YardMapper Honored as White House "Champion of Change"
A "Champions of Change" ceremony at the White House recently celebrated the field of citizen science and the people who make public, collaborative science projects work. One of the honorees, Michael Cohn, uses YardMap to promote habitat stewardship at a business park in Virginia (see his map here
). The Champions of Change program recognizes "ordinary Americans" who are doing extraordinary things in their communities, and this certainly describes Michael. Along with 11 other Champions in the field of citizen science, Michael was honored for his dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy through projects such as YardMap, NestWatch, FeederWatch, the Peregrine Fund's American Kestrel Project, and the New York Angler Diary Cooperation Program.
Citizen Science 2.0
Michael represents the next wave of citizen scientist— participants who are cross-disciplinary, innovative, social, and mobile. He refers to this next wave as Citizen Science 2.0
. He credits his beginnings to Cornell, stating, "In working with Cornell, I became aware of the burgeoning field of citizen science. Cornell prioritizes educating participants and providing them with easy-to-use, accessible, web-based tools to track ecological data." Citizen science elevated his hobbies of bird watching and fishing to something more meaningful...something he knew he had to share with others, particularly those who found themselves transitioning back to civilian life after serving in the military.
As a former contractor with the military in Afghanistan, Mike understands the stress and anxiety experienced by returning soldiers. That is why he founded his own initiative, called Soldiers2Scientists
, a citizen-science group that allows returning soldiers to decompress in the great American outdoors, while conducting meaningful work that serves to protect and preserve our country’s resources. Michael notes that, "As I have learned more about citizen science, I have become convinced of the potential for the field to contribute to the engagement and treatment of returning veterans. By combining outdoor recreation with scientifically-oriented, purpose-driven activities (for example, bird tracking), veterans can enjoy the benefits of therapeutic recreation, while also directly contributing to the conservation, rehabilitation, and advancement of American wildlife and wild spaces."
Comparing the legions of citizen scientists in the field to a "growing army," Michael points out that "we are just beginning to understand the scope of the potential and socio-historical implications for the democratization of scientific inquiry and research!" We couldn't agree more! Congratulations, Michael, for this distinguished honor, and thank you for your contributions to Citizen Science (2.0) here at the Lab of Ornithology and elsewhere.