COASST Inside the Beltway

Here’s an update from COASST Executive Director, Julia Parrish, on her recent trip to Washington, DC:

Who knew that only a few years after going to The White House to receive a Champions of Change award (zoom to minute 10:30) on behalf of COASST, I’d be back in the South Auditorium attending a “by invitation” gathering of citizen science cognoscenti. Of course COASST has been pioneering citsci for years out here on the West Coast, but inside the beltway the notion that “the rest of us” non-scientists can collect data, and deduce information, at a level of rigor rivaling grad students, faculty, and other “card-carrying” scientists is just beginning to gain ground. What we know:

  • that the world is changing too fast to rely only on scientists to measure and monitor
  • that involving residents in communicating what is happening in the places, spaces and habitats they know and love can only improve our knowledge
  • that people will use and respect science that comes from within, and not just from the ivory tower

creates the perfect storm for effective citizen science.

The auditorium was crowded with guests. Mike Brubaker from the LEO Network was there. Just last week I gave a LEO webinar about the Common Murre die-off. Also present were Nolan Doesken – the brains, energy and boundless enthusiasm behind CoCoRaHS (if you don’t know about this weather citsci project, you might want to sign up!), Karen Oberhauser – the woman who has singled handedly pushed Monarch butterfly citizen science to new levels, and Gretchen Lebuhn, who spearheads the Great Sunflower Project. COASST was in excellent company.

Here are some super-great things that happened:

  • John Holdren, the President’s Science Advisory and the head of the Office of Science Technology Policy, spoke to us about the power of citizen science and how the federal government can, and should, do more. To that end, he released a policy memo outlining what The White House and the federal agencies can do. And COASST is called out as a great example of how to do citsci right (pg 10-11)! YaHOO!!
  • France Cordova, the Director of the National Science Foundation, gave a great speech about the power of rigorous citizen science to advance all of science – citsci as a bonafide tool in the science toolbox. Turns out she used citizen science data in her own PhD research (astronomy). And wouldn’t you know, Dr. Cordova also called out COASST as a shining example of citsci done right, with our data used by scientists and resource managers alike. Double YaHOO!!!
  • As if that wasn’t enough (and actually, it was – I was already on cloud 9), the next day I had the chance to speak to staffers of our Washington delegation about COASST and the great work we do. Upshot? Senator Patty Murray tweeted congrats to us! Hat-trick YaHOO!!!

Now I’m back in Seattle, leaping back into the Common Murre die-off, moving our new marine debris sampling program forward, and working with a myriad of scientists and resource managers who are using COASST data. It’s all COASST all the time, which is just how I like it.

And it’s a great feeling to know that thousands of miles away in the other Washington COASST is getting well-deserved recognition as an exemplar citizen science program. And that’s quite simply due to the continuing efforts of hundreds (and hundreds!) of COASSTers out there every month. Hat’s off to you!!!!

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