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Examples of Citizen Science Projects Supported by EPA

Citizen science offers a unique opportunity for the public and EPA to connect on environmental science and protection. It uses the collective strength of the community to identify research questions, collect and analyze data, interpret results, make new discoveries, and develop technologies and applications – all to understand and solve environmental problems. EPA’s headquarters program and regional offices collaborate with many different types of organizations to implement citizen science projects that help advance the agency’s mission.

EPA-supported projects on this page:

Water Projects

Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring

Volunteers from many local organizations collect water quality data to improve the health of water bodies.

Cyanobacteria Monitoring

There are three ways citizen scientists can get involved in monitoring for cyanobacteria through the Cyanobacteria Monitoring Collaborative:Exit
  • crowdsourcing to find and report cyanobacteria blooms through the bloomWatch App,Exit
  • mapping cyanobacteria to help understand where and when cyanobacteria species occur through cyanoScope,Exitand
  • monitoring cyanobacteria populations over time to help track seasonal patterns of cyanobacteria through cyanoMonitoring.Exit

Citizen scientists provide government agencies like EPA crucial information to help us address harmful algal blooms. This group receives in-kind support from EPA research programs.

Contact: Hilary Snook (snook.hilary@epa.gov).

Great Lakes Underwater Videos

EPA's Region 5, Office of Research and Development, and Great Lakes National Program Office, along with a stakeholder team of state and other federal agencies, are engaging citizen scientists in a pilot project, Great Lakes Underwater Videos, to help analyze underwater videos for habitat characteristics and invasive species. Results will be compared to previously-collected expert analysis. This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of citizen scientists’ participation in environmental assessment, provide needed information for water resource managers, and could potentially reduce costs of video analysis by two-thirds compared to analysis by experts.
 
Contact: David Bolgrien (bolgrien.david@epa.gov).
 

Hurricane Preparedness

EPA worked with the Town of Mattapoisett on a project, Resilience and Adaptation in New England (RAINE),Exitto assess the vulnerability of the town’s drinking water systems to salt water intrusion from sea level rise and storm surge. Boy Scouts in the town set up flood markers on utility poles to show the water levels from the past two hurricanes. These markers allowed residents to understand how high the water was and the extent of the flooding.

Contact: Jeri Weiss (weiss.jeri@epa.gov).

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Air Projects

Air Sensor Toolbox

The Air Sensor Toolbox provides resources that advise users how to select and use low-cost, portable air sensor technology and understand results from monitoring activities.

One example of a project that uses the Air Sensor Toolbox is the Village Green Project which discovers new ways of measuring air quality and weather conditions in community environments.

Contact: Ann Brown (brown.ann@epa.gov).

Crowdsourcing to Understand Wildfire Smoke Health Effects

Smoke Sense is a crowdsourcing initiative that leverages individual citizen scientists’ anonymous observations of wildfire smoke and its health effects to increase participants’ understanding about smoke exposures and how they impact communities. EPA and other researchers will use the observations to determine the extent to which wildfire smoke exposure affects health and productivity, and to help develop health risk communication strategies that improve public health on smoky days.

Read more:

Contact: Mary Hano and Ana Rappold (hano.mary@epa.gov and rappold.ana@epa.gov).

Kansas City, Kansas Air Quality Monitoring Study

Citizen science participants are conducting a Kansas Air Quality Monitoring Study using mobile air monitors developed by EPA to collect air quality data in three Kansas City neighborhoods. These devices include rechargeable battery power, GPS, and sensors that measure fine particles and carbon dioxide. The citizen science project is a part of an EPA study to learn more about the local community air quality in the three Kansas City neighborhoods.

Contact: Ann Brown (brown.ann@epa.gov).

Ironbound Neighborhood Air Monitoring

The Ironbound Community Corporation deployed air sensors that permitted community volunteers to collect data on local air quality. The Ironbound Neighborhood Air Monitoring Study benefited the Ironbound community by increasing community awareness of air quality issues, allowing residents to investigate air pollutants of concern, and providing data that could be used to advocate for improved air quality.

Contact: Marie O’Shea (oshea.marie@epa.gov)

Community Air Monitoring Research Grants 

Six institutions were awarded EPA’s Science to Achieve Results grants to help communities learn more about local air quality and explore data quality, durability, and uses of low-cost air pollution sensor technology. As part of the Community Air Monitoring Research Grants, each project involves scientific researchers collaborating with community groups to better understand how people interact with sensor data. Research Triangle Institute, for example, is creating a framework for communities near Denver to design and conduct air quality monitoring studies.

Contact: Richard Callan (callan.richard@epa.gov).

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Other Environmental Projects

Local Environmental Observers Network – A Citizen Science-based Crowdsourcing Tool

The Local Environmental Observer (LEO) NetworkExitis a mapping tool that can be used to crowdsource information from local communities and topic experts on unusual animal, environmental, and weather events by sharing stories and pictures. LEO allows citizen scientists to share observations, connect, raise awareness, and find solutions to address significant environmental events.

Contact: Patrick Huber (huber.patrick@epa.gov).

Environmental Violations Crowdsourcing Tool

Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN)Exitis an online crowdsourced tool, developed and maintained by Comite Civico Del Valle, that collects and tracks environmental complaints in participating California communities. State and local government agencies, along with EPA, address these complaints with community members during monthly Environmental Justice Task Force meetings. EPA provided environmental justice and children’s health grants to help launch IVAN EJ Task Forces in two of these communities. EPA provided contractual support, technical support, and loaned equipment for the IVAN Imperial County Community Air Monitoring Study.Exit

Contact: Priyanka Pathak and Deldi Reyes (pathak.priyanka@epa.gov and reyes.deldi@epa.gov). 

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