One common barrier to STEM engagement by underserved and underrepresented communities is a feeling of disconnection from mainstream science. This project will involve citizen scientists in the collection, mapping, and interpretation of data from their local area with an eye to increasing STEM engagement in underrepresented communities. The idea behind this is that science needs to start at home, and be both accessible and inclusive. To facilitate this increased participation, the project will develop a network of stakeholders with interests in the science of coastal environments. Stakeholders will include members of coastal communities, academic and agency scientists, and citizen science groups, who will collectively and collaboratively create a web-based system to collect and view the collected and analyzed environmental information. Broader impacts include addressing the STEM barriers to those who reside in the coastal environment but who are underrepresented in STEM education, vocations and policy-making. These include tribal communities (racial and ethnic inclusion), fishery communities (inclusion of communities of practice), and rural communities without direct access to colleges or universities. This project will create a physical, a social, and a virtual, environment where all participants have an equal footing in the processes of "doing science" - the Coastal Almanac. The Almanac is simultaneously a network of individuals and organizations, and a web-based repository of coastal data collected through the auspices of the network. During the testing phase, the researchers will implement the "rules of engagement" through multiple interaction pathways in the growing Coastal Almanac network: increases in rigorous citizen science, development of specific community-scientist partnerships to collect and/or use Almanac data, development of K-12 programs to collect and/or use Almanac data. The proposed work will significantly scale up citizen science and community-based science programs on the West Coast, broadening participation by targeting members of coastal communities with limited access to mainstream science, including participants from non-STEM vocations, and Native Americans. The innovation of the Coastal Almanac is in allowing the process of deepening involvement in science, and through that process increasing agency of community members to be bona fide members of the science team, to evolve organically, in the manner dictated by community members and the situation, rather than a priori by the project team and mainstream science. The project has the potential in the long-term to increase participation in marine science education, workforce, and policy-making by underrepresented groups resident in the coastal environment. Contributions by project citizen scientists will also provide valuable data to mainstream science and to resource management efforts.
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