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2019 Awardees of the Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program

The following projects have been selected to receive up to $25,000 from the Citizen Science Competitive Funding Program (CitSci Fund). The CitSci Fund supports collaborative citizen science efforts where partners, volunteers, and the Forest Service work together in the pursuit of sound science and meaningful community and volunteer engagement.

With the funds available, Ecosystem Management Coordination (EMC) was able to fully fund thirteen projects totaling $188,695.

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2019 Total Submissions: 56


LEVEL 1 - Ideation (up to $10,000)


Air Quality Bio-Monitoring Using Lichens on the Tahoe National Forest

A child uses a hand lens to take a closer look at lichen

A child uses a hand lens to take a closer look at lichen (USFS photo).


Location: Tahoe National Forest, California

Partner Project Lead: Hanna Mesraty, Project Director, Biodiversity Research Collective

Forest Service Project Lead: Don Schweizer, Air Resource Specialist, Pacific Southwest Region

Funding Award: $10,000

Citizen scientists will gather data on lichens and other ecological components of the Tahoe National Forest, raising awareness of why air quality monitoring is important and how it could impact the health of the forest and people in surrounding areas. In addition to being a reliable air quality indicator, lichen play a vital role in a larger ecological story, and with increasing wildfires, urbanization, and habitat loss in California, this project could help scientists communicate and engage publics with that story while providing key data.

Analyzing lichen tissue helps make determinations about air quality that is part of mandated monitoring efforts for all wilderness areas across the state. Many of these areas are too remote to use mechanical monitoring equipment, so lichen biomonitoring helps fill these gaps and empower citizens to critically engage on issues of biodiveristy and forest ecology.

Volunteers will collect lichen tissue and record ecological data, document species observations on citizen science platforms, and create herbarium-quality specimens. Collecting lichen tissue is relatively easy once properly trained and is a unique and engaging way to monitor air quality using part of the forest ecosystem.


Building a Southeast River Cane Monitoring Initiative for Cultural & Ecosystem Services










Left: A stand of river cane, Arundinaria gigantea Right: traditional Cherokee river cane basket (Photos courtesy of Cherokee Nation River Cane Initiative).


Location: Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma

Partner Project Lead: Whitney Warrior, Environmental Services and Historic Preservation Director, United Keetoowah Band

Forest Service Project Lead: Michelle Baumflek, Southern Research Station

Funding Award: $10,000

River cane (Arundinaria gigantea) is a bamboo species native to the Southeastern U.S. that is fundamental to traditional arts, technologies and cultural identity of over 45 federally-recognized tribes. River cane ecosystems (canebrakes) provide vital ecosystem services including erosion and runoff control, and endangered species habitat. However, river cane currently occupies two percent of its historical range due to changes in land use and overgrazing. Research on river cane is limited, and regional distribution of canebrakes is unknown. Documenting current spatial distribution of canebrakes is an essential step in understanding species ecology, restoration and management.

The goal of this ideation-phase project is to work with Cherokee Nation to develop citizen-science-based strategies for identifying and monitoring river cane ecosystems and creating a plan that can be implemented by tribes and other partners across the Southeastern United States. Citizen scientists will use their digital devices to document river cane locations. Data collected will contribute to analysis, restoration and modeling efforts, and monitoring of specific locations of interest.

Developing a river cane monitoring initiative promotes continuity of Cherokee Nation traditional knowledge and cultural traditions, including basketry and other traditional arts. Data collection is time-intensive and geographically widespread, and a citizen science approach will make monitoring more efficient and effective. Citizen science also has a twofold benefit of including local people who are knowledgeable about these habitats and skilled at locating rivercane, while also providing educational opportunities for those who want to learn about it.


Colorado Bat Watch: Monitoring Bats on Colorado's National Forests