Changing Terminology with the Times

Pepperwood has transitioned from using the term “citizen science” to the more inclusive term “community science”

Science needs Community

The word citizen was originally included in the phrase citizen science to distinguish between amateur data collectors and professional scientists. It was not intended to describe the citizenship status of these volunteer observers. For years, Pepperwood has been a hub for citizen science, in fact, we rely on the help of citizen scientists to collect and analyze data at the preserve. Pepperwood is home to a vast array of research projects that support our Sentinel Site monitoring work. Our projects require many hours of meticulous setup, implementation, and data management. This would simply not be possible without the help of our citizen scientists, including Pepperwood Stewards and California Naturalists. It is both important for data collection and an incredibly valuable experience for volunteers, who are able to deepen their relationship to the natural world and play an active role in protecting our local ecosystems.

However, nowadays the implication of the word citizen has become exclusive and therefore limiting within the context of some of Pepperwood’s work and partnerships. We don’t accept that. That’s why we are choosing to make the switch in terminology: to better reflect our organizational values and to empower ALL members of our community through participation in science. 

Members’ Hike with Pepperwood’s Education Specialist, Holland Gistelli (kneeling), gather round to identify animal tracks in the mud, January 2020

Why this is important to us

At Pepperwood, we’re committed to our entire community and we welcome anyone who wants to participate in the science that promotes the health of our natural world. As part of our commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion, we have transitioned from using the term “citizen science” to the more inclusive term “community science.” No matter where a volunteer was born, or how they came to the United States, we value their contribution to our science and conservation programs. Citizenship, or the perception that a volunteer may or may not be a citizen, just isn’t a precondition to advancing science-based conservation throughout our region and beyond. We’re all in this together

Participation in volunteer data-collection initiatives like iNaturalist, our breeding bird surveys and TeenNat, among others, are meant to be communal experiences, bringing us together as a caring community of people who are inspired by nature and want to protect it. The term community science better reflects these social and relational realities.

Pepperwood’s TeenNat program empowers teens to collect biodiversity data on the preserve using cameras and GPS units. TeenNat interns upload hundreds of observations each year to the online database, and also conduct monitoring work in our redwood forest for Save the Redwood League’s Fern Watch and Redwood Watch.


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