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Research Interests

I enjoy the interdisciplinary approaches of ecological and social science research together, with a lens of justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion (JEDI). Current projects and topics of interest to me include:

Design in the Participatory Sciences

Within the participatory sciences, my research focuses on challenges in the design of large-scale contributory projects, often called citizen science. Contributory projects can be designed to produce new knowledge and simultaneously create a range of socially relevant outcomes, such as increases in science literacy, community empowerment, heightened civic activism, and more. With funds from NSF, we collaborate with to investigate and support a growing community of participants and project leaders. Students investigate participant demographics, motivations, and learning. We are investigating the barriers to have resulted in a lack of racial, economic, and educational diversity among participants and beneficiaries of citizen science.

With new funds from Unity and the National Science Foundation, I lead the Inclusive, Diverse, Equitable, Accessible, Large-scale (IDEAL) Participatory Science Initiative. The IDEAL Participatory Science Initiative is in response to recognizing striking demographic limitations of large-scale citizen science projects: participants in the Global North tend to be white, highly educated, and affluent. We created a Handbook and Tutorial (to be released in January 2024).

Selected work

Inclusion in citizen science: The conundrum of rebranding (2021) – Science (as highlighted above)

Advice for Collaborations between Natural and Social Scientists: A Response to Martin (2020) – BioScience

The Field Guide to Citizen Science: How You Can Contribute to Scientific Research and Make a Difference (2020) – Timber Press

The diverse motivations of citizen scientists: Does conservation emphasis grow as volunteer participation progresses? (2020)

Do birdwatchers buy the duck stamp? (2019)

The problem with delineating narrow criteria for citizen science (2019) – PNAS

The role of citizen science in addressing grand challenges in food and agriculture research (2018)

Contrasting the views and actions of data collectors and data consumers in a volunteer water quality monitoring project: implications for project design and management (2017)

Scistarter 2.0: A digital platform to foster and study sustained engagement in citizen science (2017)

Citizen science terminology matters: Exploring key terms (2017)

Citizen science: How ordinary people are changing the face of discovery (2016)

The theory and practice of citizen science: Launching a new journal (2016)

The tragedy of the unexamined cat: Why K–12 and university education are still in the dark ages and how citizen science allows for a Renaissance (2016)

Two meanings of citizen science (2016)

Are wildlife recreationists conservationists? Linking hunting, birdwatching, and pro‐environmental behavior (2015)

Ecology of Lightscapes and Soundscapes

Artificial light at night and anthropogenic sounds are features of the landscape that novel selection pressures and drivers of ecological processes. In collaboration with the National Parks Service’s Dark Skies and Natural Sounds division, we developed Sound Around Town, a citizen science project focused on understanding residential soundscapes and human perceptions of noise. Current students investigate links between noise and light pollution and avian survival and how breeding songbirds overcome the physiological stresses of night lighting. We are also studying the role of historic and contemporary racial segregation of inequities in exposures to light and noise pollution.

Selected work

How can citizen science advance environmental justice? Exploring the noise paradox through sense of place (2020) – Cities & Health

Sensory pollutants alter bird phenology and fitness across a continent (2020) – Nature

Acoustic environments matter: Synergistic benefits to humans and ecological communities (2017)

A framework to assess evolutionary responses to anthropogenic light and sound (2015)

Norms of Data Ethics in Citizen Science

Volunteer-generated data are the foundation of citizen science practice. With funds from the National Science Foundation, and in collaboration with the Citizen Science Association, we are co-creating tools and resources to create and sustain norms of trustworthy data practices for the field of citizen science. We are also studying the attitudes, norms, barriers, and intentions of practitioners towards data stewardship practices.

Selected work

The power (dynamics) of open data in citizen science (2021)

The critical importance of citizen science data (2021)

Citizen Science Ethics (2019)

Project Categories to Guide Institutional Oversight of Responsible Conduct of Scientists Leading Citizen Science in the United States (2019)

Avian Incubation Behavior and Physiology

I worked for almost 15 years at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology where I focused latitudinal and seasonal trends in avian life histories and behavior. One particular interest has been avian incubation, which is one of the energetically demanding phases of reproduction. I continue this work with international collaborators.

Selected work

Deconstructing incubation behaviour in response to ambient temperature over different timescales (2021)– Journal of Avian Biology

Night conditions affect morning incubation behaviour differently across a latitudinal gradient (2020)– Ibis

‘Green incubation’: avian offspring benefit from aromatic nest herbs through improved parental incubation behaviour (2018)Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Managing human-wildlife conflict

The Sparrow Swap is a citizen science project designed to help bird watchers minimize damage of invasive house sparrow on native cavity-nest species. Sparrow Swap also provides a small, tractable study system in which to investigate a highly contentious (among birdwatchers) area of human-wildlife conflict. We are using ecological, social science, and citizen science approaches to carry out research to understand the potential of citizen science design to manage sparrows within a social-ecological system. Lessons learned will be relevant to other human-wildlife conflict such as with feral hogs, suburban deer, coyotes and wolves, pet cats, urban geese, and more.

Selected work

Does the house sparrow Passer domesticus represent a global model species for egg rejection behavior? (2017)

Emotions as drivers of wildlife stewardship behavior: Examining citizen science nest monitors’ responses to invasive house sparrows (2016)

Avian eggs as bioindicators of contaminants

The Sparrow Swap project involved volunteers across the country in donating house sparrow eggs to the Collections at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences. These eggs are a remarkable resource for investigations into the evolution of egg characteristics as well as their use as bioindicators. We are assessing whether certain eggshell characteristics (color, patterning, thickness, porosity, etc) are related to certain contaminant levels within the egg.