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After the Cap: Risk Assessment, Citizen Science and Disaster Recovery

Sabrina McCormick, George Washington University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05263-170431

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Abstract

I used the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill to examine how crowdsourcing is used as a new form of citizen science that provides real time assessments of health-related exposures. Assessing risks of an oil spill, or disasters more generally, is a challenge complicated by the situated nature of knowledge-generation that results in differential perceptions and responses. These processes are critical in the case of the British Petroleum spill in the Gulf Coast since the identification of risks promises to have ramifications for multiple social actors, as well as the health status and long-term resilience of communities in the area. Qualitative interviews, ethnographic observations, and video data were collected with local social movement organizations, grassroots groups, spill workers, fisherman, local residents, scientists, and government representatives within five months of the spill. Findings suggest that crowdsourcing is a new form of citizen science reflecting a transition from lay mapping to an online data gathering system that allows a broader range of participation and the detection of a broader range of impacts. Outcomes of this research promise to help demonstrate and theorize how citizen science relates to risk assessment processes and affects disaster recovery and long-term response.

Key words

Deepwater Horizon; citizen science; health; oil spill
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087