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Data-driven: Alaska Citizen Scientists Quantify Stories of Berry Variability in Changing Climates
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  • Christina Buffington,
  • Katie Spellman,
  • Christa Mulder,
  • Elena Sparrow
Christina Buffington
International Arctic Research Center

Corresponding Author:cbuffington@alaska.edu

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Katie Spellman
University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Christa Mulder
University of Alaska Fairbanks
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Elena Sparrow
Univ Alaska Fairbanks
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Accessibility of scientific research to underrepresented voices is a forefront issue. Intentionally-designed citizen science programs, such as the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ (UAF) citizen science and learning research project “Arctic Harvest-Public Participation in Scientific Research,” are poised to improve the participation and effectiveness of citizen science across diverse audiences while gathering rigorous data. We selected our research question after first listening to stories of how Alaska’s rural grocery store - the land and its bounty of berries - has become more variable. We investigate how shifts in climate affect the fate of subsistence berries and timing of berry loss from plants in fall and winter across Alaska. In our presentation, we outline the design elements and accommodations we made to enable a diverse group of 1,099 participants in 28 communities to collect phenology, berry abundance and condition, temperature, cloud cover, and snowpack data across ages, cultures, and learning environments. Over half of our volunteers were pre-K to 6th grade, while just under 10% were adults. Approximately 44% of our participants (479 of 1099 participants) were from groups historically underrepresented in STEM fields. We present learning outcomes evaluation, data collection approaches, and data quality per age group. To improve the success of a citizen science program, find the overlap between a topic of personal and cultural relevance to diverse participants and your university’s ongoing research programs.