Project Description: 

Citizen science, in which the public participates in scientific research activities, has outcomes that not only advance science but also increase the public’s understanding of science and critical thinking.  There are many opportunities for citizen science activities on campus. Here, we describe two activities associated with the Berkeley Student Organic Garden and a Berkeley-developed natural history tool, iNaturalist.  Urban gardens are becoming popular mechanisms to restore biodiversity to urban landscapes and provide locally-produced food.  Such gardens also have a profound impact on the students involved and on educational activities, yet these broader impacts are not well understood.  One aspect of this project aims to understand these broader impacts. The other aspect of the project seeks to use data from citizen science to understand how the distributions of organisms have changed over time.  These approaches have much value in both urban and natural environments. Here, activities involve using data for “indicator” species, such as beetles to assess change and help plan mitigation strategies.

Undergraduate's Role: 

The student will be working in the Roderick and Gillespie “Evolab” under the supervision of PhD student Leslie McGinnis.  The first project will collect data to examine the impact of the Berkeley Student Organic Garden ( on both student participants and campus activities.  The gardens goals are a commitment to food justice, sustainable organic agriculture and experiential learning, and the project will work to assess the impact of these efforts.  The student will assist with a survey to gather information on how students have been involved with the garden, in and out of the classroom.

The second project will use data from the popular natural history tool, iNaturalist, to look at changes in species distributions over time.  With people everywhere entering photos and location data for organisms, iNaturalist and tools like it can provide information on distributions of organisms.  Coupled with historical data, such as in natural history museums, the data can be used to assess the impacts of changes in climate and land use. The student will be investigating ground beetle distributions for species that are indicators of ecosystem health and climate.

Training in survey tools and natural history data collection will be provided.  Students will receive conceptual and practical training in: 1) urban garden activities and approaches, 2) arthropod collection and identification, 3) analysis of biological distributions, 4) citizen science activities and impacts.

Undergraduate's Qualifications: 

Preference will be given to applicants with an interest in urban biology, biodiversity science, and environmental studies. No prior lab experience is required but students must have attention to detail, be able to work carefully and rapidly, be willing to work independently as well as in a team, and have a demonstrated curiosity for the natural world. The ideal candidate will have taken introductory biology (Bio1B) and an introductory environmental science/studies course, and an upper division course in either urban gardens or field biology.  

On Campus
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