Citizen Science Bootcamp Recap

 In News

On Saturday, June 5, 30 participants, 5 guest speakers and the AWN team convened over Zoom for our very first Citizen Science Bootcamp! An intensive, all-day course designed to help any Nova Scotian get a head start on monitoring their local waterway, the Bootcamp attracted a very diverse group of participants. From seasoned representatives of fishing organizations to students curious about water monitoring, many different voices were represented at the event, which led to lively group participation and communication across professions and generations!

A Crash Course in Water Monitoring

The jam-packed day started with a group discussion, where each participant shared which body of water was the most meaningful to them, and what they believe should be done to protect it. After that, during the first half of the Bootcamp, our guest speakers provided some context on water quality monitoring and showcased exciting tools available to citizen scientists both in Nova Scotia and beyond! The first speakers were Shanna Fredericks from Coastal Action and John McNeil from the Fox Point Lake Water Quality Monitoring Program delivering an in-depth presentation about a robust water monitoring program that stands as an example for other citizen scientists!

The above photos were submitted by participants, showing bodies of water that they wanted to protect.

The next presentation was an overview of watershed basics, general water science, and monitoring techniques, presented by our own Aislin Livingstone and Laura Chandler. Laura covered safety, equipment, and monitoring protocols, and even played a couple rounds of the new hit game show The Parameter Is Right! After that, Laura Gilbert from Water Rangers walked our participants through the contents of their compact water testkits, several of which are going to be added to our Halifax Equipment Bank for long-term loans!

Patrick LeClair from The Gordon Foundation spoke next, introducing participants to Atlantic DataStream and discussing key considerations for sharing and managing data. “There is no point collecting data if it can’t be shared/used,” remarked a participant, and we definitely agree! Uploading data to Atlantic DataStream makes it accessible to other organizations and the public, and Patrick’s presentation was a handy introduction to the world of data sharing in Atlantic Canada.

Monitoring Program Design Challenge

Next was the interactive component of the day, or as one participant referred to it, “the heart of the workshop”. During this activity about water monitoring program design, our participants split up into facilitated breakout rooms to design monitoring programs from scratch! Using hypothetical watershed scenarios, they had to make collective decisions about where, when, what, why and how to monitor, safety considerations, data collection standards, and many other factors. Our participants enjoyed the hands-on and practical nature of the activity!

Our last guest speaker was Sade Stacey, who introduced our participants to social media tips and tricks for effective science communication. Their presentation included specific information for leveraging each major social media platform, as well as advice on making language accessible using photo and video assets. One participant referred to Sade’s presentation as “one of the best presentations on digital communication that [they] have experienced.” We’re inclined to agree!

[Sade’s communications presentation] was “one of the best presentations on digital communication that I have experienced.” – a participant

As the day came to a close, the conversation shifted from starting a water monitoring project to keeping one going into the future. Our team discussed how to make a project last, such as setting realistic goals and preventing burnout. It was clear that our audience left the bootcamp optimistic, energized, and ready to get out there and start doing citizen science – and through programs like AWN’s WET-Pro online certification course and our Halifax Equipment Bank, we’re ready to support them!

So what’s next? 

Over the coming months the AWN team will work one-on-one with our first cohort of citizen scientists to set out individual next steps. This includes matchmaking with existing environmental stewardship groups and community-based monitoring programs nearby or helping to design a water monitoring plan tailored to their local watersheds. AWN staff also aim to provide opportunities for citizen scientists to get their feet wet through valuable in-field equipment training (COVID-19 restrictions pending). 

This Citizen Science Bootcamp was just the start of our participants’ new adventure in water quality monitoring. We can’t wait to see what’s next for this passionate group of water stewards!

Atlantic Water Network wants to thank all of the amazing participants, guest speakers and volunteer facilitators for making this first Citizen Science Bootcamp such a success. We are also grateful to TD Friends of the Environment Foundation for supporting this work through their generous financial contribution.

By Eleanor Friddell