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Caren Cooper

Associate Professor

Jordan Hall Addition 5219

Area(s) of Expertise

Wildlife Biology, Citizen Science

Publications

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Grants

Date: 09/01/17 - 8/31/23
Amount: $868,885.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

The goal of this proposed Research in Service to Practice proposal is to develop evidence-based principles to guide citizen science project owners in the coordinated management of project participants within the SciStarter landscape. SciStarter is a repository of over 1,500 citizen science projects. Through an AISL-Pathways award, the researchers developed SciStarter 2.0 tools which can be used to study and coordinate recruitment and retention strategies across projects. Coordinated management has the potential to deepen volunteer learning and growth and benefit project goals because it can address across-project skew, evolving motivations, seasonal gaps, untapped synergies across projects, and other unanticipated factors that cannot be addressed via management within project silos. The researchers designed SciStarter for embedded tracking of participation dynamics in a landscape of projects. They propose to expand embedded assessment to measure scientific, learning, and conservation outcomes and their links to participation dynamics within and across projects. Through social network analysis, they will describe patterns of bridges, ties, and distances among projects based on the cross-over of participants. They also propose qualitative research to understand project managers? perceptions of SciStarter and the costs and benefits of coordinated management of citizen scientists. Ultimately, the proposed study will lead to guidance to create synergies and mutually beneficial outcomes among projects by broader adoption of the newly developed SciStarter 2.0 tools.

Date: 09/15/21 - 3/31/23
Amount: $74,947.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

Citizen science projects number in the thousands and even a single project can engage millions of people. Yet, citizen science is not engaging much beyond highly educated, affluent white participants. The goals of this Conference proposal are to address the urgent need for diversity and inclusion in citizen science. Our primary goal, and strategic impact for the informal STEM learning field, is to create a framework to guide projects in addressing issues of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI) in institution-driven, large-scale, contributory citizen science projects. Our secondary goal is to extend the effort by preparing a proposal for a Research Coordination Network on inclusion in citizen science. To achieve these goals, we will assemble people with highly varied perspectives, lived experiences, and career experiences for a series of virtual workshops over several months.

Date: 09/01/18 - 3/31/23
Amount: $400,000.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

“Citizen science” refers to a broad spectrum of ways in which scientists and members of the public collaborate in scientific discovery, and scientists and practitioners engaged in the use of citizen science isa rapidly growing part of the scientific community. However, because citizen science can be initiated and funded outside of traditional institutions and conventional regulatory oversight mechanisms, and creates new circumstances overlooked by regulatory oversight, the field has an ethics gap. The gap presents an opportunity to create and disseminate new frameworks, building an ethical culture at the outset of an emerging field to proactively address issues as they emerge. We focus on the common denominator to nearly all citizen science projects: volunteer data collection and use. We propose to survey current and ideal practices and the use of human-centered design to create ethical culture in collaboration with the Citizen Science Association (CSA) with the goals of: (1) Identifying and guiding responsible research by practitioners in the emerging field of citizen science, and (2) building CSA’s capacity to establish and maintain ethical norms in a burgeoning field.

Date: 04/01/18 - 3/31/23
Amount: $540,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA lead and copper rule shares responsibility for reducing water lead hazards between water utilities and consumers. The first incarnation of this rule appropriately emphasized utility-centric frameworks with corrosion control, pipe replacement in some circumstances and public education. Over-confidence in the effectiveness of corrosion control and pressures on utilities and regulators to cut corners to support the utility centric framework have resulted in several water crisis in which consumers were falsely informed that their water is safe to drink when it was not. Revelations from the Flint water crisis and its aftermath has undermined consumer trust in government at all levels, the U.S. EPA, water utilities, and potable water quality, in general. The obvious failure of the utility-centric model has caused many consumers to abandon potable water for cooking and drinking, which has serious financial impacts on consumers, negative implications for environmental and fiscal sustainability of cities, and has fueled environmental justice concerns in Flint and elsewhere. This research proposes a bottom-up consumer-centric framework to complement and balance the existing top-down utility-centric approach. Research goals are to 1) help consumers to first understand their personal responsibility to protect themselves from water lead risks dependent on their particular circumstance (e.g., responsible party for corrosion control, responsible party for lead bearing plumbing, source water chemistry), 2) develop quantitative models and resources that help consumers predict their relative risk for elevated lead in water as a function of their water supply, neighborhood and existing plumbing materials, 3) examine low cost sampling test methodologies and approaches that can help consumers verify the model predicted risk, 4) evaluate the costs and benefits of potential interventions, and 5) help restore trust and the water utilities role as an honest broker. Three in-depth case studies will be executed to gather data to inform the quantitative models and the consumer-centric bottom-up framework, which represent extremes of responsibility currently placed on consumers including: 1) private well owners who have 100% responsibility for controlling water lead risks, 2) State of MI residents served by public water supplies who will be protected by the most rigorous lead and copper rule in the nation effective 2018, and 3) residents of small rural potable systems whose are supposedly protected by the existing LCR but who live in circumstances that historically have made compliance difficult to achieve. These case studies will demonstrate that the level of responsibility that is placed on the consumer, ultimately determine the framework and quantitative models that they will need to follow, in order to appropriately share their responsibility.

Date: 01/13/21 - 1/31/23
Amount: $154,000.00
Funding Agencies: Lilly Endowment Inc.

Microbes feature prominently in many religious traditions, including the Judeo-Christian traditions. But no holistic work has considered the place of microbiomes in any religious tradition. This award will fund Aminah Al-Attas Bradford to work for two years at NC State finishing up a study of microbiomes in Christianity. This work is at the interface of microbiome studies, Theology, History, Ecology and Public Science and it is anticipated that Aminah will build on connections at NC State across these disciplines in her work. In addition, it will fund Aminah to teach at NC State. The classes she will teach will be decided through further conversations. One likely class would consider (for graduate and undergraduate students) the role of religious institutions in science communication in the United States and more generally. In this course, Aminah would draw upon her own background but would also bring in scholars from throughout the region. A second course might more specifically focus on the view of microbes in Christianity and its historic and modern consequences. These courses would be taught in collaboration with the Department of Applied Ecology and the Public Science Cluster.

Date: 10/01/20 - 9/30/22
Amount: $37,337.00
Funding Agencies: National Science Foundation (NSF)

This IUSE:EHR-ICT proposal seeks to build the capacity for establishing citizen science communities that engage students in meaningful learning experiences in and around the Nation’s largest Historically Black College or University (HBCU). Citizen Science refers to efforts to involve volunteers from across different sectors of society, stakeholder groups, and communities in the scientific process. North Carolina State University (NCSU) has been a leader in efforts to bring Citizen Science into university classrooms through Active Learning (Bonwell & Eison, 1991) pedagogies. As collaborators on this proposed project their experience and expertise will be leveraged in capacity building efforts at North Carolina A&T State University (NC A&T SU) focused in four key areas: training, relationship & awareness building, information technology infrastructure, and needs assessment for scaling-up the project. Initial capacity building efforts within NC A&T SU will be centered in the Sociology and Psychology Programs within the College of Health and Human Sciences (CHSS) and extend outward through partnerships with other programs in the CHHS, other Colleges and Divisions and student organizations within the University, and the broader East Greensboro, NC community. Among other things, funds from the grant will support the training of members of the NC A&T SU research team in the use of citizen science IT platforms and active learning pedagogies. These faculty members will in turn become ambassadors who will host workshops and events that build the capacity of additional faculty collaborators to integrate citizen science-based active learning approaches into their courses. Evaluation of the capacity building efforts will be assessed via rates of participation in capacity building events, implementation of these approaches into university classrooms, and formative evaluations using focus group and surveys.

Date: 09/01/21 - 8/31/22
Amount: $42,999.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Water Resources Research Institute

Ninety-seven of the one hundred counties in North Carolina have at least one community water system with leaded infrastructure. Collectively, these systems serve 10 million people. In 20 counties, 80% or more of the water systems reported leaded infrastructure, serving a total of over one million North Carolinians. Unfortunately, water systems do not have records with sufficient detail to identify highest risk areas at finer spatial scales. Furthermore, there is virtually no data, at any scale, about the privately owned portions of the water transportation systems, namely the privately owned portion of the service line and the household premise plumbing. This proposal addresses the problem that leaded drinking water infrastructure poses a significant health risk across NC. Water utilities cannot properly manage water lead levels without sufficient data about leaded premise plumbing and lead in tap water at households. The EPA funded a project to create Crowd the Tap, a citizen science project in which households share information about their drinking water infrastructure. We propose a Citizen Science Internship program at Shaw University in which student interns function as ambassadors for Crowd the Tap, carrying out direct outreach (in accordance with COVID safety protocols) to priority communities in order to fill data gaps particularly for the DEQs Needs Assessment, NGO/CBO lead mitigation programs, and a statistical model to reliably predict household risk of lead.

Date: 09/01/21 - 8/31/22
Amount: $17,000.00
Funding Agencies: NCSU Water Resources Research Institute

Ninety-seven of the one hundred counties in North Carolina have at least one community water system with leaded infrastructure. Collectively, these systems serve 10 million people. In 20 counties, 80% or more of the water systems reported leaded infrastructure, serving a total of over one million North Carolinians. Unfortunately, water systems do not have records with sufficient detail to identify highest risk areas at finer spatial scales. Furthermore, there is virtually no data, at any scale, about the privately owned portions of the water transportation systems, namely the privately owned portion of the service line and the household premise plumbing. This proposal addresses the problem that leaded drinking water infrastructure poses a significant health risk across NC. Water utilities cannot properly manage water lead levels without sufficient data about leaded premise plumbing and lead in tap water at households. The EPA funded a project to create Crowd the Tap, a citizen science project in which households share information about their drinking water infrastructure. We propose a Citizen Science Internship program at Shaw University in which student interns function as ambassadors for Crowd the Tap, carrying out direct outreach (in accordance with COVID safety protocols) to priority communities in order to fill data gaps particularly for the DEQs Needs Assessment, NGO/CBO lead mitigation programs, and a statistical model to reliably predict household risk of lead.

Date: 08/15/17 - 7/31/19
Amount: $68,580.00
Funding Agencies: NC Wildlife Resources Commission

Project Description: Citizen science represents an innovative strategy for inspiring active engagement in conservation-related issues and fostering higher levels of nature-based recreation, ecological knowledge, and environmental concern. However, more research is needed to understand to what extent and how citizen science projects achieve these goals. The newly constructed Candid Critters project (http://www.nccandidcritters.org/), an offshoot of the successful eMammal camera trapping citizen science platform, has a unique capacity to serve as a wildlife education and outreach tool for residents of all ages across the state of North Carolina. Our proposed study will investigate the potential educational value of this innovative tool by exploring the impact of Candid Critters on participants’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors with respect to conservation. Specifically, we aim to: 1. Describe the demographic attributes, motivations, and nature-based recreation preferences that define different subgroups of project participants (hunters, youth, etc.). 2. Assess baseline beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to wildlife and wildlife conservation among participants prior to project participation. 3. Evaluate changes in beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors related to wildlife and wildlife conservation throughout multiple stages of project participation. 4. Identify specific aspects of the project experience that are most influential with respect to overall satisfaction and conservation outcomes. Our proposed study spans 2 years and involves two different data collection efforts: one focused on adults and another focused on youth in K-12 classrooms. We will evaluate project efficacy by conducting pre- and post-project surveys that assess changes in variables such as wildlife knowledge and perceptions, connection to nature, conservation behaviors, and awareness and perceptions of NCWRC. We will integrate this self-reported data with embedded assessments and participation metrics linked to the project’s online interface. By comparing responses across time and linking them to project engagement patterns, we hope to identify particular aspects/elements of the Candid Critters experience that are more likely to generate positive outcomes across different subgroups of participants. Ultimately, our evaluation data should facilitate development of recommendations to guide future implementation of Candid Critters (specifically) and citizen science projects (generally), increasing public awareness of and support for wildlife conservation across the state of North Carolina.


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