ASU professor works to empower 'citizen scientists'

March 3, 2015

As a teenager, Darlene Cavalier didn't care much about science.

“I had other priorities,” said Cavalier, a professor of practice with Arizona State University’s Center for Engagement and Training in Science and Society. “I was waiting for the clock to hit 2:36 p.m., so I could run off to dance and cheer.” Darlene Cavalier with shad Download Full Image

In college she majored in communications with a minor in dance, and by her senior year Cavalier was cheering professionally for the Philadelphia 76ers.

As fate would have it, her first job out of college was a temporary position in a company contracted by Discover to do administrative work for the Discover Magazine Awards for Technological Innovation. Part of her responsibilities required reading the applications and speaking with the scientists who were potential candidates for the award.

To her surprise, she thoroughly enjoyed the conversations.

“That was my first recollection of ‘getting it,’ of understanding the science,” she said. “And science felt like it was for me.”

She eventually worked her way up to executive director of the awards program and senior manager of global business development at Walt Disney Publishing after they purchased Discover.

But along with her new love of science grew a new frustration.

“If you don’t have a science degree, and you’re not going to go into teaching or policymaking, you’re relegated to passive consumer of this wonderful information," she said. "That’s frustrating for someone who wants to do something, to be a part of it. I felt like I had missed the boat.”

Cavalier, who wondered how many others there were, who, like herself, became turned on to science later in life, decided to go to graduate school to figure out how to expand science research opportunities for everyday citizens.

Now, as part of the ASU faculty, she has been elected to the inaugural board of the Citizen Science Association (CSA), an organization recently established to improve opportunities for everyday people to get involved in science.

A 'citizen scientist' advocate

Her graduate studies led her to the intersection of scientific research and civic engagement – where she discovered that a lot of people without science degrees – “citizen scientists” – were already monitoring their environments or collecting data for researchers.

To make it easier for scientists to post their research projects and citizens to sign up to help, Cavalier founded SciStarter, a searchable database of community science projects. SciStarter now has nearly 1,000 projects and tens of thousands of citizens participating.

Additionally, she started science cheerleader, an organization that now has nearly 300 professional cheerleaders pursuing careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). The cheerleaders organize events around the country encouraging young girls to consider STEM careers, and adults to get involved with citizen science projects.

Now, in her new role on the CSA board, Cavalier hopes to raise awareness of citizen science and its potential to empower the public, benefit research and inform public policy.

“Darlene is a real champion for citizen science, and she knows how to work with other organizations to see where pieces fit as part of a whole to really build out the field,” said Jennifer Shirk, communications coordinator for CSA and manager of professional development for public engagement at Cornell Lab of Ornithology, where she’s worked to compile best practices for citizen science. “Darlene’s also really astute at understanding how to set up and run an organization that is responsive to the needs of the people it’s serving.”

CSA’s first annual conference, held in conjunction with the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s (AAAS) annual meeting earlier this month, drew nearly 700 people from 25 different countries.

“They represented all scientific disciplines and different kinds of citizen science projects, as well as science researchers, educators, evaluators, data managers and technologists,” said Shirk.

Citizen science is one of CENTSS’s core programs, where Cavalier recently joined the faculty.

“There’s been meteoric growth of citizen interest in science, scientist awareness of how their research can benefit from the inclusion of citizens, and studies of this relationship,” said Ira Bennett, co-director of ASU CENTSS and assistant director of education at the Center for Nanotechnology in Society at ASU. “While ASU has been steadily involved in citizen science, Darlene will enable ASU to tap into a much larger citizen science arena.”

In addition to expanding opportunities for citizens to provide policy input, Cavalier’s current work is aimed at providing more opportunities for citizen scientists to draw upon conclusions, ask more questions, form their own research questions and connect with others who have similar questions.

“Rather than scientists posting projects and saying, 'Here’s how you can help,' it’ll be more about featuring people who have the data and having researchers come to them,” said Cavalier. “Ultimately, that’s one way to empower people.”

Jennifer Pillen Banks

Communications program coordinator, Center for Nanotechnology in Society


ASU LEEDs the way at USGBC Arizona chapter awards event

March 3, 2015

Arizona State University received four LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) awards from the Arizona chapter of the USGBC (U.S. Green Building Council) for the outstanding design, planning and construction of its campus buildings. The 2014 Heavy Medals awards luncheon was held Feb. 12 at the Phoenix Convention Center West in downtown Phoenix.

The Arizona chapter is the USGBC’s third largest in the nation and consists of three branches: central, northern and Sonoran. P. Olson and E. Soltero pose with a USGBC Heavy Medal award Download Full Image

Between April 1, 2013 and Aug. 30, 2014, the USGBC awarded 259 LEED certifications to projects throughout Arizona. Only 40 building projects received Heavy Medal awards. There are 10 Heavy Medal award categories, including: LEED for schools, (K-12); retail; education; and institutional and health care.

For building projects completed during the April 2013 through the August 2014 time frame, ASU received four Heavy Medal awards: three in the education category and one in institutional and health care category:

ASU Health Service Renovation – Tempe campus LEED Platinum certification
The Sun Devil Fitness Complex – Polytechnic LEED Gold certification
• The Sun Devil Fitness Complex – West campus LEED Gold certification
• Verde Dining Pavilion – West campus LEED Gold certification

“Winning these awards in the Platinum and Gold certification categories demonstrates ASU’s dedication and commitment to incorporating many sustainable models – such as water and energy conservation – and the reduction of landfill waste and greenhouse gas emissions in our buildings, both in existing structures and new builds,” said Ed Soltero, ASU assistant vice president and university architect.

The ASU Health Service Renovation is the second ASU building to receive a LEED Platinum certification. The university achieved the state’s first LEED Platinum certification in 2007 for the Biodesign Building B on the ASU Tempe campus. As of November 2014, ASU has 42 LEED-certified buildings, two Platinum, 26 Gold, 13 Silver and one certified.

“LEED Silver certification is our minimum target for all new construction across all four ASU campuses,” Soltero added.

According to Bruce Nevel, associate vice president of ASU Facilities Development and Management, the buildings for which these awards were given all affect ASU students and their quality of life.

“Our principal and overriding goal at ASU is our commitment to our students; not only while they are here in providing a healthier environment, but as they move to the next steps in their life after graduation,” Nevel said. “We are equally committed to preparing our students for the emerging green market, including future architects, project managers, researchers in future technologies and future employment.”

Michele Peters, 480-965-1748
ASU Facilities Development and Management

Wendy Craft

Marketing and communications manager, Business and Finance Communications Group