The Importance of Citizen Science
By Jerry Donohue
As autumn returns the ducks again are heading to the wetlands from their summer adventures in the north. We Amigos begin looking toward school groups coming for tours of the wetlands or FLOW. Our docent training class has begun with renewed enthusiasm. One relatively new face and a more familiar face will play significant roles on the road ahead. Michelle Miller was hired in August as FLOW Program Manager with an added emphasis on social media. Michelle comes from an association with Science OC which connects educational institutions with science related companies. Some of us got to know her as a FLOW volunteer from the previous year. We are looking to use her skills to network with a variety of organizations throughout the year. Our second individual has been with us for over six years but has recently agreed to serve on our board of directors. Joana Tavares was first hired those six years ago to create a program called “It’s All Connected.” Over the years that has evolved into FLOW. She is currently in the PhD program at UCI with a special emphasis on Citizen Science.
I have attended several conferences over the past two years that focus on the important role Citizen Science plays today and the even greater role it will play in the future. Government funding for scientific research, especially at the federal level is declining. Furthermore, the media wants to show balance in presenting scientific information which usually has opposing sides given equal time to present their arguments. While this may seem fair, sound bites and false equivalencies predominate over factual information in these abbreviated science segments.
Our FLOW program has trained community volunteers to perform certain operations from which data is collected and sent to the California Department of Public Health where state biologists determine if the public should be notified about health concerns. In the near future, a state biologist will come to visit our site and observe how we collect plankton and if changes need to be made. Citizens collect data using established protocols and state biologists decide what the data shows. On September 29, the Amigos again went to Golden West College where young students become Citizen Scientists for an evening and their parents get informal training as to how such a program could work.
Amigos is not insular in its approach to the environment. I am attending a Groundwater conference put on by the Orange County Water District. A Meet Up group that uses iNaturalist is coming to Bolsa Chica for a tour in October. Their leader is the Educational Director at the Aquarium of the Pacific. Amigos docents are going to Crystal Cove in November to view their Citizen Science programs. Amigos still maintains a vigilant attitude toward maintaining the wetlands. The search for funds for dredging of the tidal inlet is a continual challenge, and the imposition of a day use fee will confront us shortly. Joana is correct: it’s all connected. Stay tuned.