citizen science can be used in natural resource management and decision-making. Turns out that we’re not the only bunch of folks interested in creating baseline and monitoring change. I met Jake Weltzin, of the National Phenology Network, and caught up with COASST Advisory Board member Tina Phillips from the Lab of Ornithology at Cornell. We all worked together to craft a set of guidelines marrying attributes of the data collection with end use of program information.
For instance, if the end use is scientific monitoring, then aspects of data quality (like a standard method of data collection, and a method of verification) are preferred. If the end use is as evidence in a court of law, then those same things are required. Because COASST was started as a way to create a baseline against which oil spills can be assessed, we’ve attained the highest level of rigor. In fact, we’re a model program others want to copy.
Stay tuned for the final document (it will be a paper in the journal Issues in Ecology) sometime next year. Don’t know that it will be a page turner (!) but I’m betting it will make lots of folks in the natural resource management community think about how they might use citizen science. And COASST will be one of the highlights.