Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Citizen Science in the National Parks

Academic journal article The Science Teacher

Citizen Science in the National Parks

Article excerpt

Citizen science is coming to the national parks. The National Science Foundation has awarded $250,000 to the Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL), the National Park Service (NPS), and the Schoodic Education and Research Center Institute (SERC) for a new project that will involve visitors to Acadia National Park in hands-on scientific research.

"This partnership will give a new high-tech dimension to citizen science in Maine," says Kevin Strange, director of MDIBL. "It will serve as a model for new collaborations between research institutions and national parks across the United States."

The project, called "Pathway to BioTrails," will involve members of the public in monitoring animal and plant species in Acadia National Park and Frenchman Bay using a genetic technique called DNA barcoding. This technique can help verify that an organism has been identified accurately by comparing its DNA to that from other specimens identified by experts.

Identifying species without DNA barcoding can be difficult. That difficulty limits the scale and accuracy of potential research projects and forces many citizen science projects to spend more energy on species identification and less on the actual scientific and educational goals of the project. DNA barcoding can help validate the tentative identifications made by citizen scientists and can increase both the scientific and educational value of citizen science projects.

The BioTrails project will ultimately offer a range of citizen science projects organized around hiking, cycling, and sea-kayaking trails to some of the 2.5 million people who visit Acadia National Park each year. …

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