By Katie Moore & Emmalee Biebl

Scientific topics can be daunting and at times exclusive to experts of the field. However, when citizens are given the opportunity to engage in scientific literacy, they can access resources and tools to think critically about the information they are receiving and make informed decisions about the world they live in. A report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine emphasizes that when nonscientists are able to contribute to a field of science, it encourages deeper learning, engages participants with real data, and can be a tool to facilitate large scale research. Essentially, citizen science is a great way to increase scientific literacy among the general public.1

Citizen science, as defined by National Geographic, “is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge.” It can be used for all areas of research but has gained significant popularity and value in conservation and environmental research.2 Providing opportunities for the public to be involved with scientific processes increases scientific literacy which in turn can empower citizens to get involved with civic engagement.3 Citizen science is also transforming the research world. Due to the sheer volume of data that can be collected by a large group of citizens, in many instances, citizen involvement allows for data collection beyond the scope that researchers are capable of alone.When someone becomes a citizen scientist with Fraser Riverkeeper, they not only develop their own scientific expertise but they contribute to an understanding of how to we can work to protect our waterways. 

Jamie Ha helps Vancouver Water Monitoring Coordinator, Kaite Moore, fasten a Whirlpak on a sampling pole.

Our Vancouver Water Monitoring Program has expanded this summer thanks to a team of citizen scientists that have aided with our water monitoring efforts. Our program provides opportunities for individuals and corporate volunteer groups to participate in the collection of environmental observations and water quality data that is published on Swim Guide. Earlier this month we were joined by a group of Bell Mobility volunteers to help us collect samples at Trout Lake, where we will be expanding our water monitoring program to later this year. Jamie Ha, an Account Executive, and James Bell, a Senior Consultant, at Bell connected with Swim Drink Fish after learning about our mission to ensure swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters for everyone. Since hearing about the work we do, they were excited to get themselves and their teams down by the water to participate as citizen scientists.

Speaking with Jamie, we got to hear all about his passion for Vancouver’s waterways, “On a hot summer day in Vancouver, all I want to do is have a few drinks and jump into the water!” But he also knows the water is not always clean for swimming. After learning about our water monitoring program, Jamie says he is a lot more confident on how to get the data he needs before heading to the beach, saying, “Now that Swim Drink Fish has released their Swim Guide app, I’ve been able to check if it’s actually safe to jump in!”

Swim Drink Fish President, Mark Mattson, and Western Partnership Lead, Lauren Hornor, show James Bell (center) the Swim Guide app.

We are lucky to meet folks around Vancouver, who believe in our mission to protect swimmable, drinkable, fishable waters as much as we do. Jamie and James have watched our monitoring program take leaps and strides this summer—they’ve been there as citizen scientists helping us along the way. Both of them represent a community of people in Vancouver that want to be empowered to know when and where to get in the water.

Here at Swim Drink Fish, we truly believe in the value of citizen science that not only contributes to large scale research and data collection but also increases scientific literacy. We know that people are more likely to protect water bodies when they are informed of the issues that impact their local waterways. Citizen science is an opportunity to not only build that personal connection to waterways but to deepen understanding of environmental and cultural factors that impact water quality. It is more important than ever for citizens to be empowered to safeguard their waters and environment.

Join the movement of citizens who empower themselves to know their local water bodies. There are various ways you can get involved with citizen science. Find up-to-date water quality results for your favourite beaches at Swim Guidereport pollution concerns near or in the water, and help us expand our understanding of Vancouver's water bodies by volunteering with our Vancouver Water Monitoring Program.

 

Sources
  1. http://www8.nationalacademies.org/onpinews/newsitem.aspx?RecordID=25183
  2. Turrini, T., Dörler, D., Richter, A., Heigl, F., & Bonn, A. (2018). The threefold potential of environmental citizen science - Generating knowledge, creating learning opportunities and enabling civic participation. Biological Conservation,225, 176-186. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2018.03.024
  3. Ibid.
  4. https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-07106-5

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