Leave No Trace Launches Citizen Science Monitoring Program

Boulder, Colorado: Citizen science is a popular movement that allows people from all walks of life to help advance scientific research by collecting and sharing data. The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics recently announced a new citizen science pilot project, scheduled for this summer. A grant from the U.S. Forest Service will help fund the project in Colorado’s White River National Forest.

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The Conundrum Hot Springs area, near Aspen, Colorado, will be one of the focus areas for Leave No Trace's citizen science monitoring pilot project this summer.  

“I’m very excited about expanding Leave No Trace’s citizen science program,” said Dana Watts, the Center’s executive director. “There is huge potential to take the experience we gain this summer and create a platform that will allow communities across the country to play an active role in monitoring the health of all kinds of natural areas.”

Lauren Atkinson, a graduate student in the Masters of Environmental Management program at Western State Colorado University, will lead the pilot project fieldwork. Atkinson has educated thousands of visitors and engaged hundreds of students in science learning, working in places like the Appalachian National Scenic Trail Corridor in the White Mountain National Forest, Grand Teton National Park, Arches National Park and as a mountain bike guide in Moab, Utah. She helped launch the Appalachian Mountain Club’s citizen science program, Mountain Watch.

Atkinson will work closely with Katy Nelson, Wilderness and Trails Program Coordinator in the Aspen-Sopris Ranger District, to design a monitoring program that provides relevant information for the agency’s staff, and engages people in Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley to participate in the effort.

“Monitoring natural areas through citizen science gives individuals and communities the opportunity to expand their stewardship of places that they care about deeply,” said Watts. “Our program will engage people of all ages, including school-aged kids, scouting groups and the next generation of outdoor enthusiasts. The Center has strong connections with the Boy Scouts of America, Girl Scouts of the USA, summer camps and many other institutions that will be eager to dig into this exciting field.”

Citizen science also offers opportunities for the Center to support the goals of STEM and STEAM education. Partners like the National Environmental Education Foundation and Student Conservation Association and others have expressed strong interest in future involvement with Leave No Trace’s citizen science monitoring program. 

Throughout the summer-long pilot project, the Center will consult with an advisory panel to help plan the next stages and the broad expansion of its citizen science efforts. Advisory panel members include: