Please note: We are a small, busy team and can’t always answer our phone. If you leave us a message, we will call you back shortly.
Address: Langmuir Lab Room 283, 95 Brown Road, Ithaca NY 14850
General Inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
Baseline Testing, Volunteer Programs: email@example.com
The mission of the Community Science Institute (CSI) is to foster and support environmental monitoring by volunteers in order to educate the public about natural resources and to collect scientifically credible data for use in protecting the environment and managing natural resources sustainably.
To fulfill our mission with respect to water resources in our region, we broker partnerships between volunteer groups and local government agencies to monitor streams and lakes in the Cayuga Lake watershed and beyond. We recruit and train volunteers, coordinate their monitoring activities, and assure that data produced with volunteer support meet the standards of good science as well as the data quality objectives of local stakeholders. We operate a certified water quality testing laboratory (ELAP #11790) where water samples collected by volunteers are analyzed for bacteria, nutrients, solids and minerals. We archive raw data in MS Excel spreadsheets and make the files publicly available on our website. We offer analyses and interpretations of the water quality of lakes and their feeder streams in the form of narrative summaries based on graphs and tables of key chemical, physical and microbiological parameters. Graphs, tables and summaries of results are posted on our website and updated regularly in order to provide timely information for local decision-making on a range of environmental policy issues.
Is Community Science the same as Citizen Science?
Not quite. Citizen science is growing in popularity among researchers as a way to enlarge the scope of scientific inquiry by engaging volunteers to help collect data. Citizen science projects tend to be regional, national or international in scope. They may involve observational monitoring, the testing of scientific hypotheses, or a combination of the two. Audiences for citizen science projects are generally other research scientists and government agencies at the state, national and international level.
Community science differs from citizen science in some respects. Community science projects focus on local issues and local government. They prioritize observational monitoring and the use of data for science-based management of local resources over hypothesis testing and publication in scientific journals. Community science adheres to the scientific method, and projects may contribute to new scientific knowledge. However, creating new knowledge is secondary to gathering data within a known scientific framework and using results to manage local resources sustainably.
Steve Penningroth founded the not-for-profit Community Science Institute with a group of friends in 2000, following up with 501(c)3 tax-exempt status from the IRS in 2002 and certification for CSI’s water quality testing lab in 2003. Long before there was CSI, Steve enjoyed an extended education, going from a B.A. in German Literature to a B.S. in Biology and finally a Ph.D. in Biochemical Sciences in 1977, squeezing in a stint in Army Military Intelligence on the German-Czech border from 1968-1969 where he watched history unfold as Warsaw Pact forces invaded Czechoslovakia and crushed the Prague Spring.
He was an assistant and associate professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey from 1978-1993, conducting basic research on the role of the dynein ATPase in flagellar motility in sea urchin spermatozoa and teaching pharmacology to medical students. A 1987-8 sabbatical at Cornell University with Professor James Gillett awakened an interest in environmental toxicology and extension work, and in 1993 Steve resigned his faculty position in New Jersey and moved to Ithaca.
As a Senior Lecturer at Cornell for seven years before starting CSI, he developed and taught several undergraduate toxicology courses, served as a technical advisor for community groups at Superfund sites in New York and New Jersey, and conceived the idea of an introductory textbook for non-toxicologists, which was published in 2010 under the title “Essentials of Toxic Chemical Risk: Science and Society.”
The father of two grown children and grandfather of two small boys, Steve shares a home a mile from Cayuga Lake with his wife, Judy, and their three gorgeous German shepherd dogs, all trained by Judy and veteran competitors in agility and obedience. He is grateful for the support, public and private, that has allowed CSI to contribute to the growing movement for greater local stewardship of natural resources.
Michi has been a lab technician at CSI since August 2008. She does the microbiology and solids assays and BMI (benthic macroinvertebrate) surveys. Her work with BMI has involved training volunteer groups in the method. She has also worked with the 4H2O group monitoring Stewart Park stream and lake sites. Before moving to Ithaca, she lived in Chicago and worked at the Field Museum of Natural History as a specimen preparator in the Division of Mammals.
Many years before, due to a tragic lack of foresight, she got a degree in Chemical Engineering. This was followed by a stint as a stay-at-home mom. She is married, has two grown children, one crazy dog, one lumpish cat and fish. She volunteers for Habitat for Humanity, the Cornell Vertebrate Museum and the Democratic Party. She enjoys preparing bird study skins, home improvement projects, playing the guitar and singing, ballroom dancing, and playing soccer.
She was born in Vietnam, lived in India and France before moving to the suburbs of Washington D.C. at the age of 8.
Becky Bowen has been the Outreach & Volunteer Coordinator at CSI since July 2011. Becky coordinates the baseline testing program for landowners wishing to test their well water prior to any natural gas drilling. She also organizes the “red flag” volunteer groups that monitor streams for gas drilling impacts.
Originally from central Pennsylvania, Becky moved to Ithaca in 2006 to attend Ithaca College. Graduating in 2009 with a B.A. in Environmental Studies, she now calls Tompkins County home. Before coming to CSI, she worked in Member Services for Ithaca Carshare helping over 1000 people figure out how to share 16 vehicles. She serves on the Board of Directors at the Finger Lakes Permaculture Institute, which provides education to connect people to the environment and design resilient communities. She is also a volunteer at the Tompkins County Workers’ Center, fighting for living wages and safe workplaces for all workers.
Adrianna Hirtler has been doing BMI work with the Community Science Institute since the summer of 2011. She has been a water-loving naturalist for about 15 years, primarily in the Finger Lakes Region and Yosemite National Park but also in the Cascade Range of Oregon, the Grand Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Park. She received a B.S. degree in Natural Resources from Cornell University in 1999 and an M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Oregon in 2004. She is also a volunteer water monitor with the Cayuga Inlet group.
Matt Yarrow began making maps while in a Ph.D. program at the University of Chile in Santiago in 2005. He continued learning about geography and cartography in a year-long professional certificate program in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) at the University of Washington. The world of GIS attracted him, because there are different levels on which one can interact with the technology. First, designing colorful and readily interpretable custom maps can be seen as an artistic endeavor. Second, GIS can be used as a scientific tool to analyze processes that occur across landscapes.
At CSI, Matt is able work on both levels – something that makes him happy. He has helped create maps for the CSI website and is working to analyze CSI’s large chemical water quality dataset with an eye toward spatial patterns. Matt finally finished his Ph.D. in 2010 with a dissertation on the spatial aspects of nutrient cycles in terrestrial landscapes. He thinks that understanding how water, nutrients and contaminants move in the landscape and the interactions between these processes and human activities is key in managing our water resources sustainably. Matt grew up in Ithaca and returned in 2010 with a wife and daughter. His long-term goal is to contribute to sustainable natural resource management and sustainable communities in the region.
Abner contributes extensive experience with relational database technologies to the development and design of the Community Science Institute website and its database web application. Abner relies primarily on the Ruby on Rails platform and his experience with server-side programming languages to create back-ends to support rich internet experiences.
Abner is a skilled web applications engineer with a love of clean code and strong fundamentals in object-oriented programming. His passion is to make beautiful products and to bring critical thinking to real challenges. His love of technology comes from his considerable experience as a polyglot programmer; his palette is forever expanding with newer, cleaner, and more efficient coding techniques. Abner also possess a knack for describing complex concepts in a way that non-technical audiences can easily grasp.