My interests tend toward the intersection of biology and society—to those spaces where human action and human decision-making interface with biological systems, and where biological systems shape human life.
We face many pressing challenges on this planet today: climate change, pollution, over-population, ecological degradation, resource depletion, species extinctions, and loss of biodiversity among others. Because there are social dimensions to ecological challenges, and ecological dimensions to social challenges, we must develop solutions which acknowledge interconnected social and ecological systems. We will need scientific knowledge to inform what can be done, but we will also need social capacity to make it happen.
To that end, I have spent the last few years examining Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR). Commonly called Citizen Science, PPSR has great potential for gathering large-scale scientific data, advancing scientific literacy in the public, engaging communication between scientists and stakeholders, and for growing capacity for science-informed management and policy. It is a terrific tool for working to address 21st century challenges.
Here at the Garden, we are employing PPSR within the Conservation Alliance—a Garden-lead coalition of stakeholders committed to community engagement in the study, restoration, and promotion of the mountain park preserves in and around the Phoenix metro area. In this community-based, collaborative approach to conservation, we aim to become a model for the nation for how citizens, managers, and researchers can work together toward protection and sustainable use of large nature preserves within a densely populated urban region.