Archives—October 2011

CS Professors Pastel and Wallace Involved in NSF-sponsored Citizen Science Project

Dr. Robert Pastel and Dr. Charles Wallace
Dr. Robert Pastel and Dr. Charles Wallace

Dr. Robert Pastel and Dr. Charles Wallace of the Computer Science Department are co-principal investigators on a $249,840 award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) titled “Environmental Cyber Citizens: Engaging Citizen Scientists in Global Environmental Change through Crowdsensing and Visualization”.

Citizen science aims to bring citizen scientists, ordinary individuals and groups, directly into the scientific inquiry process through legitimate and meaningful activities that are useful to the scientific community. The goal of the NSF-sponsored project is to use current computing technology to develop tools for environmental citizen scientists. A multi-disciplinary team of faculty and undergraduate students will collaborate with citizen scientist end users to develop and deploy data collection and visualization tools to monitor the critical ecosystems of Lightfoot Bay in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. These users will effectively engage in crowdsensing: supplying useful data over space and time through “strength in numbers” that would be difficult for individual scientists to collect.

One goal is to develop and use smartphone applications that make it easy to acquire environmental information: e.g., digital images, in-situ measurements of water quality parameters, and personal narratives. In addition, applications will be developed for transferring the acquired data synchronously or asynchronously to an interactive visualization website. On the visualization website, users will combine quantitative data in meaningful ways while framing or annotating it with qualitative data. The smartphone applications and visualization tools will be developed in undergraduate design courses within the Computer Science Department.

The project is highly interdisciplinary, involving Dr. Alex Mayer (principal investigator) of Civil & Environmental Engineering, as well as faculty in Chemical Engineering and in Forest Resources & Environmental Science. In addition, it will build upon existing educational programs at Keweenaw Bay Ojibwa Community College, several local high schools, and the Keweenaw Land Trust. Research scientists at IBM researching crowdsensing will also collaborate.