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Sea Grant Expands Community Science Efforts with New Hire in Louisiana

Photo: Liz McQuain

The National Sea Grant College Program recently announced six new partnership positions between federal agencies and state programs. These liaisons will integrate Sea Grant extension expertise in science, products and services from agencies and other publicly supported scientific research programs into local communities. One of these partnerships will be based at Louisiana Sea Grant (LSG).

Louisiana will serve as the base of operations for a federal liaison on the issue of community science. Community science makes the research process more inclusive and accessible to the public. Participants help collect data around a phenomenon of concern—water quality, weather, public health, astronomy, etc.—and through their collective action provide new insights, data sources, discoveries and perspectives. Their findings are often used to enhance research projects and support informed community decisions.

Newly hired Liz McQuain joins LSG in the role of liaison to examine opportunities and challenges in community science. Partners from the Environmental Protection Agency, National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, National Sea Grant College Program and the United States Geological Survey will guide her on this effort. This collaboration aims to better understand barriers to diverse participation and unite water resource community science efforts. Through this partnership, McQuain plans to recommend standardized practices and develop trainings that will increase uniform platforms for sharing and analyzing data for community science efforts, as well as increase diversity of participation to better represent communities.

McQuain received her Bachelor of Science degree in marine biology with a minor in chemistry from the University of North Carolina Wilmington. She holds a Master of Science in environmental and sustainability studies from the College of Charleston in South Carolina, where her thesis focused on community monitoring of stormwater retention ponds. While working on her master’s degree, McQuain also worked with the South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium on several outreach projects.

“It is an exciting time to be working in community science, as it has been getting more attention and is being increasingly utilized in decision making and identifying research questions,” said McQuain. “The chance to be working with federal partners to advance diversity of participation and greater data acceptance is an amazing opportunity to make a real positive impact on community science as a discipline.”

McQuain looks forward to making national, regional and local impacts on the future of community science efforts. She can be contacted at [email protected].