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Thursday, February 24 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
Track 1: The Power of Citizen Science: Creating a Unique Force of Volunteers to Conduct Important Research

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Are you struggling with limited resources to complete scientific projects in your organization? Are you frustrated that more important and beneficial work could be completed if you had the resources? By the end of this session, participants will understand how to engage citizen scientists at multiple levels to both leverage staff resources and to empower volunteers as scientists, educators, and advocates. 

Citizen science is an important way to connect people to nature while also leveraging limited resources, such as staff. Typically, volunteers in most organizations engage in only certain aspects of projects, such as fieldwork. Through its Citizen Science Program, the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale, Arizona, has developed ways to broaden the impact of volunteers, benefiting both the organization and the volunteers. Citizen Scientists have the opportunity to engage in projects from beginning to end, from project inception through experimental design, data collection, analyses and mapping, and communicating results. 

Because of the strong engagement of citizen scientists, the Conservancy is able to work on more than 15 scientific projects concurrently. Our work focuses on protecting flora and fauna, maintaining habitat connectivity, and determining cost-effective management practices that can be used throughout the Sonoran Desert. By participating in this diversity of projects, Citizen Scientists steadily increase their expertise in field ecology and scientific experimentation. In addition, they receive continuing education about the natural history of arid lands and in the basics of scientific research, supplemented by in-depth training for individual projects.

An important aspect of the Citizen Science program is its self-managed structure, mirroring that of the Conservancy’s steward organization. Once trained, Citizen Science teams often work independently with limited staff and research partner oversight. This program has created an elite and capable working group – people with no prior scientific experience are now strong contributors to ecological research and monitoring.

The presentation will provide an overview of this successful model and the important work we are able to accomplish because of it.

avatar for Tiffany Sprague

Tiffany Sprague

Biodiversity Manager, McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
Tiffany has devoted her life to protecting our natural world while educating and inspiring others to do the same. She has a BS in Wildlife Sciences from University of Arizona and an MS in Applied Biological Sciences from Arizona State University. As a wildlife biologist, she has worked... Read More →
avatar for John Zikias

John Zikias

McDowell Sonoran Conservancy
John A. Zikias is a Lead Steward and chair of the Citizen Science Program for the McDowell Sonoran Conservancy in Scottsdale, Arizona. John began volunteering for the Conservancy in October 2019 after a successful business career in the convenience store industry. During his business... Read More →

Thursday February 24, 2022 11:30am - 12:00pm MST
Sonoran 2