Within the past 20 years, Citizen Science (CitSci) projects have exploded in popularity, offering opportunities for science learning and engagement by a wide range of participants. With this growth has come an emphasis on educating CitSci participants to become agents of change. However, greater emphasis on theoretical perspectives of learning and engagement is needed in order to truly move from citizens as mere data collectors to citizens as creators of new knowledge who can effectively address socioecological challenges.
The Pioneer Valley Citizen Science (PVCS) Collaboratory was launched in 2014, representing a collaboration between researchers from the Encore Lab (OISE/UT), Hampshire College, and the Hitchcock Center for the Environment. PVCS projects are the main venue for citizen scientists to participate in data collection and/or analysis. Each local PVCS project contextualizes science through four environmental issues: Climate change, biodiversity, habitat loss, and invasive species. PVCS projects are often seasonal and run for a specific time frame each year. Current projects include: Salamander Watch, Neighborhood NestWatch, Leaf Drop, Firefly Watch, and Monarch Watch.
Working with a small team of researchers and developers from the Encore Lab at OISE/UT, we were responsible for building a series of tablet applications that would engage PVCS participants in Science 2.0 practices such as real-time data tracking, geospatial mapping, the use of social networking tools, and collaboration across time and space. My specific role in this project was to operationalize theories on computer-supported collaborative learning into the UX/UI design of four different PVCS apps (i.e. Salamander Watch, Neighborhood Nest Watch, LeafDrop, and Firefly Watch) as well as the PVCS website.