Collaborative Environmental Monitoring in a UNESCO Biosphere: A Pilot Project in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region
Organization: Vancouver Island University
Location: The Regional District of Nanaimo, City of Parksville, Town of Qualicum Beach, Snaw-naw-as First Nation, Qualicum First Nation, and traditional territories of five other Coast Salish and Nuu-chah-nulth Nations
Other Organizations Involved:
Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region Research Institute
Although many stakeholders, nonprofit organizations and governmental agencies individually monitor and record environmental data in the Mount Arrowsmith Biosphere Region (MABR —designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), public availability of these data and information sharing between these groups is limited. This pilot project will address this gap through a new web-based application (titled the Bee App) that offers a simple yet effective means of uploading environmental and social data within the region to a publically available database available to residents, NGOs, government agencies, and researchers. It is anticipated that the methods used and the app will be of interest to other biospheres in Canada, Mexico, and the United States.
The overarching goal of this research project is to create a mechanism for collaboratively monitoring environmental and social aspects of the MABR. Citizens, community groups, government agencies, and researchers can all be involved in this collective and community-based science project. By analyzing patterns in data collection, the problems, priorities, and data gaps will become apparent. As patterns emerge, we will work with groups, agencies, and researchers to determine collectively the best methods for addressing the issues. We will also actively work to involve local residents as “citizen scientists,” as our residents have the greatest level of local knowledge on the area.
The main activities of this projects are as follows:
- Create a template and trial data collection system to demonstrate and showcase to the community, using Collector for ArcGIS.
- Facilitate multiple meetings with stakeholders and community members to obtain feedback on the template and to determine what other input features and options to associate with the Bee App (the Bee serves as a symbol of the need to work collectively to succeed).
- Work with a web-based app specialist and a team of students from Vancouver Island University to create the Bee App.
- Initiate an extensive rollout of the Bee App across the MABR through social media and more traditional information-sharing mechanisms.
- Facilitate roundtable discussions based on the data collected, and create plans for addressing environmental and social issues and/or concerns.
- Disseminate information of our results to all UNESCO biospheres in Canada, Mexico, and the United States, and share all aspects of the process in detail for any biosphere reserve to be able to implement a similar program in their region.
- Create an easy-to-use app for all residents and frequent visitors of the MABR to collect data.
- Break the current “information silos” and ensure new mechanisms for information sharing.
- Encourage new partnerships and connections among groups in the region.
- Develop opportunities for resident involvement as citizen scientists.
- Create new research projects that will be addressed by researchers, students, citizens, groups, and agencies stemming from the data collected on the app.
- Enable a new collaborative method of moving from identification of issues to actions.
This project will allow the local community to quickly identify the issues/features that are important and worthy of inclusion on the community map, demonstrate patterns of occurrences, and allow governments and agencies to target resources and work plans to resolve these community identified issues. Practical results will be achieved within the timeframe of NAPECA support. Through this process, the wider community will gain valuable education and awareness of environmental and cultural issues in the region and resources will be targeted to solve critical issues.