Rebecca Jordan, associate professor in the departments of Ecology, Evolution and Natural Resources and Human Ecology at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences is the principal investigator of a $1.2 million National Science Foundation Cyberlearning grant to engage citizen scientists in an online, collaborative, model-based learning program.
The project is titled “Sustaining ecological communities through citizen science and online collaboration.” The project will use a series of web-based modeling and social media tools to engage participants in authentic science. This includes making field observations, engaging in collaborative discussions, graphically representing data, and modeling ecological systems. The goal of these efforts is to allow participants to engage in open-space land management.
Collaborators in this project include learning scientists, ecologists, and computer and information scientists from several higher education institutions, including Rutgers, Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Colorado State University and the University of Hawaii. The Virginia Master Naturalists—a community-based natural resource volunteer program—will comprise the citizen scientists in this project.
Jordan, who directs the Program in Science Learning at the school, sees great potential for the project. “This is essentially a pilot project that will serve as a model for other citizen science projects across an array of geographies and disciplines.”
The Program in Science Learning investigates the development of science literacy across formal and informal post-secondary learning environments. “As a scientist and educator, I feel it important to provide students and community members with the tools that enable scientific understanding and the active participation in the stewardship of natural resources.”
The research that emerges from the NSF-funded project will build and assess the collaborative science learning system as a tool to teach citizens about authentic scientific inquiry. It will also help us to understand how cyber-enabled tools can contribute to how lay audiences participate in scientific practices.
The NSF award, which began on September, runs through August 31, 2016.