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What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science offers a unique opportunity for the public and EPA to connect about environmental science and environmental protection. Citizen science is the involvement of the public in scientific research – whether community-driven research or global investigations. Citizen science mobilizes the public to participate in the scientific process to address problems. This can include identifying research questions, collecting and analyzing data, making new discoveries, and developing technologies and applications.

A citizen science program can engage communities to collect data and advocate for environmental concerns. Many EPA efforts focus on assisting citizen science groups in Environmental Justice (EJ) communities including the Making a Visible Difference initiative. Citizen science projects can be a tool for expanding scientific knowledge and literacy.

Examples at EPA

EPA Region 10: Engaging Communities, Using Citizen Science to Assess and Address Children's Environmental Health from Transit and Air Pollution

The objective of this project is to leverage partnerships between EPA's Region 10 and communities in N/NE Portland, Oregon. The aim is to engage educational institutions, community members, and local government partners in developing transit and neighborhood scenarios for school bus routes and bus stops. The project focuses particularly on pollution sources, reduction and potential mitigation measures. 

The vision for this project is to use citizen science to support the community in independently reaching solutions to local environmental concerns.This research is supported by the use of several EPA tools:

  • EJ SCREEN - to provide a first look at mapping community issues;
  • C-FERST - to provide detailed environmental and community characterization and assessment;
  • C-LINE - a modeling and visualization system for traffic related air pollutant exposure; and,
  • EnviroAtlas - for community environmental modeling. 

EPA ORD & Region 2:  Citizen Science Toolbox in the Ironbound

EPA Region 2 is collaborating with EPA's Office of Research and Development and Newark’s Ironbound Community Corporation (ICC) to design, develop, and pilot a Citizen Science Toolbox. The Citizen Science Toolbox will enable ICC, and other communities like it, to collect their own data on local air quality. 

The components of this Toolbox includes stationary air sensors for monitoring NO2 and PM2.5 levels; guidance on instrument siting, operation, and quality control; and software for data processing, visualization and interpretation. 

After the completion of this pilot, the Toolbox will form the foundation of anEPA Region 2 Citizen Science Equipment Loan Program for air quality monitoring. This program will enable other communities to investigate and raise awareness of local pollution sources.