Interested in Collecting Data about an Environmental Concern in Your Community?
Citizen science can advance environmental protection by helping communities understand environmental problems and collect quality data. In some cases, EPA provides tools and technical expertise to communities to better understand local problems and advocate for improved environmental health. Often, communities with environmental concerns will collaborate with nonprofit organizations and academic researchers.
Successful projects gather best practices and carefully design projects so that the data are as useful as possible. This can include the preparation of a Quality Assurance Project Plan (QAPP). Many organizations have resources to assist with project design and best practices.
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- Citizen Science Central Toolkit
- Designing a Social Change Project (GovLab Academy)
- Community-Based Monitoring of Alaska's Coastal and Ocean Environment: Best Practices for Linking Alaska Citizens with Science. Though directed at Alaska programs, much of the information is relevant to programs in other areas as well.
- Extreme Citizen Science: ExCiteS
EPA is working to better understand how to increase the impact of knowledge and data from citizen science projects, including guidance on the Agency's response to data indicating an environmental concern.
Recognizing that members of the public want to learn more about local air quality, EPA scientists are collaborating with technology developers and with federal, state, international, and nongovernmental organizations on the potential use of emerging technologies to meet a wide range of air quality monitoring needs. EPA now has a website, the Air Sensor Toolbox for Citizen Scientists, with information and guidance on new, low-cost, portable technologies for measuring air quality. In 2015, EPA hosted (and recorded) a training workshop, the Community Air Monitoring Training, to share tools and best practices.
Citizen science air monitoring projects can take place indoors or outdoors. Examples of air pollutants examined by citizen scientists include volatile organic compoundsvolatile organic compoundsAny organic compound which evaporates readily to the atmosphere. VOCs contribute significantly to photochemical smog production and certain health problems. (VOCs), particulate matterparticulate matterParticles in the air, such as dust, dirt, soot, smoke, and droplets. Small particles (PM-10 or PM-2.5) have significant effects on human health. Particulate matter is one of the six "criteria" pollutants for which EPA has established national ambient air quality standards. (PM), ozoneozoneA gas that results from complex chemical reactions between nitrogen dioxide and volatile organic compounds; the major component of smog. Ozone at the ground level is one of the six "criteria" pollutants for which EPA has established national ambient air quality standards. (O2), and nitrogen dioxidenitrogen dioxideA chemical that results from nitric oxide combining with oxygen in the atmosphere; a major component of photochemical smog. One of the six "criteria" pollutants for which EPA has set national ambient air quality standards. (NO2). Citizen scientists interested in testing these or any other pollutants should review the following links:
- Hazardous Air Pollutants
- Quality Assurance Guidance Documents for Air Monitoring
- Citizen Science Air Monitoring Equipment Resources (PDF) (1 pp, 199 K)
Citizen science data on waterbodies increases decision making capability and builds awareness about water pollution problems. Citizen scientists monitor the characteristics of waterbodies, and make observations on habitat and diversity of species present. Volunteers also participate in restoration and stewardship of waterbodies through the removal of debris and invasive species.