Engaging families in long-term citizen science monitoring
Even as she cherishes her work as Education Program Manager of The Marine Science Consortium—which offers multi-disciplinary educational and research opportunities to celebrate the rich natural resources of the mid-Atlantic Coastal Region— Anne Armstrong unblinkingly recognizes a reality,
“The programs I manage have historically been inaccessible and irrelevant to the local populace,” she admitted. “I aim to change that.”
Anne has long believed that environmental programs mean little if they are not relevant to their audiences, and she wants to geometrically increase the “wow” factor of her work through a partnership with a local family-based outdoor education program called SPARK. Entitled SPARK Creek-Watchers: SparkingWatershed Conservation in Accomack County Families, Anne’s TogetherGreen fellowship project will include monitoring and clean-up efforts on Holden Creek, a Chesapeake Bay tidal tributary. Anne hopes that by engaging Accomack County families in the program she will create a cascading effect throughout the community that will reveal the connections between a healthy Bay watershed and healthy local industry, residences, and recreational opportunities.
Under the plan, families with children between the ages of 9 and 17 will walk a portion of the creek once a month, picking up trash and collecting pollution data. That data will then be uploaded to National Geographic’s Chesapeake FieldScope (an online watershed mapping tool), made available to educational institutions, and also used to create a “report card” for Holden Creek revealing water quality issues. Students will display art and observations from project journals at the annual SPARK graduation in the summer of 2013 (a public event at which they will also present findings to the public) and some 200 graduates will receive creek monitoring kits to continue these efforts in their communities.
“The families involved represent a diverse group.” added Anne. “The Creek-Watchers participants will serve as a model for how our larger community can bridge cultural divides to achieve conservation results.”