Exploring information diffusion through case studies of volunteer water monitoring programs in Montana

Authors: Liam Bean*, Montana State University, Sarah P. Church, Montana State University, Adam Sigler, Montana State University
Topics: Social Geography, Education , Qualitative Methods
Keywords: Citizen Science, Learning
Session Type: Virtual Poster
Day: 4/10/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 51
Presentation File: Download



Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR), often called “citizen science”, has been heavily promoted across different disciplines in recent decades. PPSR is extolled for two reasons 1) it can potentially reduce the cost of data collection and large-scale monitoring projects 2) it has been shown that volunteers (or citizen scientists) have significant educational takeaways from their experiences. In the last two decades large strides have been made in understanding how participation in PPSR programs influences knowledge of individual participants. Less work has been done to determine learning outcomes and program efficacy beyond their effects on participants. While several researchers have addressed how PPSR projects have differing outcomes on broader populations (such as policies enacted or increased public awareness of an issue), there are few empirical examples of how PPSR programs diffuse knowledge through participant’s social networks. The number of key headwaters in the Montana-Wyoming area has led to the proliferation of Volunteer Water Monitoring Projects (VWMPs) throughout the region. The large number of VWMPs in a similar geographical and cultural context makes Montana an ideal location for comparative case studies of PPSR programs. We plan to explore how differing levels of public involvement in a program influences how VWMPs across Montana diffuse scientific knowledge through a wider community, if at all. In this poster we will discuss the project design, case selection, and theoretical basis for a project that will explore these topics in Montana watersheds, utilizing a mix of qualitative approaches including map assisted interviews.

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