Advancing knowledge through citizen science

Citizen science is an expanding field referring to public involvement in scientific research or monitoring with professional scientists. The public involvement may include anything from aiding in  data collection, to all aspects of a project (co-created) – from project design analysis and sharing of results. Citizen involvement in the scientific process is beneficial because it can increase scientific understanding, allow people to contribute to research on topics that interest them, create trusted results, fill data gaps and address local information needs and environmental concerns.

Albertans are helping advance this field of practice in our province. Through involvement in air and water monitoring initiatives to biodiversity programs looking at invasive species, pronghorns and bees, Albertans are supporting efforts in monitoring the environment and building resilient ecosystems.

Alberta Environment and Parks and the Miistakis Institute recently co-hosted a workshop titled: ‘Advancing Citizen Science in Alberta: Changing Perspectives, Breaking Barriers.’ The event explored best practices in the field of citizen science and identified priority actions to advance the field in Alberta. It also provided an opportunity for knowledge exchange and co-learning between citizen science experts, practitioners, resource managers and community members.

Alberta Environment and Parks’ Chief Scientist Dr. Fred Wrona remarked, “citizen

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Dr. Lea Shanley (South Big Data Innovation Hub), Chief Scientist Dr. Fred Wrona (Alberta Environment & Parks), Jade Lauren Cawthray-Syms (University of Dundee), and Dr. Jennifer Shirk (Citizen Science Association).

science offers a unique approach to advance a generation of knowledge” and build public trust. A number of challenges and barriers need to be overcome, however, including perceptions around credibility and relevance of citizen science data and connecting this data with decision-makers.

“Be water on stone – wear it down or move around it” was one piece of advice shared by Lea Shanley, a passionate workshop panellist from South Big Data Innovation Hub. The workshop focused on overcoming barriers and growing the field of citizen science in Alberta.

Limitations to citizen science need to be considered and understood to ensure programs generate credible data and information. While more work is required to understand the role and utility of citizen science in Alberta, the workshop highlighted that engaged and trained citizen scientists can make meaningful contributions to science and monitoring programs by following recognized monitoring protocols and accredited data standards.

What’s next?

Working with the Miistakis Institute, Alberta Environment and Parks is developing principles and strategies to guide good practice and appropriate application of citizen science as part of the provincial environmental monitoring and science program.

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Working session on citizen science in Alberta.

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Science guides policies and actions in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes

When Albertans think about the Rocky Mountains, we inherently think of the wild, rugged mountain landscape that always leaves us wanting more. Hiking those rigid mountain peaks, jumping into those cold glacial lakes, and waking up to fresh mountain air are some of the greatest pleasures Alberta’s Rocky Mountains offer visitors and residents alike.

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Alberta Parks: Castle Area

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It’s All Hands on Deck to Protect Alberta’s Waters!

As summer comes to a close, Albertans will soon be packing up their summer floaties and digging out their warm winter gear! Instead of going into hibernation instantly, your important role as citizen scientists must continue on through the cold times ahead. We must remain diligent and keep our eyes peeled for invasive species. This year, we’re asking Albertans to band together and lend an extra helping hand while they are packing up their cabins at the lake. Continue reading

Student Action Challenge – One School’s Growing Success

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERARobert Thirsk High School has brought its foods program to life thanks to a student with a passion for stewardship, a hands-on natural sciences program and an application to Alberta Environment and Parks Climate and Environment Student Action Challenge. Continue reading

New grant program furthers action on climate change

climategrantprogram_v5_tw_13The provincial government is investing $600,000 to support all Albertans – young and old, rural and urban – as they learn about and work together to address climate change.

The Community Environment Action grant program will help non-profit groups design and deliver projects that will help Albertans understand the effects of climate change and why action is important. They will also provide opportunities for communities and individuals to come together to work and make decisions to help reduce emissions.

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Caught in the act!

Looking out for our land – thank you!

Environment and Parks staff asked the public’s assistance in identifying two men who were photographed dumping refuse on public lands.

In less than 24 hours, we had an overwhelming response. The link was shared across several platforms, resulting in information being forwarded to our compliance investigation staff.

As a reminder, leaving refuse behind on public lands is problematic for the environment and it deprives other Albertans from enjoying and using that space responsibly. As a rule of thumb for our environment – when in doubt, leave only footprints and take only pictures.

As Albertans, we have an important role in keeping our province’s public lands healthy and beautiful. If you witness misuse anywhere, at any time, please call the Environmental Hotline at 800-222-6514. If we all work together, we can put a stop to this kind of disrespectful behaviour.

Adventures ahead for the new Environment and Parks Ministry

Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development is now Alberta Environment and Parks. With our new face comes the opportunity to bring even more new content and bring our readers on amazing adventures through the work we do.

This blog isn’t the only site that has been refreshed – also check out the new Alberta Environment and Parks website and twitter account.

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Volunteer stewardship recognized at 2015 Order of the Bighorn Awards

Since its inception in 1982, the Order of the Bighorn has recognized the voluntary contributions of Albertans to the conservation of our province’s fish, wildlife and natural spaces.

This year was no exception. During the 18th Order of the Bighorn Awards on March 6, Hon. Kyle Fawcett, Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, was joined by stakeholders who are committed to maintaining and building a healthy environmental future, to honour six individuals whose efforts emulate what the awards are all about.

Inductees included Bazil Leonard of Grande Cache, Gottlob Schmidt of Hanna, John Campbell Jr. of Calgary, Maurice Nadeau of Bonnyville, Tim Dietzler of Calgary and Tom Partello of Canmore.

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Photos by Admire Studios

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