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Peer-reviewed article

Shapeshifting attachment: Exploring multi-dimensional people–place bonds in place-based citizen science

December 21, 2020 | Exhibitions, Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks, Public Programs
  1. Research on citizen science programmes has highlighted that they can foster science content and knowledge gain, enhance pro-environmental behaviour and cultivate civic action among participants. Especially in the case of place-based citizen science, which requires hands-on repeated activity in an out-of-door setting through a scientific lens, evidence suggests that some of these outcomes may be linked to the unique people–place relationships and interactions afforded by such programmes.
  2. Even still, studies that empirically examine the influence of place on citizen science participant and programme outcomes are scant. This is due, in part, to the methodological challenges involved in interrogating complex aspects of a person's sense of place—aspects like place attachment—the emotional bonds between people and place.
  3. Here, an adapted three-dimensional model of place attachment is proposed as a theoretical framework from which place-based citizen science experiences and outcomes might be empirically examined in depth. The model, which posits personal, social and natural environment dimensions of place attachment is contextualized with research findings from the US-based Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST) citizen science programme.
  4. Data from COASST suggest that participants do exhibit place attachment in all three dimensions of attachment, categorized within seven unique constructs, although questions remain regarding the unique intensity, make-up (shape) and scale (spatial, social and nature-science) of individual-level attachment along the three central dimensions. Critically, more research is needed to investigate whether the unique place attachment ‘profile’ of participants is a function of personal, social or programmatic variables pre- and post-programme participation.
  5. To encourage further scholarship on potential links between the experiences, exposures and programme components of place-based citizen science and the place attachment profiles of participants, this paper includes a brief review of the research opportunities presented by the adapted three-dimensional place attachment model discussed.
  6. Advancing this line of inquiry is an important component of broader efforts to understand how sense of place is altered via place-based citizen science and whether or not that is linked to specific programme outputs or participant outcomes in science knowledge, ecological understanding and civic engagement.


  • REVISE logo
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team
  • Yurong He
    University of Washington
  • Benjamin Haywood
    Co-Principal Investigator
    Furman University
  • Citation

    DOI :
    Publication Name: People and Nature
    Volume: 3
    Number: 1
    Page Number: 51-65


    Funding Program: Advancing Informal STEM Learning Program (AISL)
    Award Number: 2031884
    Resource Type: Research | Research Products | Peer-reviewed article
    Discipline: Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | Education and learning science | General STEM | Geoscience and geography | Social science and psychology
    Audience: Adults | Educators/Teachers | General Public | Learning Researchers | Museum/ISE Professionals | Parents/Caregivers | Scientists | Undergraduate/Graduate Students
    Environment Type: Museum and Science Center Exhibits | Professional Development, Conferences, and Networks | Conferences | Citizen Science Programs
    Access and Inclusion: Indigenous and Tribal Communities | Rural

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