Sharing VS with CA
“We’d like Vital Signs to be the keynote presentation at our California Biodiversity Citizen Science Meeting at the California Academy of Sciences. We’re so impressed with your amazing program. We admire how you combine many elements we are looking for in our future citizen science program."
How could we say no to that?!
(Vital Signs keynote starts on page 38)
Christine and I flew to San Francisco to be part of the three-day citizen science conference at the California Academy of Sciences in May. The Academy is in the very early stages of developing a citizen science program for California focused on public education and engagement with biodiversity. The program must tie to an active research agenda, and help solve a conservation issue.
This meeting brought together 60+ people from science, citizen science, and education fields to share and collect best practices for citizen engagement, scientist engagement, and technology platforms that enable and support community-based science initiatives. Participants spanned the country, representing programs at Cornell, UC Davis, National Audubon, Stanford University, Berkeley, The Smithsonian, and – well – the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. This photo shows me with our new pals Rusty Russell (Botany Collections Manager at The Smithsonian's National Herbarium and the EarthWatch Expedition Scientist), and Allen Fish (Director of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory in San Francisco).
For our keynote (watch here!), we spent 30 minutes telling stories from the Vital Signs community that addressed questions of particular interest to the Cal Academy team:
1. How do you balance research and education goals to ensure the data collected are being used to answer real research questions?
2. How do you align research goals and conservation outcomes?
3. How are participants connected to researchers?
4. What types of online tools do you offer participants to get needed information and resources, visualize data, and share their findings
5. How do you provide multiple levels of engagement to a diverse audience?
We took some risks with our presentation, using only photographs on our slides and six different video clips to tell the community's stories. Our keynote was extremely well-received, and created quite a buzz. We were mobbed with attention immediately following, and heard incredible things from key players in the national citizen science field like:
“What you’re doing is so impressive. It’s what I imagine great citizen science projects being. You have all the different elements – including students and teachers – and you’re doing them all so well.”
And, our favorite: “You two are rock stars! What a killer presentation and program.”
So, what did we learn? It was invaluable for us to spend three uninterrupted days looking closely at Vital Signs through citizen science and science lenses. We spend much of our time focused on our education goals and outcomes. It was important to think about how to deepen citizen scientist and scientist participation as well.
The biggest take-away for me was seeing that Vital Signs is working across and connecting education, science, citizen science, and technology spaces in ways that others are just starting to do or are still dreaming of doing. Turns out Vital Signs has a lot to offer both in and out of Maine.