CSA works to foster connections that sustain the field of citizen science. We created this member interview series as a mini-mentorship opportunity to connect early career citizen science professionals with long time practitioners. For this post, Pammi Price, Education Program Coordinator at Mud Creek Environmental Learning Center in Ghent, NY, interviewed Tina Barzo, Leader of Volunteer Engagement at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. Pammi is a new member of CSA, and new to the field of citizen science. Tina has over a decade experience coordinating citizen science programs.
Pammi and Tina shared their enthusiasm and passion for citizen science and the myriad of learning opportunities it bestows upon participants. They discussed the importance of mentors and connections and the role networking plays in sharing knowledge, skills and encouragement. Below is a snapshot of their conversation.
Describe a defining opportunity that helped get you to where you are now.
Volunteering for a Rails-To-Trails group as the”voice for youth” when I was in outdoor education in high school made a huge impression on me and impacted my life significantly. Through that experience I realized that my input mattered and volunteering opened up many doors “to the outdoors” as a career. It was also a gateway to my journey in citizen science, as I never thought I was good at science but I had such a passion for the environment, and now I am a big proponent of the many and diverse ways people can participate in science and contribute to the larger body of knowledge.Tina Barzo
I have to echo Tina, opportunities throughout my career that have helped strengthen me and fostered my journey have come via volunteering/internships. From working with Fran Martino, who I still count as one of my primary mentors, where I got my start in environmental education; to the work I’ve been doing this summer alongside amazing youth in the garden at Kite’s Nest, guided by Briggin Scharf, volunteering has been a portal to discovery and connections I could never imagine achieving any other way. Through these experiences I have been able to explore many things that are important to me, expand my knowledge, and progress in my career; all while contributing to the organizations whose teams are nourishing me with their wisdom. Before meeting Fran, I never thought I could do science, having been discouraged in school, but once I got my feet wet, I realized that nature and science were part of what I needed to do with my life, took the leap, and here I am today – a Certified Wildlife Biologist who is the Education Program Coordinator at a local soil and water conservation district, and I’m happy with that!Pammi Price
Advice to those hoping to build a career in citizen science?
I sound like a broken record but I truly believe that volunteering is an excellent and cost effective way to build a career in citizen science. Know your strengths and areas of improvement, research and find a good match (in terms of projects or an organization) and then throw yourself in! The feeling of empowerment that comes from taking action and seeing results is transferable to the rest of your life! It can be positive for mental and physical health, in addition to the societal benefits.Tina Barzo
As far as citizen science is concerned, my advice is – just get involved! Participate in a citizen science project. There are so many options, you can choose something that you are passionate about or learn about something new that interests you, that’s the beauty of citizen science. And once you get your feet wet, you can explore developing and implementing your own projects, or use existing projects in education work.
And join a citizen science organization like CSA. That’s what else I did – to make connections, learn about what was going on in citizen science and find out about opportunities for continuing education, lectures, and the like; I even went as far as joining a committee to really connect and feel like part of the citizen science community. And those connections are already paying off as I start my graduate capstone project this summer with a little help from new friends!Pammi Price
Tina and Pammi also spoke about the multiple mental and physical health benefits that come with being in nature, acknowledging that not everyone is connected to nature. They agreed that there are a multitude of barriers to connection with nature, and Tina pointed out that,
citizen science can be a bridge. Citizen science is not just doing science for the sake of science, but it moves us forward as humanity. It helps us to build community connections and become empowered citizens.Tina Barzo
Pammi recently authored a full blog post for the Bard Center For Environmental Policy power of getting out in nature and it’s many benefits for our health and social well being- read it here.
Tina Barzo is the Leader of Volunteer Engagement at Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. She has a Masters of Arts in Leadership from Royal Roads University, and wrote her thesis on citizen science: “Advancing Conservation through Leadership in Citizen Science at the David Suzuki Foundation.” Tina has over 15 years of citizen science experience, developing projects and facilitating volunteer engagement. Those volunteers have contributed thousands of hours to projects looking at shrubs, toads, water, bear DNA, birds, wildlife tracking, Harlequin duck monitoring, grizzly bear research and more.
Pamela (Pammi) Price is a Certified Wildlife Biologist, with a B.T. in Wildlife Management from SUNY Cobleskill. She is currently the Education Program Coordinator at Mud Creek Environmental Learning Center, the education arm of Columbia County Soil and Water Conservation District in Ghent, NY, where she is responsible for education and awareness programs, nature interpretation and brochure and exhibit development. Prior to that, she worked as a Natural Resource Specialist performing natural resource inventories, wetland delineations, and threatened and endangered species work. Pammi is an M.Ed. in Environmental Education candidate at Bard Center for Environmental Policy in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, where she hopes to gain more tools to enhance educational opportunities for all members of the community. Pammi’s Master’s thesis will explore how the design and implementation of a collaborative citizen science project focused on preventing and reducing nutrient pollution in lakes may impact community participants. She has recently started using citizen science in her education programs and hopes to gain more knowledge and insight into the practice of citizen science through membership in the organization.