Did you know that the University of Central Florida has a program that is changing the way communities and scientists work together through something called Citizen Science GIS? You may be asking yourself – what is Citizen Science GIS?

Neither of these terms are unique to UCF. According to Wikipedia, Citizen science (CS) (also known as crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, volunteer monitoring or networked science) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists. Citizen science is sometimes described as “public participation in scientific research”, participatory monitoring and participatory action research. So that makes sense – right? We are getting the communities involved in some of our research… but what is GIS?

GIS is short for Geographic Information System. Through the power of mapping, it allows us to visualize, question, analyze and interpret data to understand relationships, patterns and trends.

UCF is leveraging Citizen Science and GIS to work with communities across the globe to visualize local knowledge through GIS, drones and collaboration. Led by Dr. Timothy Hawthorne, the program is focused on unique university-community partnerships to utilize spatial thinking and geographic methods (in addition to GIS and drones they use: mapping, participatory action research, tablets, field data collection, focus groups, and interviews) to cooperatively address the needs and desires of community groups, neighborhood institutions and residents across the globe.

This week, Dr. Hawthorne is leading a team of undergraduate student researchers on a trip to Belize! As a part of the UCF Department of Sociology and the UCF GIS Cluster Initiative, this first of its kind experience gives undergraduates research training that has an explicit international focus on community geography/GIS and participatory methodologies. Student mastery of geospatial STEM research skills will be accomplished largely through students creating an open and freely available geospatial data infrastructure to address social and environmental disparities related to marine debris and flooding/disaster management in Belize. This objective will include the creation of an online, interactive geospatial data and mapping portal through ArcGIS Online.

The team will study in #HopkinsVillage, where they will work with the community to see the impact of flood and hurricane season. By focusing on #marinedebris, #flooding and #disastermanagement, students will collaboratively work on research that matters. The idea is not to ‘parachute in’. Dr. Hawthorne works with this team year after year and has established his mission of telling the story of where science and society meet to allow for a better future.

Follow the team on Facebook @citizensciencegis to get a daily update on this summer’s trip! Or visit http://www.citizensciencegis.org/ to learn more about what Dr. Hawthorne and his team are doing to change the way communities and scientists work together through technology!

This is the power of #studyabroad #ucfabroad #globalknights #citizensciencegis #ucfreu #openreef
watch the drone footage here! https://youtu.be/K5zSFKw7F24

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