(Left to right: Scott Baker, Bob Lorenz, Jennifer Shirk, Chris McHan, Leda Cunningham, Julia Byrd, John Carmichael, Brett Fitzgerald)
CitSci 2019 – National Conference Hosted by the Citizen Science Association
On March 13-17, 2019, the Citizen Science Association hosted the CitSci 2019 conference in Raleigh, NC, bringing together over 800 people working in the Citizen Science field across the country and internationally. Attendees included educators, practitioners, managers, active citizen scientists, and even a small team from the Council’s Citizen Science Program. With a wide variety of presentations, discussion panels, symposia and hands-on demonstrations and trainings, the conference provided an opportunity to share information on the latest citizen science efforts going on around the world and encouraged collaboration and discussion among participants.
SAFMC in Action at CitSci 2019
As part of the conference program, a team from the SAFMC Citizen Science Program, which included staff, Action Team members, along with Jennifer Shirk of the Citizen Science Association, held a symposium to share the story of how the SAFMC developed their Citizen Science Program and to open a dialogue with others interested in new approaches for program development.
When the SAFMC decided to pursue Citizen Science, they made the decision up front to develop Program infrastructure before launching individual citizen science projects. This approach seemed to be unique for the citizen science field and relied heavily on work from stakeholder-driven Action Teams comprised of fishermen, staff from resource management agencies, NGOs, data managers, outreach specialists, scientists, and others with an interest in fisheries. These ‘A-Teams’ held around 50 virtual meetings over the past year to develop Program infrastructure in five topical areas: Finance and Infrastructure, Projects/Topics, Data Management, Volunteers, and Communication/Outreach/Education.
The Symposium opened with John Carmichael, Council staff, giving an introduction to the SAFMC, why it was interested in pursuing Citizen Science, the process used to develop the SAFMC’s Program. Jennifer Shirk gave her perspectives on the Council’s approach which was informed by the Framework for Citizen Science that she and Rick Bonney of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology developed through research for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Then A-Team members - Leda Cunningham (Finance and Infrastructure; The Pew Charitable Trusts), Scott Baker (Project/Topics; NC Sea Grant), Brett Fitzgerald (Data Management; Angler Action Foundation), Bob Lorenz (Volunteers; recreational fisherman and SAFMC Advisory Panel Member), and Chris McHan (Communication/Outreach; recreational fisherman and marine biologist) showcased the amazing work their teams did to develop recommendations, best practices, and templates for use in developing projects under the Council’s Program. They shared their experiences working with the A-Teams, their motivations for getting involved in the Council’s efforts, and topics their A-Teams wanted to get feedback on from others at the conference working in the citizen science field.
The audience was engaged, asked great questions, and the SAFMC team was able to network with others in the natural resources fields that are also conducting citizen science - from US Forest Service staff to scientists working with fishermen in the Amazon to furtrappers in Alberta, Canada. Participants were interested in the Council’s program first approach and were excited to learn that many of the best practices and templates developed by the A-Teams were available online.
The SAFMC Team learned that no matter what the discipline is, there seem to be universal issues - building stakeholder trust, managing expectations, volunteer recruitment/retention, data quality and standards, etc. - for groups interested in using citizen science data for policy and management decisions. Participating in the CitSci 2019 conference allowed us to broaden our network of citizen science professionals which will provide opportunities for us to learn from each other and develop strategies collectively to address common challenges. Connections made at the CitSci 2019 conference will be invaluable as the Council moves forward with its Citizen Science Program and launches its first pilot project!