Citizen Science

Citizen Science presentations at the Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems Funders forum, July 25, 2015:

Citizen Science – Pt 1 of 4 – Overview by Larry Bohlen

Citizen Science – Pt 2 of 4 – Public Lab: Democratizing Science to Support Healthy Communities with Shannon Dosemagen

Citizen Science – Pt 3 of 4 – The People’s Lab

Citizen Science – Pt 4 of 4 – Life in the Soil with Dr. Elaine Ingham

Panel description:

Citizen Science: New Testing Technologies + Social Media = Power in the Hands of Sustainable Food Advocates

Is our soil rich and thriving with diverse microbes? Is my apple organic? Can I believe food labels? In the past, getting answers required a laboratory and a PhD. Today, “citizen scientists” combine miniature sensors and social media to get the answers.

A budding movement is bypassing FDA labs and universities with do-it-yourself monitoring of food and the environment. The power of citizen science is amplified by the internet. Vast sample gathering is happening through networks organized around a common concern. These trends will dramatically expand transparency in our food system.

New tools include the SCIO hand-held food detector, the Public Labs’ smart phone spectrometer, the HabitatMap personal air quality monitor, and the Lapka organic food detector.

Successes include Soil Foodweb’s global network of labs offering affordable evaluation of soil microbial health. University of North Carolina tested hair samples from 10,000 volunteers for mercury related to fish consumption.

New opportunities exist to support tech developers, grassroots testing and trusted labs to assist food and agriculture advocates.


Elaine Ingham is Executive Director of Soil Foodweb Inc. based in northern California. Elaine appeared extensively in the documentary, “Symphony of the Soil” presenting a compelling case for knowing the health of our soil and sharing techniques that make this possible.

Shannon Dosmagen, Executive Director of Public Labs is based in Louisiana. Shannon has extensive experience in science communications. Shannon’s efforts have empowered working-class victims of the BP oil spill along the Gulf Coast to monitor their environment and to tell their stories.

Dr. John Fagan is a molecular biologist from Fairfield, Iowa and is founder of the GMO testing company, Genetic ID. John’s efforts empowered citizen advocates from many non-profit organizations around the world to examine the food supply for GMO contamination. John is also the founder of the Annapurna Global Foundation, a new foundation dedicated to promotion of sustainable agriculture.


Larry Bohlen is a former NASA test engineer and founder of the food testing company NaturalCheck. He currently serves as a board member of the Annapurna Global Foundation. Larry has extensive experience moderating panels and meetings, having facilitated 60 environmental forums in Washington, DC. He has also spoken on panels at Bioneers, the Kennedy School of Government, Georgetown University and in debates on CNN and NPR.