Paper No. 12-12
Presentation Time: 11:15 AM
BEST PRACTICES AND LESSONS LEARNED IN DEVELOPING A COMMUNITY OF CITIZEN SCIENTISTS VIA THE FOSSIL PROJECT
Currently in its fifth year, FOSSIL (Fostering Opportunities for Synergistic STEM with Informal Learners) is a project funded by the National Science Foundation that has been building a community of practice around the concept of “social paleontology.” During the project’s lifespan, amateur paleontologists (a.k.a. citizen scientists), professional paleontologists, as well as K-12 educators and students have been brought together to share paleontological knowledge, skills, research and collections methods, digitization techniques, communication strategies, and outreach & education practices. Based upon observations at in-person events, survey responses, and analyses of online interactions, we have learned valuable lessons about community engagement in the field of paleontology. Here we highlight best practices garnered via the FOSSIL project that are specifically related to citizen science. These best practices include: (1) having participants perform scientifically meaningful tasks; (2) enabling participants to gain authentic skills and knowledge; (3) asking participants to communicate their experiences and demonstrate their skillsets to others; and (4) following up with participants after projects are completed. A key to creating a sense of community appears to be in-person interaction – especially field experiences – paired with an online presence (i.e., website and social media). These findings may be useful to others seeking to engage citizen scientists in paleontology projects.