Connecting People to Nature

Lee Ann Rodríguez

Lee Ann Rodríguez is being honored as a Champion of Change for her dedication to increasing public engagement in science and science literacy.

I was introduced to the concept of citizen science around five years ago, after being drawn into an NSF-funded project of my organization. Looking back to that moment, and although I was not familiar with this concept at the time, I was captivated by the opportunity to be part of something so unique that could have a meaningful impact on individuals of all walks of life.

Our Citizen Science project aimed at engaging individuals as participants in research that would expand our knowledge of the ecological inventory and interactions within our Hacienda La Esperanza Nature Reserve. We were able to complete that goal by the end of the project, but what was really fulfilling was that we achieved so much more than that: we created a group of citizens brought together by science and by an extraordinary sense of community.

Children as young as nine joined seniors as ripe as ninety-two in learning and sharing their knowledge about nature and the services it provides. Students and school dropouts, working professionals and unemployed from diverse disciplines, they all chose to be part of a movement presenting an inclusive alternative to doing science.

Many applied their citizen science experience to academic and career choices, and others to community issues or everyday life situations. But what’s really amazing is that most came back, time after time to keep the movement alive, and that many are still active in our organization and in their communities through volunteerism, leadership, and collaborations.

More than a tool of informal science education, citizen science has proven to be a system where individuals can connect to others and to nature through science. I am honored to be a White House Champion of Change, and I am so proud to work hand-in-hand with my organization’s staff and citizen scientists to make it all happen.

Lee Ann Rodríguez is Para la Naturaleza’s Development Manager. Her organization is the new unit of the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, a non-profit dedicated to land conservation in the islands of Puerto Rico.

Lee Ann Rodríguez is the DBAc in Resource Development Manager at the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico.

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