Using Open Data and Citizen
Science to Promote Citizen
Engagement with Green
Infrastructure
Deborah Boyer
dboyer@azavea.co...
About Azavea
• Founded in 2000
• Based in Philadelphia
• Research driven
• Building geospatial software
with a civic focus
How do you use technology to engage
with your communities?

Citizen Science
Open Source
Open Data
Glenwood Ave and Reese S...
Defining citizen science
• “Projects in which volunteers partner with scientists to
answer real-world questions.” – The Co...
Citizen Science for Stormwater
• Provides opportunities for spreading the word about
green infrastructure
• Attracts peopl...
• A collaborative platform for crowdsourced tree
inventory, ecosystem service calculations,
urban forestry analysis, and c...
Main Features
• Search and Explore Tree
Data
• View Ecosystem Benefits
• Add New Trees
• Edit and Update Trees
• Upload Tr...
Viewing Ecosystem Benefits
• Available for search results or
individual trees
• Calculated using i-Tree Streets
• Can be c...
OpenTreeMap In Action
Stewardship Search

• Add ability to search by public
actions, not just tree attributes
• Use settings that let the public...
How do you get people involved?
• Tree mapping parties in
Grand Rapids
• The Great Tree Count in
California

• Tree survey...
Smartphone Apps
Tablet Accessible
Tracking Green Infrastructure

• Adding support for tracking rain gardens, rain barrels,
and other green infrastructure
• ...
OpenTreeMap Data Quality Checks
• Remove duplicate
trees during data
upload
• Tree watch list
• Drop down lists
• User gro...
The dark side of citizen science
• Difficult to list or quantify the impact on participants and
the long-term effects
• Ma...
Getting started with citizen science
• Review existing projects
– Brevard County, Florida’s storm drain marking and storm
...
General Guidelines
• Select a topic that is integral to your mission
• Include basic tasks completed with minimal training...
What is open source?
• Anyone can download, contribute, and reuse the
code within the parameters of the open source
licens...
Open Source
≠
Puppy Dogs and Lollipops
Potential Issues
• May not be out of the box with step by step
instructions
• Can require learning new technologies

• Com...
How to Contribute
• Explore existing open source repositories
• Become part of an open source community
• Contribute back ...
Open Data Philly
Open Data and Civic Hacking

• Draw in new audiences who can challenge you to think
in alternative ways about green infras...
What to share?
• Green stormwater projects
• PWD stormwater billing
parcels
• Water inlets
• Combined sewer service
area
•...
What next?
• Make data available in easy accessible formats
(shapefiles, APIs, metadata)
• Keep information up to date
• P...
Aren’t civic hackathons so
2009?
Being Realistic about Hackathons
• Be clear about your goals from the beginning
• Have reasonable expectations – you will ...
In Philly
• Code for Philly Brigade and many meet-ups
• Chief Data Officer with an interest in civic hacking
• Sharing of ...
Embrace openness and technology, in all
their messiness, as new forms of community
engagement that can assist with innovat...
Using Open Data and Citizen
Science to Promote Citizen
Engagement with Green
Infrastructure
Deborah Boyer
dboyer@azavea.co...
Using Open Data and Citizen Science to Promote Citizen Engagement with Green Infrastructure
Using Open Data and Citizen Science to Promote Citizen Engagement with Green Infrastructure
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Using Open Data and Citizen Science to Promote Citizen Engagement with Green Infrastructure

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Presentation given at the Green Infrastructure and Water Management in Growing Metropolitan Areas conference on January 15, 2014 at the Patel College of Global Sustainability at the University of South Florida, Tampa, Florida.

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Using Open Data and Citizen Science to Promote Citizen Engagement with Green Infrastructure

  1. 1. Using Open Data and Citizen Science to Promote Citizen Engagement with Green Infrastructure Deborah Boyer dboyer@azavea.com Green Infrastructure and Water Management in Growing Metropolitan Areas January 15, 2013
  2. 2. About Azavea • Founded in 2000 • Based in Philadelphia • Research driven • Building geospatial software with a civic focus
  3. 3. How do you use technology to engage with your communities? Citizen Science Open Source Open Data Glenwood Ave and Reese Street, 1907
  4. 4. Defining citizen science • “Projects in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real-world questions.” – The Cornell Lab of Orinthology • “[our] mission is to create online citizen science projects to involve the public in academic research. We believe that by doing this we can not only help everyone share in the excitement of discovery, but that such projects are a necessary response to the flood of data facing researchers in many fields.” – Citizen Science Alliance
  5. 5. Citizen Science for Stormwater • Provides opportunities for spreading the word about green infrastructure • Attracts people interested in technology as well as the natural world • Has the potential for exploring new ways of approaching stormwater issues • Can build a community of advocates for change • Can also be a whole lot of work
  6. 6. • A collaborative platform for crowdsourced tree inventory, ecosystem service calculations, urban forestry analysis, and community engagement • Open source software available at https://github.com/azavea/ • Supported by USDA Small Business Innovation Research grants
  7. 7. Main Features • Search and Explore Tree Data • View Ecosystem Benefits • Add New Trees • Edit and Update Trees • Upload Tree Photos • Track Stewardship Activities
  8. 8. Viewing Ecosystem Benefits • Available for search results or individual trees • Calculated using i-Tree Streets • Can be customized with local energy values • Requires species and diameter data – important caveat
  9. 9. OpenTreeMap In Action
  10. 10. Stewardship Search • Add ability to search by public actions, not just tree attributes • Use settings that let the public explore stewardship actions • Display results with design that emphasizes action or inaction
  11. 11. How do you get people involved? • Tree mapping parties in Grand Rapids • The Great Tree Count in California • Tree surveys in Philadelphia • Partner with colleges • Integration with citizen forester classes
  12. 12. Smartphone Apps
  13. 13. Tablet Accessible
  14. 14. Tracking Green Infrastructure • Adding support for tracking rain gardens, rain barrels, and other green infrastructure • Need to integrate a flexible system for customizing ecosystem services calculations • Is there a way to integrate with gaming and education? • More complicated process for indicating the feature raises questions of data accuracy
  15. 15. OpenTreeMap Data Quality Checks • Remove duplicate trees during data upload • Tree watch list • Drop down lists • User groups • Reputation points
  16. 16. The dark side of citizen science • Difficult to list or quantify the impact on participants and the long-term effects • May just attract people who were already interested in your work • Sudden influx of users who may quickly move on to another topic that gets some press • Resources spent on management can outweigh potential economic or staff reasons for pursuing citizen science
  17. 17. Getting started with citizen science • Review existing projects – Brevard County, Florida’s storm drain marking and storm water asset marking programs http://www.brevardcounty.us/NaturalResources/GetInvolv ed – University of New Hampshire’s Coastal Research Volunteer program - http://www.seagrant.unh.edu/crv – Scientific American’s Citizen Science list http://www.scientificamerican.com/citizen-science/
  18. 18. General Guidelines • Select a topic that is integral to your mission • Include basic tasks completed with minimal training and have additional tasks or privileges for users that have shown a commitment to the project • Balance the technology with the desire to be outside • Build-in data quality checks whenever possible • Balance the desire for perfect data with the other benefits of a citizen science project • Take advantage of collaborations and open source
  19. 19. What is open source? • Anyone can download, contribute, and reuse the code within the parameters of the open source license • Maintained by a community of users • New features are added back into the code for everyone to use • No license fee
  20. 20. Open Source ≠ Puppy Dogs and Lollipops
  21. 21. Potential Issues • May not be out of the box with step by step instructions • Can require learning new technologies • Community may be entirely volunteer • New versions and changes constantly (or seldom) appear
  22. 22. How to Contribute • Explore existing open source repositories • Become part of an open source community • Contribute back any changes or improvements you make or add documentation • Make materials available as open source with clearly listed licenses on a common open source repository (Github, Sourceforge, etc) • Share your data and software work
  23. 23. Open Data Philly
  24. 24. Open Data and Civic Hacking • Draw in new audiences who can challenge you to think in alternative ways about green infrastructure • Create opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration • Highlight the amazing work you’ve been doing • Demonstrate your commitment to open information and creating green communities focused on sustainability
  25. 25. What to share? • Green stormwater projects • PWD stormwater billing parcels • Water inlets • Combined sewer service area • Surface water features • Land cover raster (urban tree canopy) • Riparian buffers • Land use designations • Soil survey
  26. 26. What next? • Make data available in easy accessible formats (shapefiles, APIs, metadata) • Keep information up to date • Publish research and monitoring data too, if applicable • Promote data availability (open data sites, university classes, etc) • Participate in civic hackathons and other events
  27. 27. Aren’t civic hackathons so 2009?
  28. 28. Being Realistic about Hackathons • Be clear about your goals from the beginning • Have reasonable expectations – you will not be building a tool that saves the world in 48 hours • Focus on particular challenges or data sets • Hackathon participants are not free labor that you get to order around • A civic hacking event is just the first step in a long process • Use the opportunity to brainstorm ideas and collaborate in an interdisciplinary fashion
  29. 29. In Philly • Code for Philly Brigade and many meet-ups • Chief Data Officer with an interest in civic hacking • Sharing of information on OpenDataPhilly • Many, many hackathon opportunities – – – – Random Hacks of Kindness TechCamp Education Apps for Philly Transit NASA Space Apps
  30. 30. Embrace openness and technology, in all their messiness, as new forms of community engagement that can assist with innovation. Lardner’s Point Pumping Station, 1903
  31. 31. Using Open Data and Citizen Science to Promote Citizen Engagement with Green Infrastructure Deborah Boyer dboyer@azavea.com Green Infrastructure and Water Management in Growing Metropolitan Areas January 15, 2013

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