Working with libraries to provide new tools to citizen scientists

By

Marissa Huth
Citizen Scientist 2Citizen Scientist 3
Captions: Dan Stanton, Associate Liaison Librarian at ASU, demonstrates one of the apps used with a citizen science tool. David Morrison (behind the table), an SFIS graduate research assistant, shows a tool kit to workshop participants. Jeannie Colton, a program coordinator at SFIS, shows workshop participants a rain gauge positioned outside the Southeast Regional Library‎ in Gilbert.

Working with libraries to provide new tools to citizen scientists

Tracking the rate of rainfall in the desert. Measuring light in the night sky that blurs our view of the stars and affects nesting habits and sleeping patterns. Finding what chemicals are in the soil of our parks or yards. Screening for the presence of parasites in local habitats. These are a few of the activities citizen scientists will now be equipped to investigate and report on with tools borrowed from local libraries in the Valley. 

A project led by Darlene Cavalier, a professor of practice and founder of the SciStarter website, is assembling and distributing kits to libraries containing instruments that enable community members to explore what is happening in their environments. She said, “This project positions libraries as community anchors, empowering them to promote civic and science engagement by enabling patrons of all ages to take an active role in finding solutions in collaboration with scientists.”

Teamed with libraries across the Valley, the project makes tools and instruments available that most people would not have access to — such as a sky meter for measuring light pollution. Data gathered by citizen scientists can help paint a more complete picture of conditions on the ground or in the air, by supplying more data points than scientists could gather on their own. The data collected can help identify issues and drive decision making for policies to address problems.

The project team met recently at the Maricopa County Southeast Regional Library in Gilbert to review and test kits that are in the process of being developed. Librarians and local community members participated to give feedback with some even taking items home for field testing. As the next kit reaches completion, it will be distributed through six libraries in the region. The project is funded through a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS).