Building a Co-Created Citizen Science Program with Community Members Neighboring a Hazardous Waste Site
Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
A research project that is only expert-driven may ignore the role of local knowledge in research, often gives low priority to the development of a comprehensive strategy to engage the community, and may not deliver the results of the study to the community in an effective way. To date, only a limited number of co-created citizen science projects, where community members are involved in most or all steps of the scientific process, have been initiated at contaminated sites and even less in conjunction with risk communication. Gardenroots: The Dewey-Humboldt AZ Garden Project was a place-based, co-created citizen science project where community members and researchers together: defined the question for study, developed hypotheses, collected environmental samples, disseminated results broadly, translated the results into action, and posed new research questions. This co-created environmental research project produced new data and addressed an additional exposure route (consumption of vegetables grown in soils with elevated arsenic levels) that was not being evaluated in the current site assessment. Furthermore, co-producing science led to both individual learning and social-ecological outcomes. This approach illustrates the benefits of a co-created citizen-science program in addressing the complex problems that arise in communities neighboring a hazardous waste sites. Such a project increased the community’s involvement in regional environmental assessment and decision-making, which has the potential to help mitigate environmental exposures and thereby reduce associated risks.