Transforming Agriculture, Perennially
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Civic Science

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.

Program Goals

  • 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

Program History

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.

Research Collaborators

Civic science is a collaboration across our research teams in plant breeding, ecology, ecosphere studies, and crop stewardship. The Land Institute’s civic science team, led by Director of Ecosphere Studies Aubrey Streit Krug, includes lead researchers, technicians, and research residents.

Domestic

  • 70+ volunteer civic scientists in 18+ states actively participating in silphium and sainfoin pilot civic science communities
  • CitSci.org at the Natural Resources Ecology Lab at Colorado State University
  • Kansas Biological Survey and Environmental Studies Program at the University of Kansas

Map of Participants

 

Green: Silphium Informal Learning (46)
Black: Silphium Ecotype Conservation (37)
Orange: Sainfoin informal Learning  (19)

Civic Science Guides

Silphium Civic Science Community Guide to Rust
Written and compiled by:
Kathryn Turner, PhD, Research Associate, Crop Protection Genetics
Angela Brekalo, BS, Research Resident, Crop Protection Genetics

Download PDF

 

Guide to Known Silphium Pathogens and Pests
Written and compiled by:
Ebony Murrell, PhD, Lead Scientist, Crop Protection Ecology
Kathryn Turner, PhD, Research Associate, Crop Protection Genetics

Download PDF

 

Guide to Known Silphium Pollinators
Written and compiled by:
Ebony Murrell, PhD, Lead Scientist, Crop Protection Ecology
Edy Chérémond, MS, Research Technician, Crop Protection Ecology

Download PDF

Join us by supporting this work with a donation to The Land Institute.

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Program Team

Aubrey Streit Krug
Director of Ecosphere Studies

Siena Polk
Research Resident

Sydney Schiffner
Research Technician, Perennial Oilseeds

David Van Tassel
Lead Scientist, Perennial Oilseeds (Silphium)

Brandon Schlautman
Lead Scientist, Perennial Legumes

Abigail Han
Research Resident

Spencer Barriball
Research Technician, Perennial Legumes

Ebony Murrell
Lead Scientist, Crop Protection Ecology

Kathryn Turner
Research Associate, Crop Protection Genetics

Edy Chérémond
Research Technician, Crop Protection Ecology

Angela Brekalo
Research Resident

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