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Connected climate change learning through citizen science: an assessment of priorities and needs of formal and informal educators and community members in Alaska


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Citation: Spellman KV, Sparrow EB, Chase MJ, Larson A, Kealy K. 2018. Connected climate change learning through citizen science: an assessment of priorities and needs of formal and informal educators and community members in Alaska. Connected Science Learning 1(6): 1-24. ABSTRACT: Citizen science offers significant potential to address pressing climate change issues in communities across multiple scales. Documented outcomes of citizen science span from individual learning about climate change and the scientific process, to providing critical datasets for local decision making or large scale scientific priorities. It also provides opportunity to connect in-school climate change learning to informal learning environments, and empower K-12 students, informal science learners, and community leaders to collaborate on important climate change issues. In order for collaboration across these diverse audiences to be effective and truly increase the capacity of a community to respond to climate change issues, the needs and priorities of each group must be identified and addressed in the design of the citizen science project. We present our key insights from an assessment of needs for the Arctic and Earth STEM integrating GLOBE and NASA (SIGNs) program that weaves Indigenous knowledge, climate change learning, citizen science, and climate action. We investigate the interests, benefits desired, and supports needed for climate change learning and citizen science in a rapidly changing Alaska across K-12 teachers, 4-H leaders, and rural and Indigenous community leaders. To do this we used coded application essays of participants in our precursor program workshops along with results of larger-scale published studies. We propose some considerations for citizen science program design to meet these needs, and offer evaluation results from our first workshop implementing the program model.
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... Aligning top-down observing efforts with local needs and priorities for environmental observing is challenging, but not insurmountable. The Arctic and Earth Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) Integrating Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment (GLOBE) and NASA Assets (SIGNs) project uses a cocreated citizen science approach to craft local monitoring efforts that are motivated by input from elders and community leaders to address a pressing climate-related data need (Spellman et al. 2018). University of Alaska Fairbanks and NASA scientists collaborate with educators, youth, and long-term community members from Alaskan communities to codesign a monitoring project that addresses the local need. ...
... Tie into the existing organizational and governance structures in the area and use data collection tools and approaches that are easily incorporated into daily community activities (figure 4e, 4f; Ison 2008, David-Chavez andGavin 2018). Fourth, include youth and school groups to build future monitoring capacity and sustain interest across generations (figure 4f, box 4; Spellman et al. 2018). Fifth, encourage the use of protocols to enable respectful engagement with Indigenous and local knowledge (figure 4d). ...
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Effective responses to rapid environmental change rely on observations to inform planning and decision-making. Reviewing literature from 124 programs across the globe and analyzing survey data for 30 Arctic community-based monitoring programs, we compare top-down, large-scale program driven approaches with bottom-up approaches initiated and steered at the community level. Connecting these two approaches and linking to Indigenous and local knowledge yields benefits including improved information products and enhanced observing program efficiency and sustainability. We identify core principles central to such improved links: matching observing program aims, scales, and ability to act on information; matching observing program and community priorities; fostering compatibility in observing methodology and data management; respect of Indigenous intellectual property rights and the implementation of free, prior, and informed consent; creating sufficient organizational support structures; and ensuring sustained community members’ commitment. Interventions to overcome challenges in adhering to these principles are discussed.
... The use of CS to study climate change impacts has emerged to strengthen current calls and efforts toward community-focused knowledge co-production processes that build capacity for climate action at the local community level (Spellman et al., 2018;Kythreotis et al., 2019;Bremer et al., 2019a;Semjanová, 2020). Most of current knowledge co-production works have focused mainly on building scientific understanding of climatic change through collaborative and participatory studies of climateinduced impacts in local ecosystems (Dickinson et al., 2012;Cooper et al., 2014). ...
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Climate change impacts have become a verifiable reality in most communities in Africa and have already shown its ruthlessness in derailing modest gains made toward sustainable development. While evidence of climate change impacts abounds, especially in key climate-sensitive sectors, not many people living in affected communities have the requisite knowledge, understanding and capacity to respond to emerging impacts. Most communities in Ghana and Africa, broadly, lack the requisite climate change knowledge resources to inform adaptation choices. Adaptation decision-making, in most cases, is reactive, speculative, and based on flawed assumptions and understandings of the climate change phenomenon. This is essentially because most countries lack the capacity to make climate-informed decisions which is also a function of the pervasive lack of efficient climate information services regime across Africa. The paucity of climate change knowledge and associated climate information services is undoubtedly an issue of institutional capacity; however, it is also a function of an enduring culture—a poor attitude toward data collection and application—in decision-making processes. Data-poor environment, or data-poverty, as implied in this work, therefore, broadly describes the absence of a data management culture in decision-making processes; however, specifically to climate change, it describes the lack of functional climate information services regime in local communities in Africa and how such omissions impede the ability of countries to make climate-informed decisions to support adaptation and resilience building. Focusing on Ghana, the paper problematizes the lack of climate information in local communities. The paper argues that Africa's climate crisis is as much a knowledge and learning challenge which requires new and innovative learning approaches to build capacities to facilitate the making of data-driven and climate-informed adaptation decisions in local communities. The paper, therefore, foregrounds citizen-science networks as avenues for community-focused and community-based climate knowledge co-producing mechanisms.
... Fresh Eyes on Ice applies a culturally responsive learning model to engage rural and urban youth across the state in ice science and education ( Figure 4). The program follows a learning model that was collaboratively developed by the Association of Interior Native Educators and University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists, and builds on decades of work on culturally responsive science education within Alaska (see Spellman et al. 2018). The learning doesn't start with the data collection or reading what a book or online resource says about ice. ...
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The Fresh Eyes on Ice project, based out of the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), combines science and learning through community science (see Observing the Cycle of Ice through Fresh Eyes, Arp et al., this issue). The project is monitoring the formation and decay of lake and river ice through field measurements, drones, a network of ice phenology cameras and automated sensors, satellite imagery, and ground-penetrating radar. The community science dimension of this project elevates local perspectives on these data, provides opportunity for ice safety information sharing, and facilitates science learning. The youth and broader community engagement establishes a baseline of geographically diverse measurements and observations, and ground-truthing data (i.e., in situ observations) for comparison with the other types of data being collected remotely. The community science operates at multiple levels to accommodate a wide range of engagement opportunities and types of learning across a broad diversity of Alaskans—from lasting community partnerships to casual ice observers. Inspired by the Alaska Lake Ice and Snow Observing Network of the early 2000s (Jeffries and Morris 2008), long-term community-based monitoring teams in 14 communities are making monthly measurements of river- and lake-ice thickness and taking photo observations of freeze-up and break-up with smartphones and drones. These teams are primarily based in schools, but also include several homeschool families and local community scientists from Tribal or federal organizations.
... The new GLOBE Observer mobile app (GO app) allows the general public to make observations of clouds (Nugent 2018; see Figure 1), map out habitats of disease-causing mosquitoes, measuring tree height, and identify land cover from any mobile device. Teachers use the new app because it is easy to use and easily incorporates technology in the classroom (Spellman et al. 2018). The app can run while the mobile device is not connected to WiFi, so teachers can go outside with students to make and store the observations. ...
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