Soil, Water and Environmental Science
Evaluating the Motivations, Knowledge, and Efficacy of Participants in Environmental Health Citizen Science Projects
Environmental scientists are increasingly partnering with citizen scientists in many aspects of the research process, such as data collection and question design. To date, only a limited number of co-created citizen science projects where community members are involved in most or all steps of the scientific process have been completed, and few have compared community engagement methods, efficacy, and learning outcomes across demo- and geographic data. This study will compare two citizen science programs by evaluating what motivates citizen scientists to participate in environmental health research and whether participation affects scientific knowledge and environmental behavior and efficacy. Participants in the “Gardenroots: A Citizen Science Garden Project” (hereafter “Gardenroots”) completed sample collection training and submitted soil, water, vegetable, and dust samples for analysis and will receive their environmental monitoring results. In the Climate Change and Environmental Sustainability Promotora Science Project (hereafter “Promotora”), Spanish-speaking community members of South Tucson underwent training in climate change and environmental quality and sample collection, and worked with families in the South Tucson community, collecting soil and water samples and providing environmental health education. For both the Gardenroots and Promotora projects, participants completed a pre- and post-survey with a variety of qualitative and quantitative questions. These survey instruments will be used to evaluate the differences in environmental self-efficacy and motivations for both projects. In addition, select Gardenroots participants will be involved in focus groups and individual semi-structured interviews to understand and gauge changes in knowledge as well as serving to evaluate the program itself and to further explore changes in motivation and self-efficacy. This information is critical to moving citizen science efforts forward and to determine whether such projects: 1) co-produce environmental monitoring, exposure assessment, and risk data in a form that will be directly relevant to the participant's lives, 2) increase the community’s involvement in environmental decision-making, and 3) improve environmental health education and literacy in underserved communities.