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Promoting citizen science and environmental justice in the city

Story by Jennifer Sklarew; photos by Soohyun "Sophie" Bae.


Dr. Jennifer Sklarew and a man stand on either side of a poster on an easel with woods in the background.

ESP Assistant Professor Jennifer Sklarew promoted citizen science and environmental justice in her role as one of two invited scientists for the CALL Walk project: Head Above the Water: Respecting the Power of Water through Artmaking, Storytelling & Flood Risk Mitigation Awareness. The event, held on Saturday, June 24, in Wards 7 and 8 in Washington, DC, followed DC's Flood Awareness Week earlier in the month. 


The event was sponsored by CALL/City as Living Laboratory and the DC Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) to promote a STEAM approach to community engagement and awareness of flood risks and mitigation options. Dr. Sklarew collaborated with two artists -- Cary Michael Robinson and Nicole Salimbene -- on a walk through Wards 7 and 8 neighborhoods and parks, coupled with a trash clean-up. She also provided a presentation on flood mitigation, stream health, community water stewardship, and climate change in Ward 8, home of Oxon Run and The Well at Oxon Run Park. Operated by DCGreens and The Green Scheme, The Well is a community garden dedicated to seasonal fruit and vegetable production for Ward 8 residents, combined with free classes and events ranging from art and culture to well-being and nutrition. Dr. Sklarew exchanged ideas with the Chair and Vice Chair of Friends of Oxon Run Park, along with the founder of The Well. 


Dr. Jennifer Sklarew picks up trash during the community event

Dr. Sklarew highlighted equity and environmental justice in her framing of the event for community members and in her presentation, focusing on the role of citizen science as a catalyst for policy change and funding to address environmental and health challenges facing marginalized communities. She encouraged community members to share their observations on flooding, drought, and water quality through DOEE's reporting platforms and local initiatives, and she discussed Ward 8's food, energy, and water needs and community-driven solutions with community members. She also suggested giving away a rain barrel to a community member, and DOEE's RiverSmart Homes gave away two barrels.


Other event contributors from Mason included Yassmin Salem, Mason Exhibitions Programs Manager; Steven Luu, Assistant Registrar and Documentarian, College of Visual and Performing Arts; and Sophie Bae, Digital Media Coordinator, Mason Exhibitions.


A group of people pose for a group photo during the event.