From 2001 to 2007, EcoSpark developed and delivered “Learning Atmospheres”, a program that engaged communities in air quality monitoring using lichens as biological indicators. As experts in citizen science, we developed a protocol in collaboration with Dr. David Richardson (St. Mary’s University), Dr. Tom Hutchinson (Trent University), Brian Craig (EMAN – Environment Canada), Dr. Irwin Brodo (world expert lichenologist), and George Sorger (McMaster University). In addition, our participants tested ground level ozone using a hand-held ozone monitoring device, designed specifically for citizen scientists.
After collecting data, our participants undertook action projects related to their study. These projects included participation in 20/20 Way to Clean Air projects, home energy audits, building educational websites about asthma and air quality, and providing educational ‘parking tickets’ to parents and teachers who park at the school. Students present their monitoring results and action projects at a Community Forum hosted by EcoSpark, schools and partner community groups. The Forum was an opportunity for these informed and inspired youth to engage the community.
With expertise in community engagement around air quality monitoring, EcoSpark was invited to participate in a lichen survey of Hamilton with the Ecological Monitoring and Assessment Network (EMAN) Coordinating Office at Environment Canada, undergraduates at Brock University and their professor Dr. Dan McCarthy in 2004. As a result, EMAN produced maps identifying areas of high lichen diversity and abundance and visible "lichen deserts”. The data was used to further investigate problem areas.
In 2006 and 2007, EcoSpark focused “Learning Atmospheres” into the “Toronto Lichen Count”. Over two years, we trained 415 Torontonians to monitor lichens in urban parks across the City. In total, 105 sites were monitored. As a result, baseline for lichen presence, abundance and diversity was captured for the City of Toronto.
Ontario Trillium Foundation, Ontario Science Canada, EMAN (Environment Canada), Metro