By Courtlin Byrd
Interview with Jackie James-Creedon conducted by Elizabeth Schiavoni, MS
Science Demands Action is not marching alone in its mission. A number of local organizations are successfully pioneering ways to make science education and scientific practice a part of a civic life.
One of these groups is Citizen Science Community Resources, an organization which won a landmark victory over the Tonawanda Coke Corporation’s illegal and extremely dangerous emissions violations.
Executive Director of Citizen Science Community Resources (CSCR), Jackie James-Creedon, says that the organization’s mission is to “democratize science.” CSCR grew out of her own personal experience with environmental containments and community advocacy.
Nearly fifteen years ago, James-Creedon and her neighbors began to compare health issues they were facing, and in true scientific method form, tested their hypothesis that, “in Tonawanda, there was something in the air that was making us sick.” They created a homemade air-sampler bucket and tested the air quality. When they discovered extremely high levels of benzene, a known carcinogen, this evidence enabled the women to enlist the help of the EPA.
A legal battle ensued, resulting, after many years, in only the second indictment and conviction of a U.S. company in violation of environmental regulations under the Clean Air Act. A law in danger under the current business friendly EPA.
James-Creedon has a degree in chemistry, but points out the other women she was working with had no previous scientific training. “It’s important for folks to understand that… anyone can be a citizen scientist.” CSCR is working to bring the education, tools, and resources to community members to empower them to investigate their own neighborhoods and environments. “We want people to know that yes, you can affect change, and this is how you do it.”
On Thursday, April 12, CSCR will hold a workshop called “Citizen Science 101” from 6:30-8:30pm in the Community Room of the Philip Sheridan Building in Kenmore, where they will go over examples of successful community action and announce their plan “to outfit residents [with] a soil-sampling tool kit to test their own gardens and play areas.”
This year, the big push is getting people familiar with soil sampling, and in future years, CSCR will focus on air and water sampling kits as well.
Citizen Science Community Resources will have a table at the 2018 Buffalo March for Science Education Fair celebrating Citizen Science Day and introducing community members to the citizen science movement.
As James-Creedon emphasizes: “Everyone can be a scientist.”
RSVP to the 2018 March for Science here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1477762595683712