The Roanoker - September/October 2020 - 40

strengthened the Clean Air Act,
limiting the amount of pollution
allowed in the atmosphere.
"That's the beauty of citizen
science," says Vinci, who spent
his career at the intersection
of environmental and public
health and, in addition to his
work with Clean Valley Council,
serves as a co-chairman for
citizen science for the National
Environmental Monitoring
Conference's annual meeting.
"You have this international web
of volunteers and you can now
get a bigger picture of what's
happening on the planet."
Other early citizen projects
include the National Audubon
Society's Christmas Bird Count,
begun in 1900 and continued
every year since; the founding
of the American Association
of Variable Star Observers in
1911 and its call for amateur
astronomers to contribute to
scientific research; and monarch
butterfly monitoring, which has
utilized trained volunteers since
the 1950s.

But it wasn't until the
twenty-teens that the scientific
community fully embraced citizen
science and technology opened the
door to a wide range of projects.
"The field of citizen science has
really exploded in the last decade
or so," says Michelle Prysby,
director of the Virginia Master
Naturalist program, who has been
involved in citizen science for 25
years - ever since her graduate
school work inaugurating the
Monarch Larva Monitoring
Project, which still continues
today.
In 2013, the Citizen Science
Association was founded. CSA
is a nonprofit whose goals
include connecting organizations
conducting citizen science projects,
furthering the conversation
around citizen science and raising
the standards of citizen science
projects, according to its website.
In 2014, the Oxford American
Dictionary first included the
term "citizen science" in its
pages. And in 2016, the US
federal government passed The

Crowdsourcing and Citizen
Science Act, which encouraged
the use of citizen science in
governmental agencies and
research.
Closer to home, the Virginia
Master Naturalist program was
begun in 2005 with one of its core
goals being to train and support
citizen scientists. As of 2019,
the Virginia Master Naturalist
program hosted 30 chapters across
the commonwealth. VMN's 3,369
members together logged 65,083
hours of citizen science that year.
"People are interested in
lifelong learning and they're
interested in making a
contribution," Prysby says.
The basic ideals of citizen
science inc lude: al lowing
scientists to accomplish tasks
too expensive or time consuming
to complete any other way;
opening the scientific community
to a wide variety of voices and
ideas; increasing community
understanding and awareness
of science; and empowering the
curious to make a difference.

Five Citizen
Science Projects
to Try Right Now
Celebrate Urban Birds.
Observe birds in your backyard or
neighborhood and document your
findings. celebrateurbanbirds.org/
cub/instructions
Track Rainfall in Your Backyard.
Record precipitation and log
your data with the Community
Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow
Network. cocorahs.org
Watch for Solar Storms.
Analyze online photos from
spacecraft that are monitoring
the sun. scistarter.org/
solar-storm-watch
Map Virginia's Wildlife.
Upload photos that you take
to document wildlife diversity
(especially reptiles and amphibians)
for the Virginia Department of Game
and Inland Fisheries. inaturalist.org/
projects/virginia-wildlife-mapping
Sort and Label Plant Collections.
Click through online photos from
herbariums across the Southeast
and update labeling to be useful
to researchers. zooniverse.
org/projects/md68135/notesfrom-nature-southeastern-usbiodiversity

PREVIOUS PAGE:
Citizen scientists make
bird observations for the
annual Christmas Bird Count
coordinated by the National
Audubon Society. They input
their count into the Cornell Lab
or Ornithology's eBird app.
AT LEFT:
Volunteers typically collect data
on their streams in the spring
and the fall, though the spring
count was canceled in 2020.

40

SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2020

TheRoanoker.com

COURTESY OF ROANOKE'S STORMWATER DIVISION

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The Roanoker - September/October 2020

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