Citizen Science 2015 Conference

San Jose, CA, February 11-12, 2015

Written by Sandra Arango-Caro

March 11, 2015

The Citizen Science 2015 was the inaugural conference of the Citizen Science Association (CSA). More than 600 people from 25 countries participated. Anyone involved in citizen science was invited to attend the conference. Attendees included citizen science participants, researchers, project leaders, educators, technology specialists, evaluators, and others – representing many disciplines including astronomy, molecular biology, human and environmental health, psychology, linguistics, environmental justice, biodiversity, conservation biology, public health, genetics, engineering, cyber technology, gaming, and more – at multiple levels of expertise.

The six main themes of the conference were:

  • Tackling Grand Challenges and Everyday Problems with Citizen Science
  • Broadening Engagement to Foster Diversity and Inclusion
  • Making Education and Lifelong Learning Connections (K-12, university, informal)
  • Digital Opportunities and Challenges in Citizen Science
  • Research on and Evaluation of the Citizen Science Experience
  • Best Practices for Designing, Implementing, and Managing Citizen Science Projects and Programs

Sandra Arango-Caro (right) speaking with another Citizen Science Conference participant about the MO DIRT program.

The MO DIRT project was presented in a poster format under the theme Best Practices for Designing, Implementing, and Managing Citizen Science Projects and Programs. The poster was with a set of posters related to climate change. Among the discussions with the other presenters, it was particularly interesting to learn about a new initiative for the development of a National Climate Indicators System by the US Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), the Commons Lab of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars (The Wilson Center), and the Federal Community of Practice on Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science. Among the preliminary indicators of physical climate changes in this initiative, soil moisture was the only soil variable. This could be important in the near future, as MO DIRT participants will collect data on soil respiration, among other variables, to explore the possibility of using the rate of soil respiration as another indicator of physical climate change. The contact persons for this new initiative are: Melissa A. Kenney (Melissa [dot] kenney [at] noaa [dot] gov) and Emily Therese Cloyd (ecloyd [at] usgcrp [dot] gov).

The oral presentations I attended were related to technology (sensors, phone apps, GPS, social media) and best practices (evaluation, intellectual property law, ethics, monitoring, lessons learned) (See the attached program). Posters and oral presentations from this conference are available at

Other sessions attended included a symposium on Citizen Microbiology and an open roundtable on agriculture. At this last event, I had the opportunity to meet with Peter Donovan from the Soil Carbon Coalition (managingwholes [dot] com [at] gmail [dot] com, We discussed his experiences measuring soil respiration. He offered his advice on setting up a phone app for data collection and gave me contact information on additional people with experience measuring soil respiration.

It is important to highlight that among all oral presentations and posters, MO DIRT was the only project specifically working on soils. This suggests that soils-related citizen science is an area with many opportunities to explore.


MO DIRT - Missourians Doing Impact Research Together - A project to examine the soil-climate interface with citizen scientists.

The Missouri Transect project, recently funded by the National Science Foundation EPSCoR program, uses different scientific approaches to study and predict the impact of climate change on agricultural productivity and native flora in Missouri, and how stakeholder communities are likely to be affected by and respond to the challenges of changing climate. Important components of The Missouri Transect are public education and outreach efforts. MO DIRT - Missourians Doing Impact Research Together, is a new citizen science initiative that will crowdsource the collection of data on soil health and reciprocal soil-climate interactions across the state. Soils store vast amounts of organic carbon and the CO2 flux from soils to the atmosphere (soil respiration) is one of the largest fluxes in the global carbon cycle. Changes in climate due to an increase of CO2 in the atmosphere are expected to be influenced by changes in soil respiration. Missouri citizens, including K-12 students, equipped with training, guidelines, and soil quality test kits, will collect and electronically record relevant data to contribute to the overall research efforts. All participants can experience science-based enrichment activities to gain knowledge on the physical, chemical and biological properties of soil and better understand that healthy soils are living, breathing entities. MO DIRT data will be analyzed, validated, and used to compliment data on climate and plant performance produced by meteorologists, plant biologists, and computer scientists at Missouri Transect institutions to provide a more complete picture of the current and future impact of climate change on the natural resources of the state of Missouri.

Presenting Author: Sandra Arango-Caro, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis, MO

Co-Author: Terry Woodford-Thomas, Donald Danforth Science Center, St. Louis, MO (tthomas [at] danforthcenter [dot] org)

Corresponding Author: Sandra Arango-Caro

Tags: citizen science, education, mo dirt, poster, conference, soil health, outreach