In The Land Institute’s civic science communities, people in many locations collaborate to learn together as they each grow, observe, care for, and study perennial grain crops.
Perennial, diverse civic science communities empower participants and researchers to build knowledge and enduring relationships with each other and with perennial grains.
Why Civic Science?
- Civic science is an integrative, transdisciplinary method to grow perennial grain agriculture research and education. It weaves together science, story, and community. It invites diverse individuals and civic groups—not only large research universities and corporations—to participate in the obligations and rewards of collaborative scientific discovery and creation.
- The agroecological data and new stories, experiences, and knowledge gained by participants and researchers in our civic science communities shape the development of a perennial future. Minoritized and marginalized researchers, communities, and places have human-plant relationships and land ethics that are critical to their leadership of—as well as participation in—perennial grain domestication. Civic science takes an ethnobotanical approach by respectfully engaging people who have many different sources of plant knowledge and skills.
- Civic science broadens public engagement in research in order to catalyze and sustain the cultural changes necessary to advance perennial grain domestication. Since civic science is decentralized and can be more affordable, it may be a more replicable approach in underserved regions and help them retain plant diversity and community agency.
- We hypothesize that a diverse, pluralistic network of people caring for perennial grain crops-in-process will build public understanding, trust, and legitimacy for perennial grains; accelerate their adaptation to a wide range of soils, climates, and pests; and increase the probability of these crops being valued when they are ready for widespread use.
The Land Institute’s Civic Science research team is interested in partnering with individuals and groups across the country committed to co-creating agricultural systems and communities that are perennial, diverse, and just. Although we are not always able to welcome new civic scientists and other collaborators, opportunities to engage with civic science research projects will grow and evolve in the coming seasons and years. We encourage you to fill out the interest form below so we can be in touch. All questions, besides your name and email address, are optional. The information you share in this form is only available to The Land Institute’s Civic Science research team and will not be shared with others. Submitting this form does not guarantee placement within a civic science community but does mean that we will be in touch with you when relevant new projects and opportunities become available.
We are open to feedback and excited by the chance to learn, collaborate, and build relationships. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback or discussion topics that may not fit within the interest form.
- Apply civic science experimental methods and evaluate learning outcomes in perennial grain civic science communities in order to understand how to build and sustain positive outcomes (such as motivation and knowledge) for participants and researchers alike
- Engage our three pilot civic science communities in a co-creative learning process as we provide educational materials, collect and analyze sociocultural and scientific data, reflect on challenges and opportunities, and communicate results
- Scale our civic science communities to welcome more participants, with more diverse cultural and geographic sets of knowledge, and more perennial grain crops, in order to allow Land Institute plant breeders and ecologists to explore more decentralized research methods
- Test the hypotheses that civic science is a viable crop domestication strategy leading to increased grain yield, broad adaptation, and farmer adoption of new crops, and a more resilient and equitable strategy compared with standard plant breeding approaches
The Land Institute launched its first pilot silphium civic science community in 2019, as a collaboration between our research teams in plant breeding, ecology, and Ecosphere Studies. Seedlings of Silphium integrifolium were sent to more than 40 volunteers across the U.S.
The experimental project was inspired by the artist Carmen Christina Moreno, who shared her civic science approach in an Ecosphere Studies workshop, and motivated by Perennial Oilseeds scientist David Van Tassel’s realization that silphium could benefit from being grown in multiple locations to better understand where it survives and what kinds of pollinators, pests, and diseases emerge in those locations. Director of Ecosphere Studies, Aubrey Streit Krug, realized civic science could provide an opportunity for people to learn with each other and silphium, and for us to generate improved learning strategies.
The silphium informal learning pilot community has generated positive results, and in 2020, we added a sainfoin informal learning pilot community along with a silphium ecotype conservation community. All three pilot projects are currently active, and we maintain a waitlist for people interested in joining future perennial civic science communities.
In our 2022 growing season, 124 volunteer civic scientists in 41 US states collaborated on perennial wheat research and silphium ecotype conservation.
The civic science lab is rooted in The Land Institute’s ecosphere studies research and education efforts. Civic science collaborates closely with The Land Institute research teams in crop improvement, ecological intensification, and crop stewardship.
Since 2019, we have been collaborating with researchers at CitSci.org at the Natural Resources Ecology Lab at Colorado State University.
Civic science project advisors provide feedback and guidance on our project design, educational materials, and analysis and return of results. Project advisors for the 2022 growing season:
- Nate Kleinman is a perennial wheat civic scientist in New Jersey, a plant breeder and researcher, and co-founder of the Experimental Farm Network.
- Piyush Labshetwar is a perennial wheat civic scientist in Massachusetts and a past perennial wheat research technician at The Land Institute.
- Virginia Moore is a plant breeder and agroecologist who researches sustainable cropping systems and teaches at Cornell University in New York.
- Omar Tesdell is a geographer who leads the community-based research group Makaneyyat and teaches at Birzeit University in Palestine.
- Brooke Thiel is an agricultural educator who teaches at North Dakota State University with experience in informal learning and adult education at the Northern Crops Institute.
Join us by supporting this work with a donation to The Land Institute.
The Land Institute’s Director of Ecosphere Studies, Dr. Aubrey Streit Krug introduces us to Silphium…
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