The SciStarter Team Reflects on the Citizen Science Association Conference

From March 13-17, the Citizen Science Association hosted their biennial conference, “Growing our Family Tree,” in Raleigh, North Carolina. The conference was referred to as #CitSci2019 on social media. The SciStarter team came together to attend various events, give presentations, hatch new ideas with potential collaborators, and celebrate citizen science. Below are selected reflections and thoughts from the SciStarter team about various conference events.

Citizen Science Association Conference

SciStarter Affiliate Tools Workshop (March 12)

Caroline Nickerson reflects: The day before the conference, the SciStarter team and citizen science project developers met at North Carolina State University (NC State) to discuss the SciStarter Affiliate program. The project developers shared their Affiliate experience with SciStarter and brainstormed with the SciStarter team about how to leverage the Affiliate tools to help their projects succeed. The tools center around an application programming interface (API) that enables participants from SciStarter to keep track of their contributions across multiple projects and platforms in their SciStarter dashboard.  Cait Bailey, from, spoke with SciStarter on Facebook Live about her experience.

Use of the Affiliate tools on SciStarter makes projects eligible for special SciStarter programs and to more fully engage with groups, such as with the Girl Scouts “Think Like a Citizen Scientist” Journey, and engage through the SciStarter education portals, which allow districts and teachers to track student participation in and contributions to projects. We were able to hear from developers, educators, researchers, and library directors to better understand how these tools will benefit the citizen science community and how we can improve our documentation and instructions to use the tools, truly building an ecosystem of projects and a citizen science community. Plus, we had fun! It was such a lovely start to the conference week.

If you’re interested in becoming a SciStarter Affiliate, you can learn more here. This workshop and the tools were made possible by support from the National Science Foundation.

Group selfie from the workshop
Group selfie from the workshop.
This lists the benefits of being an affiliate.
Flier describing the benefits of becoming a SciStarter Affiliate.
Grow by Connecting: New Ways to Link to SciStarter (March 13)

Lea Shell and Darlene Cavalier reflect: Grow by Connecting: New Ways to Link to SciStarter was a presentation for project developers to learn why a collaborative approach to volunteer recruitment and management can result in greater success for all involved. Project leaders came together for a discussion about the best ways to work together and work with SciStarter, the largest inventory of citizen science projects.

SciStarter offers free digital “Affiliate Tools” for projects to connect website data analytics for and about volunteers, as well as for researchers to holistically study learning outcomes across projects and platforms. Projects that use the affiliate tools are eligible for special programs with the Girls Scouts USA, PBS, school districts, college campuses, libraries, and corporate volunteer programs. The presentation at #CitSci2019 included hands-on development, step-by-step guidance to embed the tools, and take-home resources. The presentation also focused on the Education platform, which included a demonstration of the portal that administrators, teachers, and students see at both Broward County Schools in Florida and North Carolina State University. This portal has been co-created with educators, researchers, and developers to meet the needs of the classroom and project leaders.

SciStarter Education includes professional development materials, lesson plans aligned with classroom standards, and a new feature for classrooms to create local citizen science projects that are only seen by and available to members of their district. Additionally, administrators are provided with data analytics dashboards to measure the collective impact across a university or district, and better understand the interests, motivations, and learning outcomes of students.

The participants at “Grow by Connecting” engaged in a dialogue with the SciStarter team, exploring how they could work with SciStarter and each other to advance citizen science.

Poster Presentation (March 14)

Darlene Cavalier reflects:  This poster showcases research by the NC State Public Science team. The team’s research, described by this poster, examines SciStarter analytics to learn more about volunteer management, connections among citizen science projects, and volunteer outcomes.

Citizen Science Association Conference

Best Overall Poster (March 14)

The SciStarter team reflects: Sara Futch, a graduate student at NC State, won best overall poster at the Citizen Science Association Conference for her poster entitled “Uncovering Connections across Citizen Science Projects: A Social Network Analysis.”

The SciStarter team is excited about Sara’s findings. It’s clear that volunteers participate in multiple citizen science projects across disciplines, with a special focus on the Affiliate projects. SciStarter is a place to make citizen science connections.

Pictured: Sara after her win. Source: Maria Sharova.

Citizen Science Association Conference

Reaching Girls Through Citizen Science (March 15)

Caroline Nickerson reflects: Girl Scouts USA Senior Director, National STEM Strategy, Suzanne Harper, moderated this session. Darlene Cavalier, the founder of SciStarter, participated on this panel along with Jennifer Fee, Manager of K-12 Programs – Cornell Lab of Ornithology,  and Sarah Carter,  Manager, STEM Media & Education, Science Producer at TPT – Twin Cities PBS.

Darlene provided an overview of the  “Think Like a Citizen Scientist” Journey portal on SciStarter, designed in collaboration with the  Girl Scouts of USA. This portal makes it possible for troops to easily discover and engage in select projects. Troops learn how to make and share observations and collect and analyze data that scientists use. Once they complete a project through SciStarter, the troop decides how to Take Action to identify and address a related problem. They come up with a creative and sustainable solution, put a team plan into action, and document their Take Action project on SciStarter.

I posted a Facebook Live video of Darlene’s presentation, and you can view Darlene’s slides here. Building on this example, panelists shared research-based strategies for engaging girls and data about participation and learning patterns of girls in several citizen science-based initiatives. The session concluded with a discussion of the many avenues of support and guidance for adult educators and volunteers interested in effective engagement of girls in STEM learning through citizen science.

Creating a common vernacular for CitSci Tools (March 15)

Erica Prange reflects: Julie Vastine, Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring; Calvin Cupini, Clean Air Carolina; and Erica Prange (the author of this reflection), SciStarter, reflected on our experiences creating a common vernacular to describe tools used in citizen science, with tools spanning multiple scientific disciplines (Water, Air and Soil). The SciStarter Tools Database (currently in beta) began as a means to connect citizen scientists and project managers with the equipment they needed to do their projects.

It also aimed to increase access to tools that could be borrowed or built, relying heavily on community lending agencies, like libraries, and the maker community. However, as the number of entries in the beta database grew, it became clear the entry form describing each item needed revised to allow for more searchability for the user. Thus, experts in their respective fields, Vastine and Cupini, were consulted to explore the possibilities of shared language across disciplines.

As the team shared recent database edits (check out the beta version of the Add a Tools Form), those attending the symposium shared their thoughts, ideas and concerns. For example, features like user feedback were considered important to get realistic reviews, and many attending made comments regarding how the manufacturer’s specifications hold up in the field and how easy the item is to actually use. A manufacturer’s instruction manual is often very long, so some in attendance requested project managers share the steps they take to use the tool. Price was an important category, too, but not only the purchase price  should be considered. Lab fees, data retrieval, subscriptions, and other upkeep costs are all important to also consider. SciStarter’s next steps are to review the suggestions and update the fields in order to collect the most practical information about each item to help inform those who use them.

You can view a Facebook Live video from the post-panel Q&A  here.

You can view Erica’s slides here.

Storytelling in Citizen Science (March 15)

Lea Shell reflects: Caroline Nickerson, Erica Chenoweth, and Lea (the author of this reflection) pulled together the crowd of over 40 people at six different large round top tables to introduce the SciStarter blog network. We got to hear from everyone in the group and about what stories they were interested in telling — they ranged from bird eggs to monkey blood and everything in between!

Next the “interviewees” were given a pink post-it note and the “interviewers” a green post-it to indicate what partners should group together. It was great to see everyone partner up and the stories started flying. Each project leader tells their stories about how and why they started their projects in such incredible ways, and I was able to float around and hear a little bit about what was new and changing in the Citizen Science world. I was finally able to settle down with Dr. Julie Horvath-Roth at the NC Museum of Natural Sciences, where she is the director of the Genomics and Microbiology Research Lab for a quick interview about her project Monkey Health Explorer.

We can’t wait to hear from each of our workshop attendees on the blog network, which includes the SciStarter, Discover Magazine, and GotScience Magazine blog platforms, over the next year! Over ten posts have come in so far and are currently in the editing process.

You can view the Facebook Live video Erica Chenoweth took here.

You can view the slides Erica Chenoweth prepared for the workshop here.

You can view SciStarter’s blog guidelines here. We believe that anyone can tell a compelling citizen science story, and that includes YOU!

Caroline Nickerson speaks to the group
CSA in Higher Ed Symposium (March 15)

Brianna Johns reflects: The NC State University Citizen Science Club presented “Citizen Science Club: How University Undergraduates Unite as Outreach Ambassadors.” The Citizen Science Club at NC State exemplifies community building in citizen science at the undergraduate level. Student organizations built around science communication and public science are capable of making research available to undergraduates of any degree through the use of citizen science projects.

The Citizen Science Club at NC State is the first of its kind, is incredibly diverse, and consists of students spanning multiple disciplines. This student organization has been able to foster a sense of community both within itself and within the campus and Raleigh community. Student organizations are an excellent way to build community in citizen science, and we hope to see an expansion of citizen science clubs across various educational institutions.

You can view the club’s slides here.

You can view the symposium video here (~:56 – 1:03 Cit Sci Club talk).

You can read about the Citizen Science Club at NC State (and get some tips about starting your own) here. 

Tweets about the talk can be viewed here, here, and here.

Building capacity for citizen science in libraries (March 15)

Dan Stanton presented on his work in libraries and his work in citizen science. You can view the Facebook Live video of his presentation here and his presentation slides here.

Here’s an excerpt from Dan’s blog post about his experience at the conference:

“It all changed the moment Dorothy pushed open the door and stepped out of her house.  What a wondrous world – full of color, interesting people, challenges, and opportunities.  I am having a hard time describing my experience at the #CitSci2019 Conference in Raleigh, NC, and that is the best I can do.  I’ve been aware of and somewhat involved in citizen science since spring of 2016 and, until recently, focused exclusively on introducing CitSci kits to public libraries in the Phoenix area and working to build a culture of citizen science at Arizona State University.  Unlike Dorothy, I knew this other world was out there: I had just been peeking out from the curtains.

In attending CitSci2019, I pushed open the doors and started my journey into a new world.  Like Dorothy, I met traveling companions whose perspectives were shaped by their experience; they all knew parts of the landscape and were genuinely interested in leading the group to a better place.  Moreover, some of them were genuinely interested in learning about where I was from. Together, we learned valuable lessons about respecting the land and people we met along the way, even if it means taking a circuitous route.  The yellow brick road has many potential paths, but building them without the permission and guidance of the local communities may lead to dead ends and wasted resources; trailblazing alone literally destroys the landscape.”

Citizen Science Association Conference
Dan making friends at the SciStarter table.
Learning through Citizen Science: Opportunities by Design (March 15)

Caroline Nickerson reflects: I was the SciStarter account’s fingers behind the live-tweeting of this panel, and I thoroughly enjoyed it! You can check out the thread of tweets here, but to summarize, authors (including SciStarter’s own Darlene Cavalier!) of the new National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report, “Learning through Citizen Science: Opportunities by Design,” spoke about the report’s findings, the relationship between citizen science and learning outcomes for participants, and how to incorporate learning into the design of citizen science projects. Spoiler alert: people can learn from participating in citizen science and attending to learning advances scientific and community outcomes. You can also check out a video about the report here.

CitSci+SciComm: Brainstorming new collaborations (March 16)

Darlene Cavalier reflects: TheCitSci+SciComm session was led by NC State University’s Jean Goodwin and the panelists included John Besley, James Wynn, Julia Parrish, Victoria Martin, and Darlene Cavalier (the author of this post). The premise of the workshop was to explore the intersections of science communication and citizen science, with some presenters coming from the SciComm space, others working primarily in CitSci, and others working across both realms.

The workshop asked questions of both fields. For SciComm, presenters explored how the frameworks and perspectives inherent in that discipline could be leveraged when promoting citizen science projects. In regards to the citizen science aspects, presenters contemplated how citizen science could intersect with communication research and methods. I described how citizen science communication strategies should bear in mind that people–and their motivations, situations, availability, more–change over time. The discussion explored ways to build a communications strategy that allows for change over time.

You can view Darlene’s slides here. 

Citizen Science Festival at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) (March 16)

Erica Chenoweth reflects on the fun-filled, stimulating day with fellow team-member Erica Prange:

We had a blast working the SciStarter table at the combined Citizen Science Festival and Reptile and Amphibian Day event on March 16 at NCMNS. This public event, open to all, coincided with beautiful weather and Raleigh’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade and Festival, so there were many members of the community out and about. We engaged hundreds of visitors with our citizen science handouts and interactive displays. Because we were situated on the fourth floor of the Nature Exploration Center, near the Living Conservatory and café, visitors took a breather, soaked up the relative calm of our alcove, and engaged in stimulating Q&A sessions, aside from just reviewing materials.

We answered questions, demonstrated citizen science kits, showed off the new SciStarter website, gave out Citizen Science pins and stamps, and chaperoned the new mascot, SciStarter, a Mecannoid personal kit robot, who helped introduce both young and old to citizen science while demonstrating dances from around the world, including the tango and ballet. In addition to the many interested families that took the time to stop and talk at our table, we even got some former project leaders! We look forward to our next visit to NCMNS.

Citizen Science Association Conference
Left: Erica Prange at the table; Right, Drs Holly Menninger and Dan Fergus who started the “Meet Your Mites” citizen science project
SciStarter Education Breakfast (March 16)

The SciStarter team reflects: SciStarter Education is a customizable portal that enables educators to easily discover the best projects for your class. SciStarter Education allows you to assign, track, and support students’ participation through analytics at the class, school, district or university level. Darlene Cavalier (Director of SciStarter), Lea Shell (Education Program Co-Director SciStarter) and Jason Painter (Director of The Science House at North Carolina State University) presented SciStarter Education to an audience of classroom teachers, education directors, and project owners.

SciStarter Education was created in service to School Districts and Universities and with critical guidance from Broward County, FL School District (the sixth largest district in the United States) and North Carolina State University (both of which happen to be our first paid subscribers!).  At the school district level, the portal works with the learning management systems (LMS), Clever, which students and teachers use to manage attendance, grades and assignments. At the university level, the portal works with Shibboleth, and is being tested with Canvas, Blackboard, and Moodle.  SciStarter has an application within the LMS that allows administrators and teachers to assign and track participation in citizen science projects specially selected by the district and university. Citizen science project owners created additional materials (like a welcome video, data entry form, and thank you video) to help support their citizen science projects integration into the classroom. Assessments are embedded at the completion of each project or assignment. The system enables the district and university to measure collective impact, assess learning, reward credits and badges and aid educators with professional development materials. Features were designed or refined to align with key outcomes from this recent National Academies report, “Learning Through Citizen Science.

Darlene gave an overview of the partnership and the process for developing the portal, Lea gave a live demonstration of the portal from the teachers’ and students’ perspectives, and Jason Painter discussed the co-creation of citizen science projects through the Students Discover program and how they work in the classroom with the support of professional development run through The Science House.

SciStarter education has two upcoming webinars. The first, on May 17, is entitled “Collabinar: SciStarter Education,” and is hosted by the UC Davis School of Education. Darlene Cavalier and Sheryl A. Arriola will present about the Broward Project Based Learning Portal @ SciStarter. The second webinar, on May 28, is entitled “Citizen Science: Advance real research & enhance science learning in the classroom,” and is hosted by the Online Learning Consortium. Presenters for this webinar about SciStarter education are Darlene Cavalier, Founder, SciStarter; Professor of Practice, School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Arizona State University’ Caren Cooper, Associate Professor, Forestry and Environmental Resources, NC State University; Lisa Milenkovic, Supervisor, STEM+Computer Science, Broward County Public Schools; and Sheryl Arriola, Instructional Facilitator, STEM+Computer Science, Broward County Public Schools.

Citizen Science Association Conference
Lea and Darlene present at the breakfast.
Citizen Science Day Workshop (March 17)

Caroline Nickerson reflects: I presented with Richard Smart, of the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, about resources to celebrate Citizen Science Day, which fell on April 13 this year. Richard, along with Darlene Cavalier, is the co-chair of the Citizen Science Association’s Citizen Science Day working group, and I helped plan SciStarter’s Citizen Science Day activities in libraries this year as the Citizen Science Day community manager.

We showcased the breadth of resources available to celebrate Citizen Science Day, which include SciStarter’s page featuring Citizen Science Day, the Citizen Science Association website, SciStarter’s Citizen Science Day community folder, and the Stall Catchers Megathon sign-up. The Megathon was SciStarter’s featured event of this year’s Citizen Science Day — people all around the world played Stall Catchers, a gamified way of contributing to Alzheimer’s research. You can learn more about the Megathon results in a blog post by Leila Stevenson, a program manager for Microsoft Research Outreach.

Richard provided a history of Citizen Science Day and presented event ideas (a popular one was Citizen Science + Suds!). He also presented the page on the Citizen Science Association website, which contains downloadable logos, event ideas, links to webinars about Citizen Science Day, among other resources.

I spoke about SciStarter’s Citizen Science Day page and gave a description of our Stall Catchers Megathon efforts. SciStarter’s page featuring Citizen Science Day hosts the Librarian’s Guide to Citizen Science (librarians and non-librarians alike will find great info here!), has information about the Megathon, and features downloadable and print-ready posters, bookmarks, and a flier, as well as has resources for events: those interested could add their event, message people in their area with SciStarter accounts to invite them to their event with SciStarter’s people finder, and search other events that are celebrating Citizen Science Day. This page also gives info about our open, weekly calls. Though the calls ended the week after Citizen Science Day, they were available for months to anyone and everyone, providing support for Citizen Science Day plans and our featured event, the Megathon.

The SciStarter community folder contains editable promotional materials, a FAQ, our weekly calls schedule, draft press releases, pictures you can use in promotional materials with proper attribution, social media tools, and more.

After Richard and I presented, we ended the workshop with time for people to brainstorm together, chat, customize fliers with my help, and get any other assistance necessary to plan an awesome Citizen Science Day event.

You can view Richard’s and my slides here.

I also created a video about the social media excitement before, during, and after Citizen Science Day, and wrote a blog post about our global community who celebrated Citizen Science Day.

The Journey Home (March 18)

Caroline Nickerson reflects: The day after the conference ended, I took our new SciStarter mascot — a walking, talking robot my colleague Erica brought to the conference and named “SciStarter” — home from Raleigh, North Carolina to Washington, DC on Amtrak. Our robot was a hit, and he was appointed Amtrak’s newest junior conductor!

SciStarter (the robot and the team!) can’t wait for the next citizen science event, and we congratulate the Citizen Science Association on an amazing conference. A huge highlight of the conference for me (as Managing Editor of SciStarter’s blog network) was meeting the Science Connected team at the conference, brainstorming the Citizen Science Connected blog platform, and then making it a reality following the conference! This is just one example of how we “grew our family tree.”

Citizen Science Association Conference

Citizen Science Association Conference

Citizen Science Association Conference

Categories: About Us, Citizen Science Conference, Citizen Science Day, Citizen Science News, Events

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About the Author

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson

Caroline Nickerson is an advisor at SciStarter, where she assists with the Citizen Science Month Program, SciStarter’s Corporate Volunteer Programs and other programmatic and outreach efforts. Caroline is a Master of Public Policy graduate from American University, where she was a Reilly Environmental Policy Scholar, and is a current PhD student at the University of Florida. She also works with the UF-VA Bioethics Unit, the Christensen Project, Florida Community Innovation and other organizations. She was the 2019 Cherry Blossom Princess representing the state of Florida and the grand prize scholarship winner at Miss Earth USA 2021 as Miss Louisiana Earth.