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Citizen science more than a century later: Ordinary people go online to track Gulf oil spill
Date:12/10/2012

the spill. Since that time, clean-up workers, fishermen and local residents have sought medical attention for the kinds of symptoms that can arise from exposure to crude oil or chemicals in the dispersant, McCormick said.

Official reports of the disaster typically have reported few health risks but have not collected the comprehensive evidence that is needed to fully understand the consequences of the oil spill, McCormick said. She undertook the study to investigate whether a Spill Map created by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade (LABB) and other environmental justice groups would help fill in that gap. The Spill Map includes data from citizen science organizations as well as individuals who texted in reports or went online and noted problems as they occurred.

In this study, McCormick reviewed more than 2,600 online reports and conducted in-person interviews with people in the fishing industry, those working to clean up the oil and residents of Louisiana five months after the spill and again in September 2011. She found that the Spill Map helped capture reports of spill impacts, such as oil in the water, dying wildlife or health problems in real time, and included information from isolated parts of the Louisiana Bayou--places that are often not central to the official studies conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and others.

For example, LABB gave citizens special buckets to collect air samples even in very remote areas. The data from those air samples got logged onto the Spill Map and could be added in with eyewitness accounts of oil slicked water and crucial health and environmental information. In contrast, the U.S Environmental Protection Agency also collected air samples but did so mostly in highly populated regions and thus did not monitor pollution in some of the tiny fishing villages along the Coastline, McCormick said.

In addition, the Spill Map quickly gave an account of the health problems people were experi
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Contact: Kathy Fackelmann
kfackelmann@gwu.edu
202-994-8354
George Washington University
Source:Eurekalert

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