DIP: Sustaining Ecological Communities Through Citizen Science and Online Collaboration

PIs: Rebecca Jordan, Gregory Newman, Steven Gray, Cindy Hmelo-Silver, Alycia Crall
Rutgers University New Brunswick
Award Details

This project team is investigating the interaction among citizen scientists working both with each other and with professionals, along several dimensions. The cyberlearning environment in which these interactions takes place is built on an existing cyberinfrastructure, the International Biological Information System, that the PI team is enhancing to support collaborative ecosystem modeling. The resultant online, collaborative model-based learning system enables citizen scientists to make field observations, discuss and represent data, and collaboratively generate models and recommendations for land use resource management. Research questions center on how citizen scientists engage in scientific practice, use models to share understandings, work with professionals, and use representational tools to interpret their observations. Additional questions address the use of these tools in the context of land use management and the nature of collective and individual knowledge that results from participation in this collaborative model-based learning community. The project features collaboration among learning scientists, ecologists, and computer/information scientists, and merges citizen science with cyberlearning and social networking. Further contributing to its intellectual merit is its position as one of the first citizen science projects to encourage modeling practices on a regional scale. The broader impacts of this project are being felt by its promotion of a better understanding of how cyber-enabled tools can contribute to learning disciplinary knowledge and scientific practices in informal settings with adult learners. The project is also enabling citizens to play a role in locally based environmental management; and it is working with a statewide master naturalist program through which the participation of underserved groups in science learning and resource management is encouraged. Finally, as the project continues, it offers the opportunity to serve as a model for other statewide master naturalist programs that exist across the country.

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