Date of Award


Degree Name

MS in Environmental Sciences and Management


Natural Resources Management


College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Nick Babin

Advisor Department

Natural Resources Management

Advisor College

College of Agriculture, Food, and Environmental Sciences


Civic science has been prevalent in environmental science for many years. The use of volunteers and the community as a helping hand in research continues to link society and science, as well as increases the magnitude and breadth of environmental studies. Assessments of data quality produced by civic science is an important component in validating the accuracy and reliability of the research. In this study, the reliability of civic science was tested by assessing the variation within data gathered from undergraduate Cal Poly students. Using a common garden experimental set up, the health of twelve wildtype silphium genotypes were assessed through six general plant traits: plant height, the number and width of viable seed heads, percent disease and herbivory, and pollinator count. During the lab period of a Cal Poly ecology course, eight groups of students performed the plant health assessments on all twelve genotypes. As an assessment of reliability, the coefficient of variance was calculated for each plant trait and an ANOVA with a Tukey-Kramer HSD test applied to determine any significant variation within groups. Significant variation within groups was found in more complex estimation methods such as estimating disease prevalence and herbivory, while more simple methods of data collection such as counting seed heads or measuring plant height were the most reliably consistent. We conclude that methods of data collection had a significant effect on the reliability of data collection using civic science and that with increased training and improved protocols, civic science can produce reliable data in the environmental sciences and further broaden the involvement of the community in research.