September 30, 2015

Citizen Science effort Summer on the Marsh showcases regional data

Last weekend kids from up and down the coast of New England attended a virtual summit to share data they collected this summer. The citizen science program, Summer on the Marsh, run by the New England Ocean Science Education Collaborative, or NEOSEC, connected capable and motivated kids with coastal ecologists like Juliet Simpson, from MIT Sea Grant, to explore, learn about, and, most importantly, monitor their local salt marshes. Summer on the Marsh established a regional network of eight summer camp programs grounded in field experiences for environmental education.

What was truly special about this effort was the collaboration. The eight camps were located in 5 different New England states, working with different kids from a range of backgrounds, in different centers, all working together to collect similar data on ecosystem health in marshes. The data they collected was stronger because of their unified effort.

It was about more than data collection though. The kids really got to be part of something larger, the knowledge that their marsh was connected to the other marshes in the region, that they had collected data to be used in a regional assessment gave them important context. Participants learned how salt marshes connect to their own homes, the watersheds where they live, how marsh health affects human health, and how monitoring can help assess how healthy a salt marsh is.

Camp councilors were trained in the spring, and then campers collected data while they were at camp in the summer. This hard work culminated in a virtual, tele-conferenced symposium in the fall where partner camps were able to access and look at one another’s data as a means of demonstrating how regional data-sharing networks work.

The program ends December of 2015, but NEOSEC hopes to expand this effort by making the data collection sheets, and data storage, available to interested groups.

Summer on the Marsh was generously funded by the EPA. All partner camps are members of the NEOSEC, which is hosted by the New England Aquarium. More information can be found here: http://www.neosec.dreamhosters.com/summer-on-the-marsh/

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