People involved in monitoring programs use a variety of terms to describe what they do—citizen science, observing networks, contributory research, participatory monitoring, collaborative research.
In the handbook, Community-Based Monitoring of Alaska’s Coastal and Ocean Environment: Best Practices for Linking Alaska Citizens with Science, community-based monitoring (CBM) is an umbrella term for the diverse efforts in Alaska that involve a collaboration between community members who collect local observations and data and their partners outside the community who support the collection, management, and use of the observations and data in some way.
The communities engaged in monitoring are diverse. Geographically they range from people who live in the same community to people who live in the same region of Alaska, to people who live in communities throughout the international Arctic (e.g., the eight villages in Alaska and Russia in the Community Observation Network for Adaptation and Security, CONAS). CBM communities range topically from groups of birders and beach-walkers collecting data about birds that wash up on local beaches as part of the West Coast/Alaska Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), to the network of individuals throughout Alaska who collect water quality data, weather observations, and shellfish for testing for paralytic shellfish poisoning. Alaska’s youth participate in monitoring, both at school where they gain important skills and environmental knowledge, and after school and during summer programs that provide opportunities to contribute to their communities.
The CBM handbook provides practical guidance to communities, scientists, and agencies working on—or planning to start—a community-based monitoring program. The genesis of this handbook was the “Community-Based Monitoring: Observing Alaska’s Coasts and Oceans” workshop held in Anchorage, Alaska, in April 2014. Participants from Alaska, the Lower 48, Canada, and Russia identified common issues for community-based monitoring programs in Alaska. Many of the best practices that appear in the handbook are based on presentations and discussions at the workshop. Audio recordings and presentations from the workshop can be downloaded from the workshop website.