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.
So, what stood out for me when I realized I was not in Kansas anymore?
The SciStarter Team – (full disclosure, I am affiliated with the SciStarter Team)
I had used SciStarter to check out potential projects and appreciated the ease of use in navigated the breadth and depth of projects available (currently over 3000!), and I had worked with Darlene for a while and had recently met Caroline, but SciStarter is quite decentralized. Part of my purpose in attending CitSci2019 was to learn more about what SciStarter does and who the folks behind it are. I got to meet and spend time with Caren Cooper, Erica Chenoweth, Erica Prange, Lea Shell, and the intangible Daniel Arbuckle.
The team is an incredible mix of experience and talent! And SciStarter is constantly upping its game of supporting and promoting Citizen Science from both the research and practitioner perspectives as demonstrated in Citizen Science Day 2019, the SciStarter Affiliate Program, and the upcoming Tools Database.
There were hundreds of posters, lightning rounds, symposia, panel discussions, and more covering the gamut of Citizen Science as demonstrated by the programs I attended:
- Citizen Science Air Quality Monitoring
- Grow by Connecting: New Ways to Link to SciStarter for Programmatic Ties to Girl Scouts USA, K12 Districts, Higher Ed Cit Sci, Earth Challenge 2020, and more
- “Meet the Feds”
- Opening Reception and Project Slam!
- Welcome and Opening Plenary Talk: The Power (Relations) of Citizen Science
- Talks Session: Training Participants and Each Other
- Environmental Justice Scholarship recipients luncheon
- Talks Session: Evaluation
- Poster Session Happy Hour
- Creating a common vernacular: Exploring conversations across citizen science sectors
- Advancing the science of citizen science through meta-platforms and meta-analyses
- Building capacity for partnership-centric community and citizen science in libraries: Using successful projects and library partnership framework to identify critical relationship building strategies
- Citizen Science and the University: Institutional innovation, change, and engagement beyond the ivory tower
- Environmental Justice and Community Science: A Social Movement for Inpowerment, Compliance, and Action
- SciStarter Education Breakfast: Experience a new citizen science portal for classrooms, school districts and universities
- Learning through Citizen Science: Opportunities by Design
- Lightning Talks Session
- Closing Reception and Plenary Speaker Rob Dunn
- Workshop: Citizen Science Day
In addition to all the programs, there were lots of opportunities for networking. I met other librarians that I started working with right away. I met funders, academics, programmers, teachers, and citizen scientists. I staffed the SciStarter Desk here and there, and people were very interested in what we were doing.
As you can see, it was a full and filling conference! I am afraid Dorothy and Toto could not keep up. I last saw them eating barbecue at a restaurant with a dog-friendly patio. I get it; my brain hurts as well. The challenge now is to convince the folks back home it was real. Fortunately, I know there are many other people who have been there.