Citizen science is a term that has been thrown around a lot recently, but what does it mean exactly? Technically, citizen science is scientific work undertaken by members of the general public, often in collaboration with or under the direction of professional scientists and scientific institutions. Often when we hear “citizen science” we forget about these professional scientists, but the work they do is just as important as the data we collect!
This relationship between scientists and citizens is especially important for monitoring air quality because scientists can use the data we collect to supplement data from the EPA’s regulatory air quality monitors, so we can more accurately see what is in our air. For example, we plan to give our data to a scientist at UNC Charlotte and set up AirBeams at the Garinger air quality monitoring station for comparisons. It is important to remember that we are not just running around and collecting data just because we can. That isn’t citizen science. We are striving for the data we collect to be good enough for professionals to use as well.
Citizen science can be very empowering because it combines the efforts of everyday citizens with the knowledge and experience of professionals, making science more accessible for all. We were proud to have a diverse group of volunteers to test our proof of concept.
Check out the maps of each of our groups: