West Coast Regional Sea Grant Project: Social Science and Human Dimensions

Scaling Up Cost-Efficient Community Engagement in Coastal Resource Management (2014-16)

Oregon contact: Shawn Rowe
Oregon Sea Grant
2030 SE Marine Science Drive
Newport, OR 97365

Principal Investigator: Julia Parrish, University of Washington; co-PIs, Shawn Rowe, Oregon Sea Grant; Heidi Ballard, UC-Davis; Funding: West Coast Sea Grant programs

When scientists and resource managers don’t talk to local citizens about decisions that affect community interests, serious setbacks and distrust can result, even leading to animosity towards certain sectors of the scientific community (i.e., climate science). When scientists and managers do engage in meaningful ways within their communities, results are enhanced for both science and the public. West Coast Sea Grant programs have identified public engagement as an approach leading to effective resource stewardship. Specifically, volunteering in scientific monitoring of coastal ocean habitats can help bring communities and scientists together to address environmental consequences of human activities. Further, increasing science literacy enhances local knowledge and a connection to place, creating a well-informed citizenry.

In this study, the research team will analyze a successful coastal citizen science project, the long-term Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST). Understanding how individuals become engaged in citizen science projects, and what motivates them to continue and to deepen their involvement, is crucial to long-term and broad- scale citizen science programming. Including interested and appropriately trained volunteers is essential for enhanced free-choice learning with a high degree of scientific rigor that is directly relevant to coastal resource management. This study will quantitatively and qualitatively measure essential elements of a successful rigorous coastal citizen science program, and deliver study results via professional and in-practice products.

Strategic Plan Focus Areas: Environmental Literacy and Workforce Development

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