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Citizen Science in the Age of Neogeography: Utilizing Volunteered Geographic Information for Environmental Monitoring

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Abstract:

The interface between neogeography and citizen science has great potential for environmental monitoring, but this nexus has been explored less often than each subject individually. In this article we review the emerging role of volunteered geographic information in citizen science and present a case study of an integrated tool set that engages multiple types of users (from targeted citizen-based observation networks, expert-driven focused monitoring, and opportunistic crowdsourcing efforts) in monitoring a forest disease in the western United States. We first introduce the overall challenge of data collection in environmental monitoring projects and then discuss the literature surrounding an emergent integration of citizen science and volunteered geographical information. We next explore how these methods characterize and underpin knowledge discovery and how multimodal interaction is supported so that a large spectrum of contributors can be included. These concepts are summarized in a conceptual model that articulates the important gradients of Web-based environmental monitoring: the users, the interaction between users and data, and the types of information generated. Using this model, we critically examine OakMapper.org, a Web site created by the authors to collect and distribute spatial information related to the spread of a forest disease, and discuss many of the core issues and new challenges presented by the intersection of citizen science and volunteered geographic information in the context of environmental monitoring. We argue that environmental monitoring can benefit from this synergy: The increased emphasis on a diversity of participants in knowledge production might help to reduce the gaps that have in the past divided the public, researchers, and policymakers in such efforts.

Keywords: SIG participante; Web GIS; ciencia ciudadana; citizen science; fuente libre; información geográfica voluntaria; muerte súbita de robles; open source; participatory GIS; sudden oak death; volunteered geographic information

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/00045608.2011.627058

Affiliations: 1: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, Arizona State University, 2: Department of Environmental Sciences,Policy and Management, University of California, Berkeley

Publication date: 2012-11-01

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