Hedda R. Schmidtke

GEOG 490/590: Citizen Science and Geosensor Networks

Today even remote regions are connected to the Internet and data has become the driving factor of decision making in this globalized world. With the help of local inhabitants and cost-effective hardware, scientists can survey, e.g., ecological and economical aspects at high detail by using freely available tools for developing citizen science applications. Moreover, even previously inaccessible regions can be surveyed at high temporal resolution and without disturbing animals by using sensors.  Scientific data complemented by such community driven data collection efforts open new opportunities to scale and detail scientific findings. Communities that collect data in such a way contribute to decision making at a much earlier stage and in a better informed manner.

In this course you learn about:

  • Theory and practice of citizen science with apps and geosensor networks,
  • Challenges and opportunities for democratized science and decision making,
  • Tools for citizen science with apps and geosensors.

Students with technical interest can build their own mobile or geosensor-based citizen science app (optional).

Requirements: no formal requirements

The instructor has practical experience in areas of citizen science methods, including sensor networks and mobile apps, and has worked for two years in Sub-Saharan Africa developing mobile apps with students in Rwanda.

Course Schedule and Assignments

The course has the following general schedule. In the assignments students survey and/or evaluate projects regarding the discussed criteria.

  • Introduction The 5W1H of citizen science: who where when what is involved in citizen science why and how?
  • Location The regional geographic perspective. Where is citizen science applicable? Which (types of) regions of the world are doing citizen science?
  • Stakeholders The human perspective. Who are the people involved and why are they participating. What is their role and motivation to participate?
  • Activities Economic and knowledge factors. How is citizen science performed? What is required in terms of costs and prerequisites to participate in the different roles?
  • Technologies The democratization of technology. Mobile apps and geosensor networks for everyone.
  • Data Processing The data science perspective. What is the quality of citizen science data collections? How can we ensure high quality data?
  • Outcomes The entrepreneurial/activist perspective. What are the effects of projects?


Grades will be determined according to the following schema:

  • Assignments (50%)
  • Final Examination (20%)
  • Final project (30%)

Grading in basic activities, such as examinations and assignments, evaluates in how far an answer reflects that the question with its background was understood and solved following the methods to be applied in the specific answer. Grading of advanced activities with higher degrees of freedom, such as advanced assignments or the final project, additionally evaluates the suitability of the choices made, e.g. the project plan or the method chosen for analysis. These assignments are guided individual assignments that require the thoughtful, creative, and reflective interaction with the material for which we often do not have time. While there is, for this reason, no mechanical way to complete these advanced assignments, there is guidance and help in every step to ascertain everyone can reach the goal. Students should make sure that they seek guidance early on all such assignments, so as to make sure they set themselves attainable (depending on background) and suitable goals. All such choices should be justified in write-ups.

Skip to toolbar