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Citizen science, also known as participatory research, combines the efforts of professional researchers and community volunteers to collect data. We have established one such collaborative project in eastern North Carolina, near the 79,000-acre Hofmann Forest, called the Hofmann Open-Water Laboratory (HOWL) citizen science project. The White Oak River, New River, and Trent River all flow out of the Hofmann. The Hofmann is an ecological keystone in the region, acting as a natural filtration system for harmful runoff that occurs in the coastal plain of North Carolina. Our purposes for this study were twofold: (a) to evaluate the HOWL project by assessing the perceptions of HOWL participants and determining whether the project achieved its goals of individual development and community engagement and (b) to provide recommendations for the HOWL project as well as suggestions for other participatory research projects in their beginning phases. We interviewed 12 HOWL citizen scientists who participated in the project, and we drew two major conclusions from our research. First, we recognized that community engagement and collaboration drastically increased in rural eastern North Carolina due to the community members’ participation in water monitoring and natural resource management. Second, citizen scientists achieved their personal goals and objectives by participating in the HOWL project: Participants reported that they learned new skills, gained knowledge of scientific and research procedures, developed an attachment to their community and region, and acted as environmental stewards.


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19 Jul 2022
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  • Journal title
    • Journal of Community Engagement and Scholarship

  • Volume
    • 13

  • Issue
    • 2

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

  • License
  • Keywords
  • Additional information
    • Acknowledgements:

      We are thankful for the participation and support from the Izaak Walton League of America White Oak Chapter, White Oak-New Riverkeeper Alliance, and NC Cooperative Extension - Onslow County.