Growing Community Science in Natural Resource Extension

Date & Time (Eastern): 
Nov 19 2020 - 1:00pm

Webinar Summary:

How can community science projects support meaningful engagement among researchers, community members, and other stakeholders to achieve community benefits? The presentations in this webinar will draw on lessons learned from a variety of projects and initiatives on diverse natural resources topics, but with commonalities for employing community-based participatory approaches to gain positive social impacts and ecological outcomes.


Reference Materials:  

Invasive Species Citizen Science Projects, University of Minnesota Extension

Final Report: Community and Citizen Science at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Evaluating environmental education, citizen science, and stewardship through naturalist programs.

UC California Naturalist Program

Community and Citizen Science at the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources

Resources for Citizen Science Project Planning


This webinar will highlight:

Dr. Adina Merenlender, is a Cooperative Extension Specialist and Adjunct Professor in the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of California, and the Director of the UC California Naturalist Program.  Besides community science, Dr. Merenlender has extensive research and extension interests in conservation biology, climate-wise habitat connectivity, and working lands conservation.  The UC California Naturalist Program is a community of practice that engages the public in environmental stewardship.  The program uses a science curriculum, hands-on learning, problem-solving, citizen science, and community service to instill a deep appreciation for the natural communities and to inspire individuals to become stewards of their local resources.

Chris Jadallah (with Ryan Meyer and Heidi Ballard as non-presenting contributors) is a PhD student and NSF Graduate Research Fellow at the Center for Community and Citizen Science at the University of California, Davis. His current research examines how participatory approaches to scientific research and monitoring can foster learning and stewardship. His presentation, Integrating Community Interests and Scientific Priorities through Community-Based Watershed Monitoringwill provide an example of ongoing work where scientists, local stakeholders, students, and teachers are partnering to co-design community science projects related to the Matilija Dam removal in Ventura County, CA.  Pilot data from participant observations offer preliminary insights into how community science initiatives can balance community members' interests and values with monitoring needs.

Angela Gupta is a University of Minnesota Extension Forester who specializes in invasive species education.  She has been with UMN Extension for 15 years and has led several invasive species and volunteer programs.  Her presentation will be: Invasive species and citizen science initiatives while social distancing.  The University of Minnesota Extension is a state leader in citizen science and invasive species education. For many reasons, the spring of 2020 was going to launch several new citizen science and invasive species projects; and then the world shifted because of COVID-19. Thankfully, all these projects could be done while also social distancing. This presentation will highlight the basic citizen scientist questions and protocols used for each invasive species project and offer a short overview of the projects including: Squill Hunt; Jumping worms: Report Management; Gender Bending Trees: Amur Corktree; Stop Oak Wilt; and Naturalized Norway Maple. Each project has a different audience, objective and tools that uniquely fit each question. Learn what worked, what didn’t, and what we still don’t know.

Join the discussion

From the Presentation Chat - Elizabeth Herron to All Panelists: Another resource for water monitoring is the USA Volunteer Water Monitoring Network, an Extension funded project designed to help grow volunteer monitoring in Cooperative Extension - see

From the Presentation Q&A: Can you please define "extension"?
From the Presentation Q&A - Kerri Rollins: Extension refers to the outreach mission of all land grant universities. Land Grant Universities have Extension offices throughout their state that bring the university to the local communities to solve local issues with research-based information.
From the Presentation Q&A - Adam Downing: What is a "Zen" statement?
From the Presentation Q&A - Angela Gupta: Summarize themed ideas into a "Zen Statement". It's helpful to express each idea in a consistent statement. Boiling a service or project down to one sentence is hard. It requires deciding what really matters and can sharpen the idea in powerful ways. "A [program/project description] for [target community members/participants] that [key value] enabling [primary benefits] unlike [existing alternatives]."

This Zen statement definition is from the Impact Collaborative Facilitation Training online materials:

From the Presentation Q&A - McKenzie Dale: What were some of your primary strategies to recruit volunteers and community scientists?

From Presentation Q&A - Angela Gupta: One of the reasons I think the Oak Wilt project didn't work as well is because the word didn't get out as well as we'd expected via social media, but the project did get picked up by TV and the newspaper.  So reports came in from email and phone calls not as we'd expected through EDDMapS

From Presentation Q&A - Adam Downing: In Virginia our Citizen Scientists mare much more likely to be women than men.
From Presentation Q&A - Angela Gupta: Yes, the data from MN is starting to be very clear that for "bigger asks" women are in the lead. These CitSci projects demonstrated that, but our EmpowerU (empowering citizens to engage decision makers in invasive species or natural resources) is also overwhelmingly female.
From Presentation Q&A - Dan Stark: For all panelists, getting the word out that you need volunteers can be challenging, especially for someone like me who is new to the rural communities I serve. I am curious what pointers you may have for getting participation. I'll be checking out the great resources already shared. Thank you!

Hi Dan, great question. Our Manual for Planning your Community-Based Citizen Science Monitoring for Dam Removal and Watershed Restoration has some pointers on recruiting volunteers. Here is some text I copied and pasted:

"Stakeholder groups with a direct interest in project outcomes are an obvious place to focus recruitment efforts. There may also be 'win-win' collaboration opportunities when other organizations’ goals align with project activities. In-school and out-of-school education programs for youth and adults may wish to partner. For example, a high school environmental science teacher, or a local Master Naturalist instructor, may wish to involve students in the monitoring activity. Boy Scout or Girl Scout troops may be able to earn badges for participation, or recreational anglers might be able to collect data while fishing, which helps with their own record-keeping."

You can access the Manual at, and please feel free to reach out if you'd like to chat about this more.

Almost all of my projects targeted already existing Extension audiences: Master Naturalist, Master Woodland Owners and Master Gardeners. These already engaged and well trained folks are often excited to further science and enjoy working outside. I've come to realize it's not how may folks you have, its how willing they are to help. A few great volunteers is often more helpful than many half-hearted ones.

From Presentation Q&A - Dan Stanton: Any work with University students?

Hi Dan,
Yes! There is a lot of work being done on citizen science with university students as a way to collect larger amounts of data. These usually have built-in attrition rates as students participating in a class will naturally move on at the end of a term, but having strong relationships with instructors can sustain participation from year to year. Plus, it's a really useful pedagogical strategy for instructors... educational research is increasingly showing us how citizen science can provide really valuable learning opportunities to participants when there is attention to deliberate design. Happy to chat more about this should you be interested.

From Presentation Q&A - Anonymous Attendee: What resources are available to certified California naturalists to deliver environmental education to others?

We have some great invasive species resources for MN Master Naturists interested in leading others in invasive species work:

From Presentation Q&A - Anonymous Attendee: Can you define what the Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) is?

Supported By

This work is supported by the Renewable Resources Extension Act Program [grant no. USDA-NIFA–EXCA-005457] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

United States Department of Agriculture
The project to update the 2012-2016 RREA Strategic Plan was awarded to The Rangelands Partnership in 2016.