Each month, we highlight a AAAS member who is a force for science. To find out how you can be a force for science, visit www.forceforscience.org.
Carrie Seltzer is a former AAAS Science & Technology Policy Fellow (Executive Branch 2016-2017). She co-founded the AAAS STPF Crowdsourcing and Citizen Science Affinity Group to encourage Fellows and others to explore citizen science as active participants. Now she is the Stakeholder Engagement Strategist for iNaturalist, a citizen science platform for biodiversity observations that is based at the California Academy of Sciences. She has a PhD in Biological Sciences from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Share a comment or opinion you have on a topical science-related issue.
I love the growing interest in citizen science, or public participation in scientific research. Although we mean “citizen” in the broadest global sense of the word, since the term citizen can unfortunately be alienating these days, “community science” is becoming a popular alternative. I use “citizen science” here since the term has more recognition within the scientific community.
Share a story from your past that led to your interest in science advocacy.
When I was in graduate school, I worked on a citizen science pilot project that got me thinking hard about what non-professional scientists (aka “citizen scientists”) get out of the experience. We made a lot of mistakes, but we wrote a paper on it and I was able to apply those lessons in my citizen science work that followed. The grad school side project ended up being a pivotal career experience.
Tell us about a hobby or passion related to science advocacy.
In 2012 I came across a website called iNaturalist that turned photos of plants and animals into useful scientific records by crowdsourcing species identifications and sharing data with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility. The result is now that anyone with a camera and internet access can document important records for biodiversity, and anyone can see which species have been recorded by others in their area. It is exciting and empowering to learn more and contribute to science. I’ve shared more than 5,000 observations and added over 8,000 identifications for other people. I was able to turn my hobby into my job—I now work for iNaturalist!
What science advocacy activity are you most proud of?
We are just finishing the City Nature Challenge with 69 cities around the world in friendly competition to record biodiversity. This is the DC metro area’s second year participating, and it’s been driven by a coalition of willing individuals and organizations. Results aren’t in just yet, but we’ve been in the top five to eight cities and quadrupled participation this year. We hope that bringing these local organizations together in a common citizen science effort will help spark other collaborations.
If you could pick one scientist (living or dead) to have dinner with, who would it be and why?
Robert Kennicott, a naturalist and explorer from Illinois who lived from 1835 to 1866 and made phenomenal contributions to natural history in his short 30 years of life. I grew up very near where he did in Glenview, Illinois, and spent my childhood exploring land that was preserved because of his legacy. I’d love to hear from him what it used to look like and to tell him how deeply that place influenced my love of nature and path in life.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are those of the AAAS member and are not necessarily the opinions of AAAS, its officers, general members, and/or AAAS MemberCentral department or staff.