2.4 Community Based Monitoring Types

Sentinel (Patrol)

Main features:

  • Place-based observing and recording of various elements of the environment are typical.
  • Local conditions are documented in order to address various local issues.
  • Communities often initiate and manage activities, e.g. Tribal or Village Councils in Alaska, but sometimes local or regional governments are involved.
  • Observers are usually hired employees.
  • Local organizations usually maintain databases that can contain various types of data.

Pros:

A significant merit of this type of monitoring is fairly accurate spatial and temporal records of multiple indicators.

A significant merit of this type of monitoring is fairly accurate spatial and temporal records of multiple indicators.

Cons:

Methodology and data output may not be consistent and the collected data may not be available for open distribution.

Surveying Human Sensors

Main features:

  • Information is gathered by surveying local residents’ perceptions of the status of and changes in environment.
  • Surveys are designed by scientists, often with the input of participating community members.
  • The data output is processed using sociological, ethnographic or other social sciences’ methods depending on the type of survey used.
  • Qualitative and quantitative databases are maintained by the researchers.
  • The gathered information can be both current and retrospective.

Pros:

This arguably is the only type of community based monitoring that enables researchers to recreate data from past periods when no data were collected and there are gaps in knowledge.

Retrospective survey data can lead to better understanding of temporal changes without generating time series of observation.

“Humans as sensors” research provides greater spatial information over many areas and on a greater variety of species and populations than accessible to conventional science alone.

Cons:

There is a lack of scientists with the cross discipline training needed for this type of research.

Surveys can be costly.

If participating communities do not see a clear benefit to them from the research, it may be difficult to recruit respondents for surveys.

Citizen Science

Main features:

  • Local residents are involved or hired as assistants/technicians in conventional science research projects.
  • Activities are usually led by university or government scientists.
  • The methods vary depending on the type of research field. Methodology and data output follow the standards of conventional science.

Pros:

It enables continuous collection of data in remote locations.

Opportunities are created for engaging residents, especially young people, in science.

It generates interest to science and higher education.

Cons:

Low literacy in some communities requires a special approach.

Number of available qualified individuals in remote communities may be limited due to other opportunities in the communities or because of the temporary nature of projects.

Quality control could be difficult to maintain in remote communities.

Journal

Main features:

  • A personal account of the observed environment is recorded on a regular basis over a period of time.
  • Usually, this is a complementary component of a scientific research.
  • A detailed record is kept by a local person on his/her initiative, such as Fishermen’s journals.

Pros:

May offer rich contextual information that can contribute to better understanding of a research topic.

The cost is relatively low.

Cons:

If no metrics are recorded, it may be difficult or impossible to generate data from this source of information.

It can be highly subjective and prone to skewed assessment due to different personality types.

Maintenance Monitoring

Main features:

  • A regular collection and recording of environmental hazard/waste observations is performed in defined areas (e.g. beaches).
  • Clean up activities are organized and performed by local residents, sometimes volunteers.
  • This type of monitoring is usually not initiated for scientific purposes.

Pros:

It reinforces local stewardship and improves local resource management and environmental conditions.

If records of activities and results are maintained properly, such data could be of value for various research needs.

The outcomes can expose industries which may contribute to the environmental problem

Cons:

Conflicts with relevant authorities and industries regarding natural resource management and regulations are possible.

Group meetings

  • Regular village (town) meetings for local residents are organized to share and report on observations over a certain period of time.
  • The meetings are often facilitated by a researcher who summarizes the discussions in a report that presents evidencebased information approved by the participants.

Pros:

Group meetings can be a cost effective way to gather information and to engage residents

Cons:

There may be a challenge in validating such information, as it may be easily influenced by a particular individual or a group, or be politically driven.

As demonstrated above, community based monitoring approaches vary depending upon the levels of community engagement, involvement of scientists, sophistication of methods used, potential data accuracy and others. There is limited standardization of information, however a recent paper has addressed a typology of various approaches, their strengths and weakness (Danielsen, et al, 2009).

Left to Right: Olga Gerasimova, Andy Kliskey, Olga Chernenko, Arlene Gundersen, Antonia Penayah, Svetlana Petrosyan, Esther Fayer, Patricia Cochran, Olia Sutton, Iver Campbell, Victoria Gofman

Left to Right: Olga Gerasimova, Andy Kliskey, Olga Chernenko, Arlene Gundersen, Antonia Penayah, Svetlana Petrosyan, Esther Fayer, Patricia Cochran, Olia Sutton, Iver Campbell, Victoria Gofman