Examples of Participatory Science Projects Supported by EPA
Participatory 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 participatory science projects that help advance the agency’s mission.
- Water projects
- Air projects
- Other environmental projects
Volunteers from many local organizations collect water quality data to improve the health of water bodies.
- The Chesapeake Monitoring Cooperativeis a great example of an organization that performs this type of work. EPA grants often support these organizations in monitoring efforts.
- crowdsourcing to find and report cyanobacteria blooms through the bloomWatch App,
- mapping cyanobacteria to help understand where and when cyanobacteria species occur through cyanoScope,and
- monitoring cyanobacteria populations over time to help track seasonal patterns of cyanobacteria through cyanoMonitoring.
Participatory 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 (email@example.com).
EPA worked with the Town of Mattapoisett on a project, Resilience and Adaptation in New England (RAINE),to 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.
- See the interactive story map about this project: Weather Ready Mattapoisett.
Contact: Jeri Weiss (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
- Read more in EPA's Science Matters: EPA’s Air Sensor Toolbox Offers New Tools for Community-led Air Monitoring.
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.
- Read more in EPA's Science Matters: A DIY Dream: Build Your Own Village Green Air Monitoring Station.
Contact: Ann Brown (email@example.com).
Smoke Sense is a crowdsourcing initiative that leverages individual participatory 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.
Participatory 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 participatory science project is a part of an EPA study to learn more about the local community air quality in the three Kansas City neighborhoods.
- Read more in EPA's Science Matters: Advancing Air Quality Measurement Capabilities and Engaging A Kansas Community in Citizen Science.
Contact: Ann Brown (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.
- To read more visit the archive.epa.gov search on Participatory Science in Newark, New Jersey
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 (email@example.com).
The Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Networkis 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 community members to share observations, connect, raise awareness, and find solutions to address significant environmental events.
Contact: Patrick Huber (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Identifying Violations Affecting Neighborhoods (IVAN)is 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.