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Citizen Science as a Tool for Transdisciplinary Research and Stakeholder Engagement
  • Russanne Low,
  • Theresa Schwerin,
  • Renee Codsi
Russanne Low
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Arlington VA

Corresponding Author:rusty_low@strategies.org

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Theresa Schwerin
Institute for Global Environmental Strategies, Arlington VA
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Renee Codsi
University of Washington School of Public Health
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This presentation describes a vector-borne disease risk reduction project conducted in Brazil and Peru as part of USAID’s Combating Zika and Future Threats Initiative. The myriad factors contributing to vector borne disease risk stem from interactions in a system that includes local ecology and environmental parameters, urbanization, access to health services, economic resources, human behavior, and the presence of disease vectors and pathogens. The emergence of technologies such as smart phones, cloud-based data servers, and data visualization and analysis tools have fostered rapid growth in citizen science programs and tools. The phenomenon of citizen science is seen by many as an important sociocultural development that has the potential to democratize science. While a number of citizen science projects may be characterized as transdisciplinary research, in many cases stakeholder engagement is limited to participation in crowd-sourced data collection. In this project, the stakeholders- educators, students, community leaders and public health officials- all contributed to the project at levels of effort and in ways that were most meaningful for them. A key innovation employed in this project was a mobile citizen science app that enabled stakeholders to locate, identify and mitigate mosquito breeding habitats. While there are many data collection apps that enable citizen scientists to report environmental observations for use by the science community, the NASA GLOBE Observer Mosquito Habitat Mapper also enables users to tally their efforts as they eliminate mosquito oviposition sites. This app capability supports municipalities keen on promoting behaviors that reduce the risk of vector-borne disease. We discuss the transdisciplinary approach employed through each phase of the project: ideation, realization, experimentation and evaluation, and how prioritizing local stakeholder knowledge and experience resulted in recommendations that will be used to improve a citizen science app that is employed internationally.