On October 6, 2020 I was fortunate enough to represent ALLARM by presenting in a session in the Pennsylvania Conservation District Watershed Specialist Webinar series alongside Julie Vastine and Shante Toledo. This event (replacing the in-person conference conditions) marks the 20th year of the Conservation District Watershed Specialist Meetings which brings together watershed specialists from across Pennsylvania to engage topics related to conservation, water quality/monitoring, and citizen science.
Julie, Shante, and I presented about one of ALLARM’s favorite monitoring best practices – study design. We detailed its steps and explained how it is essential for creating an effective citizen science program. To prepare for this presentation, I reviewed ALLARM’s study design manual and watched a webinar given by Julie on the topic. This gave me a base of knowledge of the steps of study design and why it is needed when creating a citizen science project.
To understand the concept more deeply, I took time to consider how I have used the elements of study design in my own projects. Specifically, I considered the student-faculty research I am doing this Fall 2020 semester. I found that in creating and executing my research question and project I had been using study design. Study design seemed to mirror the scientific method that I have used many times in the past for class research projects. This showed me that study design and the scientific method are very similar and that the concepts of organization and planning that go into them can be applied to many facets of life. It made me consider that careful planning, prior to collecting data, will make sure that time is not wasted and that compelling results are achieved.
In addition, I learned a lot while preparing my slides for the presentation. I was in charge of the slides regarding steps 4, 5 and 9 of study design which are: “What will you monitor? How will you monitor? How will you manage and present the data?” I thought about these questions in the context of ALLARM’s Stream Team program and used it as a case study to explain how steps 4 and 5 were used to create the program we have today. For step 9, I was able to discuss the importance of organized data management and data presentation using my experience with data interpretation and GIS that I gained this semester at ALLARM. I enjoyed using Stream Team as a case study because I have had many experiences working with this facet of ALLARM and thought it was interesting to think through the details of its design.
This conference was a fun experience and a great opportunity for me to learn how to prepare and present citizen science content at a professional conference while representing ALLARM.