Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Program

Biology

Supervisor

Dr. Robert Bailey

2nd Supervisor

Dr. Yolanda Morbey

Joint Supervisor

Abstract

The contribution of non-experts to environmental management has been significant and continues to flourish through their participation in citizen science. Despite its growth as an interdisciplinary field of enquiry, there are many gaps in our understanding of the role that citizen science may play in the future of environmental management. In Ontario, Canada, due to funding cuts and infrastructural changes over the past two decades, the provincial government’s ability to monitor changes in freshwater resources had been severely limited. This has resulted in downloading water monitoring to municipalities through their conservation authorities (CAs) which are watershed-based, quasi-governmental water management agencies. The public has been supplementing monitoring efforts through the thousands of hours they have devoted to water quality citizen science, including volunteer benthic monitoring (VBM). Through their watershed-based structure, their mandate to involve community in their work, their activities managing freshwater and their collaborations with various stakeholders, CAs seem like the ideal organizations to connect the public with the decision makers within the municipalities that manage local freshwater resources. However, their use of citizen science, particularly in benthic monitoring, is rare with most of their data being collected in-house by paid expert staff. By conducting 44 interviews among individuals of CAs and citizen science groups, participating in monitoring and collecting documents published by both these groups as well as administering a survey among all of the 36 CAs, I examined the influence of both CA capacity and attitudes in limiting the use of volunteer benthic monitoring by CAs in their freshwater management decisions. Twenty-nine CAs participated in the survey to some extent, although for 24 of these CAs, only one or two questionnaires were submitted (a total of 67 questionnaires completed). While the CA’s capacity through their organizational dynamics (human resources, flexibility, collaborations) generally supports the use of VBM, they lack the financial and human resources to fully support this form of citizen science. This, along with the attitude that volunteers are not capable of collecting credible monitoring information, makes the widespread adoption of VBM by CAs unlikely. Despite these findings, there is still the potential for CAs to successfully adopt certain types of water quality citizen science that are not as financial and human resource intense as VBM, and that have a broader appeal to variety of types of volunteers.


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