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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Timothy Vargo

Research Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center

Tim's background is in applied biological research with an emphasis in conservation biology, tropical biology and ornithology.  He has carried out research in Austraila, Bolivia, Costa Rica and Panama, and throughout the United States. Tim received his B.A. in biology from Macalester College and his M.S. in Biology from Purdue University. Currently, Tim is Research Coordinator at the Urban Ecology Center in Milwaukee, advising high-school, undergraduate and graduate research in a historic park in downtown Milwaukee.

Challenges and Benefits of Using Citizen Scientists at an Urban Field Station

The Urban Ecology Center (UEC), in downtown Milwaukee, began as a grass-roots effort to save historic Riverside Park from crime through environmental education and community support. Today, UEC serves 15,000 student-visits and 35,000 adult-visits per year through it's nationally-recognized Neighborhood Environmental Education Project and other programs, and crime has virtually disappeared. UEC's Citizen Science Project began with Cornell's Pigeonwatch and has grown to 20 projects in 2006, ranging from nation-wide institutional programs (MonarchWatch) to graduate-level research on bird physiology, with each project requiring citizen involvement. The biggest challenge in training and engaging over 100 volunteers who have varied schedules have been tackled through significant commitment of a full-time volunteer coordinator and research coordinator, as well as a Citizen Science Advisory Board made up of 30 professionals from 25 local universities, government agencies and other institutions. The benefits come from the support of a local group that begins to feel 'ownership' of our work as they are trained in scientific research and begin to better understand the values of  conservation of biological and physical resources.

Citizen science, volunteer monitoring, participatory action research... this site supports organizers of all initiatives where public participants are involved in scientific research.

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