We have partnered with US-based BSCS Science Learning to add an exciting new feature to the hands-on fieldwork experience offered by the Coastal Explorers Field School. Participating schools are able to host their students’ citizen science projects on a digital platform, FieldScope, and enable their classes to collaborate and share their projects with school groups in other schools and regions.
The FieldScope digital platform selected to host our citizen science projects offers easy-to-use tools for students to visualize and analyze data and communicate information using data stories. FieldScope uses the ZenDesk platform to host a community forum and knowledge base where the student groups can post about new features in the tool, highlight important help articles, program resources, and so on.
Coastal Explorers on FieldScope
Currently, our coastal ecosystem monitoring project (#WeAreCoastal) is hosted on FieldScope. During the Spring and Fall field seasons, teachers and students use random sampling techniques to collect data about species diversity, invasive species, type of substrate, and human impacts on their coastal shoreline. They also collect data about water temperature and salinity and weather conditions.
Data are currently being collected by school groups from more than 15 partner schools participating in the R&D program.
The project is based on the long-term ecosystem monitoring research of Dr Robert Gregory and his team at Ecological Sciences Section of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Dr Gregory, his research team, and other scientists at Parks Canada have helped shape this experiential learning project.
Long-term data collected will help answer questions like:
- How diverse is the fauna and flora in different coastal environments of the North Atlantic and Eastern Arctic?
- Where are the rare or invasive species?
- Are there long-term shifts in species diversity, type of substrate, temperature, and salinity in these coastal areas?
- What are some of the local human impacts on these shorelines?
- What can all these indicators and changes tell us about the health of the coastal ecosystem being monitored?
How it Works
Student groups can add their data from their field work using mobile devices with an offline mode. Student groups can sign in using educator-created credentials, or student generated accounts (when appropriate).
Educators can generate digital data sheets for students to enter their own data from the field without the hassle and privacy concerns of students creating their own accounts.
Within a project, groups can be set up and participants can select a group to join thereby having easy access to their group’s data and feeling part of a cohort.
Enhancements to the Digital Platform
As part of the R&D program, we are collaborating with the FieldScope team on enhancements to the digital platform to further aid and encourage school-to-school and group-to-group collaboration, including:
- More social sharing of data stories with a built-in community module that encourages exploration and engagement,
- Better discovery and combination of datasets for purposes of analysis, sharing and collaboration,
- Integration of discussion forums directly into project pages to facilitate building communities of engaged participants and to support learning.