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CI-TEAM Demo: Environmental CyberCitizens: Engaging Citizen Scientists in Global Environmental Change through Crowdsensing and Visualization: 1135523

Principal Investigator: Alex Mayer
CoPrincipal Investigator(s): Richard Donovan, Robert Pastel, Charles Wallace, Shawn Oppliger
Organization: Michigan Technological University

This demonstration project is creating and evaluating a set of activities aimed at preparing a diverse science and engineering workforce with cyberinfrastructure knowledge and skills. A multidisciplinary team of faculty and undergraduate students is collaborating with citizen scientist end users to develop and deploy data collection and visualization tools, to monitor the critical ecosystems of Lightfoot Bay in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The program is building upon existing educational programs at Michigan Technological University, Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, several local high schools, and a local land conservancy. Research scientists at International Business Machines (IBM) who are actively engaged in the development of crowd sensing applications are collaborating with the co-PIs and students.

Intellectual Merit
Sensor-enabled smartphones are serving as the primary platform for acquiring, analyzing and disseminating environmental information. In this demonstration project the team is developing and using smartphone applications to acquire digital images, in-situ measurements of water quality parameters, and personal narratives. The project is developing applications for transferring the acquired data synchronously or asynchronously to an interactive website through which citizen scientists will interact with professional scientists. Inspired by the popular concept of the internet, the project focuses on end-to-end engagement that not only collects data but provides for a compelling creative visualization environment through which users combine quantitative data in meaningful ways while framing and/or annotating it with qualitative data. The smartphone applications and interactive data displays are developed in existing computer science classes, driving significant, sustainable enhancements in their curricula. High school, community college, and undergraduate students are testing the applications in the field and the data visualization site and are providing feedback to the developers. These activities are offered through existing general science, environmental science and engineering, and social studies and science courses and will be sustained beyond the project period by training the teachers to deploy smartphone applications and interactive data displays.

The stakeholders are developing and implementing a coordinated Cyber-Infrastructure Plan to provide a platform for collaboration and flexibility, ensuring a productive environment for all participants. A rigorous evaluation effort is being conducted with both formative and summative components. The evaluation is designed to allow constant improvement and to determine and document the project?s overall effectiveness at achieving its intended outcomes, including outcomes related to career choices.

Broader Impacts
The model to be tested here has the potential to be broadly adaptable and/or adoptable. The project is targeting rural, low-income high school and community college students with high proportions of Native Americans. Specific environmental data and information will be targeted that is relevant to the local Ojibwa culture. The project schools and study area are in rural areas that are consistently underserved by cyberinfrastructure. The rural nature of the area will present technological challenges (e.g. poor cell phone coverage), but it is particularly important to engage citizens in underserved areas to demonstrate that advanced cyberinfrastructure systems can improve their quality of life and economic opportunities.

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