5.3 Eyes on Central PA: Engaging Viewers through Citizen Science

Thursday, 19 June 2014: 8:30 AM
Alpine Ballroom (Resort at Squaw Creek)
Sara Espinoza, National Environmental Education Foundation, Washington, DC; and J. Murgo, C. Gray, and Y. Ansari

Nationwide, people are taking note of environmental and climate change in their own backyards and neighborhoods. They're noticing that the leaves changed earlier this year, that certain animals disappear during the winter months, or that new bird species are showing up at their feeders. To help contextualize these observations in terms of local weather and climate, WTAJ-TV (WeareCentralPA.com), the National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF, neefusa.org) and Project Noah (projectnoah.org) teamed up to launch Eyes on Central PA. Embedded in WTAJ-TV's website, Eyes on Central PA harnesses Project Noah's photo-based citizen science platform to collect and display photos of wildlife – plants, animals, insects and more – from users in the WTAJ-TV viewing area. As viewers submit photos, NEEF and Chief Meteorologist Joe Murgo work together to provide regular blog posts and on-air shout outs that highlight viewers' photo observations and link them to local weather and climate conditions. Story topics have included climate change and shifts in winter bird ranges, animal adaptations for surviving winter and coping with cold weather, and the impact of weather on the timing of fall leaf changes. We've also linked up with local nature centers and conservancies to highlight opportunities for WTAJ-TV viewers to get outside, learn about the wildlife and environment of Central Pennsylvania, and collect new photo observations. By sharing photos through Eyes on Central PA, WTAJ-TV viewers are not only building a local, real-time catalog of wildlife observations, they are also contributing to Project Noah's global community by collecting important ecological data that can contribute to scientific research.

In this presentation, the Eyes on Central PA partners will share our experience in conceptualizing, developing and launching this innovative pilot project. We will share information about the partnership structure, Project Noah's platform and technology, WTAJ-TV's interactive Eyes on Central PA web page, and our strategies for engaging WTAJ-TV viewers on-air and online. We will also discuss future directions for the project and opportunities for expansion to additional television stations.

About the project partners: WTAJ-TV is a CBS-affiliated station based in Altoona, PA, but covers several climate zones through Central Pennsylvania.

The National Environmental Education Foundation is the nation's leading organization in lifelong environmental learning, connecting people to knowledge they use to improve the quality of their lives and the health of the planet. We achieve this by providing knowledge to trusted professionals and other leaders who, with their credibility, amplify messages to national audiences to solve everyday environmental problems.

Project Noah is an award-winning software platform designed to help people reconnect with the natural world. Project Noah is mobilizing a new generation of nature explorers and helping people from around the world appreciate their local wildlife. The Project Noah community is harnessing the power and popularity of new mobile technologies to collect important ecological data and help preserve global biodiversity.

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