Increasing science literacy through participation in scientific research: Using citizen scientists to monitor the spread of invasive plant species

Julie A. Reynolds, Mellon Instructor in Writing and Biology

Project summary

Julie has found that students with very little prior knowledge of science can participate in authentic scientific research, can be trained to collect meaningful scientific data, and can develop a better understanding of ecological processes and the interconnectedness of nature through these experiences. Building on this success, she is expanding a current project to engage members of the community in an authentic scientific study. She is developing educational activities around invasive species Map of two invasive plant species along a trail at the Eno River State Parkat the Eno River State Park, and training the public to be involved in monitoring these species. She plans to include the general public as well as service groups at high schools, colleges, and in the community (such as through botanical societies) that would encourage sustained participation in scientific research.

The goals of this project are to:

  1. Increase public understanding of threats to the environment and to biodiversity
  2. Educate the public about the scientific method
  3. Foster a sense of environmental stewardship within the community
  4. Monitor the spread of invasive plant species within the state park

Visitors to the Eno River State Park will be trained to monitor invasive plants using GPS and gathering data in Google Earth. This project at the Eno River could serve as a pilot to be adopted throughout North Carolina.

See Julie’s Citizen Scientist website for more.

This project is funded by Duke Center for Science Education.