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The Role of Social Capital, Trust and Learning in Solving Groundwater Quality and Quantity Issues in the Northeast with Citizen Science

Investigators
Leahy, Jessica
Institutions
University of Maine
Start date
2008
End date
2011
Objective
The long-term goals of this project are to improve social science and water quality science knowledge among a variety of stakeholders; increase public awareness and involvement in water quality issues; create opportunities for change within many communities, including those facing salinity issues; and train the next generation of managers, scientists, and teachers to work in an interdisciplinary ways that also communicate scientific information effectively. Our extension objective is to: 1) Our extension objective is to deliver a comprehensive groundwater quality curriculum in two different settings: K-12 schools and 4-H afterschool programs. Our research objectives are to: 1) explore the role of social capital within communities in the impact of student-collected data and the role of trust in student-collected information, and 2) evaluate the differences in student, household, and administrator, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior changes based on the delivery setting. Our education objectives are to develop, lead, and share three innovative experiential graduate-level courses in: 1) interdisciplinary approaches to water resources research using action-oriented community-based projects, 2) volunteer management for environmental monitoring, and 3) water resources-related environmental education. The outputs from this project will include: new applied knowledge, scientific publications, new methods & curriculum, practical knowledge for policy and decision-makers (local government officials), information, skills & technology for individuals, communities and programs, prticipants reached, extension programs, students graduated in environmental science with training in interdisciplinary work, volunteer management, and environmental education, and partnerships.
More information
Non-Technical Summary: The watersheds in this project all face significant issues from salinity in drinking water wells: the inland Connecticut River Watershed bordering Vermont and New Hampshire; the outlet of the Pawcatuck River Watershed bordering Connecticut and Rhode Island; the Cape Cod Watershed in Massachusetts; and the Lower Penobscot River Watershed in Maine. Effective tools for monitoring salinity are currently lacking, as are strategies for educating decision-makers and households about improved water management strategies. Our extension objective is to deliver a comprehensive groundwater quality curriculum in two different settings: 1) K-12 schools and 2) 4-H afterschool programs. The proposed extension engages several facets of the community through local citizen volunteer commissions supervising K-12 students who collect data and present to local government officials and the public. Our research objectives are to: 1) explore the role of social capital within communities in the impact of student-collected data and the role of trust in student-collected information, and 2) evaluate the differences in student, household, and administrator, knowledge, attitudes, and behavior changes based on the delivery setting. Our education objectives are to develop, lead, and share three innovative experiential graduate-level courses in: 1) interdisciplinary approaches to water resources research using action-oriented community-based projects, 2) volunteer management for environmental monitoring, and 3) water resources-related environmental education. This project will improve social science and water quality science knowledge among a variety of stakeholders; increase public awareness and involvement in water quality issues; and create opportunities for change within many communities, including those facing salinity issues.

Approach: GET WET! will work with local K-12 school students and 4-H youth participants whose samples of their own well water will be analyzed as a either a class or 4-H project. Through a mixed qualitative and quantitative methodology we will evaluate how social capital influences the efficacy of citizen science with local government officials. Furthermore, we will attempt to measure the trust placed in citizen science data by local government officials. To evaluate learning from the groundwater education program, we will follow similar qualitative and quantitative research methodology as described above. Interview guides and survey instruments will be developed to measure pre- and post- knowledge, attitudes and behaviors related to water resources and household water conservation. Separate tools will be developed for students, 4-H youth participants, parents, educators, and administrators to evaluate GET WET! impacts at different levels. We will work with the George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research to teach an interdisciplinary graduate-level course on water quality and quantity issues related to private wells in the Northeast. We will develop a graduate level course in "Volunteer Management for Environmental Monitoring" so that future planners, managers, and scientists need to be equipped with the skills to manage volunteers given the growing reliance and importance of citizen science in environmental management. Finally, an existing environmental education course taught in the School of Forest Resources will be modified to include a stronger focus on water resources.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
ME0-2008-03618
Accession number
215369
Categories
Sanitation and Quality Standards
Chemical Contaminants
Education and Training