, Volume 31, Issue 5, pp 0561-0568

Volunteer Environmental Monitoring and the Role of the Universities: The Case of Citizens' Environment Watch

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Abstract

Universities can provide a stable home for launching collaborative community research projects. Citizens' Environment Watch (CEW), an environmental monitoring initiative based at the University of Toronto, has made significant contributions to environmental education and stewardship in Ontario, Canada. Following dramatic cuts in provincial monitoring programs, citizens and youth have used chemical parameters and biological indicators to gauge water and air quality, and to identify areas requiring remediation and pollution prevention efforts. The relationship of Citizens' Environment Watch to government agencies, funders and other grassroots environmental groups has evolved over the past 5 years as CEW attempts to remain effective without taking on the investigative and enforcement roles to support the regulatory enforcement that has been largely abandoned by government. We explore the challenges inherent in developing and maintaining a volunteer organization that carries out rigorous and useful scientific work and we outline the ability of a university to help overcome these critical challenges. Finally, we present lessons learned for the benefit of other citizen and youth monitoring projects.