Feeling Our Way Through: the Affordances of the Citizen Science Experience for Environmental Learning

Dunkley, R. (2019) Feeling Our Way Through: the Affordances of the Citizen Science Experience for Environmental Learning. RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2019, London, UK, 27-30 Aug 2019.

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Much has been said about the potentials of public involvement in environmental citizen science, not least in terms of learning (Miller-Rushing, Primack & Bonney, 2012; PostNote, 2014) and nurturing pro-environmental behaviours (Dickinson, Crain, Reeve & Schuldt, 2013). Yet a lack of data concerning the experiences of citizen scientists means that such claims, though hopeful are yet largely unsubstantiated. This paper explores the effects of involvement in environmental citizen science for those citizen scientists who participate, noting in particular, outcomes in terms of learning and human/non-human relationality. It does this by exploring environmental citizen science initiatives within the United Kingdom and questions existing presumptions concerning the types of effects that citizen science involvement has upon participants. The paper draws upon a research study involving both working-age and retired adults, participating in two major environmental citizen science projects, one of which involved river monitoring and the other, a phenology study, which required the observation of trees (Dunkley, 2019). This paper explores the citizen science experience through accompanying participants during their monitoring activities and through conversation with these participants following these experiences. It explores how participants’ themselves make sense of their citizen science experiences, and the role that being a citizen scientist plays within their everyday lives. It emerges from the study that many participants involved felt their way through the citizen science process, and through this process, the familiar became unfamiliar, which in turn, led to novel learning experiences. The affordances of citizen science, therefore, emerge as being concerned with the opportunities associated with embodied experience. The paper concludes by questioning whether involvement in citizen science leads to the, often predefined outcomes, which are determined by those who develop citizen science initiatives, while also challenging the notion that citizen science, as an activity with a pre-determined structure, deters individuals from experiencing the natural world in a more reflective, ‘slower’ way.

Item Type:Conference or Workshop Item
Keywords:Environmental citizen science, ecological affordances, nature-culture, human/non-human, environmental learning.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Dunkley, Dr Ria
Authors: Dunkley, R.
Subjects:G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > G Geography (General)
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Education > Creativity Culture and Faith
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