The Dragonfly Mercury Project
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the University of Maine, and the National Park Service (NPS) Air Resources Division designed the Dragonfly Mercury Project, a citizen science driven approach to linking surface-water chemistry and landscape characteristics to biosentinels on a national scale. Working in partnership at more than 50 national parks across the United States, and with citizen scientists as key participants in data collection, to develop dragonfly nymphs as biosentinels for mercury in aquatic food webs to validate the use of these biosentinels, and gain a better understanding of the connection between biotic and abiotic pools of mercury, this project also includes collection of landscape data and surface-water chemistry including mercury, methylmercury, pH, sulfate, and dissolved organic carbon and sediment mercury concentration. The participation of citizen scientists working in each national park provided the project a broad geographical coverage. In total, the project had the assistance of 824 citizen scientists contributing 3,951 hours to the overall scope of the project.
In addition, the success of the project was also attributed to the detail scientists from the USGC and University of Maine provided the study, design, sampling protocol, and training materials. Each participating national park provided NPS staff from their resource management or interpretive division, or they linked with other partners, such as teachers from the community. These staff coordinated, trained, and lead citizen scientists in collecting samples.
Expanding The Scientific Process
Citizen science creates the opportunity for both longtime scholars and beginners to advance the research and knowledge of chemistry. Chemistry professor Chonq Qiu designed his research, which investigates chemicals, such as amines-nitrogen-containing organic compounds and their impact of air quality on climate change, weather forecasting, and human health, to provide middle school, high school, undergraduate, and graduate students the opportunity to gain experience into the scientific process. Students were provided the opportunity to conduct laboratory experiments, computer modeling, and field work, using and testing low-cost devices that measure pollutant levels in the atmosphere.
The success of the project was made possible by the large number of citizen scientists involved. In 2019, Professor Qiu was awarded a five-year, $700,000 National Science Foundation Early Career Award for his aerosols research project.
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