Dr. Laura Hainsworth: Making Scientific Observations “on the Farm”

Posted by Monica Hoel
Emory & Henry’s Dr. Laura Hainsworth doesn’t agree with John Denver on one important point: life on the farm is anything but laid back.

As the director of Emory & Henry’s Bartlett-Crowe Field Station, Dr. Hainsworth oversees a huge array of student research, maintenance, and observations that are just part of life on this beautiful farm donated to the College by Dr. Charlie Bartlett. He wished for this beloved property to be used in a variety of ways for academic enhancement, and Dr. Hainsworth’s hard work is making that wish come true.

In addition to being part of the challenging and rewarding academic offerings in the Environmental Science program, it is also a location where citizen science plays a role. Also called community science, citizen science is the practice of ordinary community folks being involved in the collection of data that can then be used for scientific research. At the Bartlett-Crowe Field Station there are several ongoing opportunities where data is gathered by students and visitors and then shared with a wider community of scientists and observers.

She and some of her students have gotten training to be stream monitors and keep an eye on the quality of water in the river that runs next to the property. The Field Station also has a phenology trail where anyone walking around the grounds can make observations about the timing of blooms on certain trees on the farm. And then there are the day-to-day discoveries that get shared on iNaturalist.

Laura says this community effort at data gathering is important because there just aren’t enough eyes in the professional scientific world to notice and record every little thing. And as a great example of the success of this venture she points to the number of astronomical discoveries that have been made, not by scientists, but by astronomy enthusiasts who watch the night sky. “The world is immense! And in order to create a more thorough collection of data it takes many observers.”

Enjoy a conversation with Dr. Hainsworth in the archives of WEHC-FM. And check out recorded engagement events (including a presentation by a representative from iNaturalist) that allow participants to learn through a recent citizen science project that teamed up E&H alumni, Smyth County Libraries, and the Holston Rivers Chapter of Virginia Master Naturalist.

  • Dr. Laura Hainsworth, Emory & Henry Chemistry and Environmental Studies Professor and Director of the Bartlett-Crowe Field Station

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