Erin Heaney on the Promise and Potential of Citizen Science

After our recent New Visions for Citizen Science event, Erin Heaney, director of the Clean Air Coalition of Western New York, sat down with the Wilson Center’s Context program to talk about how her environmental group uses citizen science and why people don’t necessarily need a science degree to participate in citizen science projects.

The group shows citizens in Western New York how to monitor air quality using a hand vacuum, which is helpful in aggregating data about pollution in neighborhoods that might be lacking monitors. The group has used this information to help the Environmental Protection Agency and state authorities better regulate air near Tonawanda, NY, including one case that resulted in criminal and civil penalties and significant reductions in pollution.

You can also read more about various citizen science projects in our new report, New Visions in Citizen Science, which illustrates a number of ways citizen science can affect policy.


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