Communicating and Acting on Climate Change: A Success Story from Thriving Earth Exchange

Hallandale Beach, Florida operates a Green Initiatives Program within its Department of Public Works to provide sustainability-related information and programs to residents and employees. Most of the City’s Green Initiatives work focuses on Water and Energy Conservation and Recycling. A main impetus for the water conservation focus includes the loss of 6 out of 8 of the City’s freshwater wells to saltwater intrusion in the past decade. In 2018, the City adopted the Sustainability Action Plan which includes short-term and long-term projects to help the City increase its sustainability and resiliency between now and 2040.

Thriving Earth Exchange supported this program. Keep reading for details of how the team carried out its mission, their sensible reflections, and a link to a nifty table top climate change awareness game that you can download and reproduce for your own workshops or classes.

This is a wonderful success story.

Honor and Recognize individuals who have advanced Earth and space science

Nominate your peers for an AGU honor

The nomination cycle for 2020 AGU honors is now open. Nominate a colleague, peer or student today.

AGU honors

  • Union Awards recognize individuals who have demonstrated excellence in scientific research, education, communication, and outreach.

    Union Medals are the highest honors bestowed by AGU, recognizing individuals for their scientific body of work as well as their sustained impact within the Earth and space sciences community.

    Union Prizes are given jointly with non-profit, for-profit, government, or NGO entities, and include funding to recognize individuals who showcase excellence in scientific research or communication.

    Union Fellows have attained scientific eminence through achievements in research, as demonstrated by a breakthrough or discovery, innovation in science or the development of methods and instruments, or sustained impact.

    Section Awards recognize outstanding work within a scientific field with nearly 30 named lecture presentations and 40 awards and prizes.

How can universities and colleges advance community science?

Reposted from On the Job, a blog hosted by the American Geophysical Union

A cool thing about working at Thriving Earth Exchange is learning about excellent work being done in community science. There is a lot going on in colleges and universities, and even research-focused universities are starting to change in ways that advance and support community science. In making those changes, they can look to a history of community science in two-year colleges, agricultural extension offices, tribal colleges, and historically black colleges. I love that idea that the emergence of community science is an opportunity to recognize their long-standing leadership.  How cool is it that Stanford might learn from Haskell Indian Nations University?

Here are some of the things universities and colleges are doing, distilled into a set of recommendations for any university or college seeking to advance community science.  Don’t think of this as a list of hit singles, think of it as the tracks on an album, where the songs are mutually reinforcing and tell a larger story (e.g. Lemonade). That is, the biggest impact seems to come from tackling all the practices described here.


  1. Redefine Success. For the past 75 years, professional success in science has been based primarily on original discovery, usually measured by publications and citations. Worcester Polytechnic Institute has revised their tenure process based on Boyer’s model of scholarship, so that they recognize not only discovery and teaching, but also application and engagement. West Chester University has long allowed faculty to shift the relative weight of service, teaching, and research in their tenure portfolios, which means faculty who focus on community science can weight that higher. At University of Washington, the dean of the college of the Environment invites new faculty to write one less paper, and instead spend that time working with her team to translate their work into real world impact.
  2. Learn to Count Impact. I am convinced that one of the reasons papers count is because we know how to count papers. How can we shift from impact factor to societal impact? Let’s support research into the benefits of community-engaged approaches, including their benefits for communities, faculty and students.  I think a promising place to start is around the idea of community science literacy, which emphasizes a community’s capacity to use science by linking it with their members other skills and assets.  This framing is powerful because it’s asset-based and it includes both concrete accomplishment and future potential.
  3. Organize around priorities, not disciplines. Community priorities don’t map onto single disciplines, so being good at community science means being multidisciplinary. Colleges can make interdisciplinary work easier though centers that bring together faculty and students from many departments, like the School for Innovation and the Future of Society at ASU or the Haskell Environmental Research Center. Centers like these can also offer seed-funding, new kinds of course work and preparation, project management support, and coordinate community partnerships. For communities, these centers can help communities avoid getting lost in university bureaucracy.
  4. Build Institutional connections to community organizations. For community science to succeed at scale and last over time, a university or college has to build strong, trusting relationships with community groups. A long-term, university or college-wide commitment allows a college to reach across disciplines, engage different people over time, present a single point of contact for managing projects and relationships, and guide the institutional evolution necessary to support community science.  Of course, motivated faculty and students will build relationships anyway, but without university support and alignment, those relationships disappear when the students or faculty move on or risk being undermined  by actions in another part of the university.  An institutional leadership can look like a vice-chancellor for community engagement, or even a presidential commitment to community partnership. UC Davis has a Center for Citizen and Community Science that serves as hub for both doing and studying community engagement.
  5. Build the infrastructure for community science. One of the things I often hear is that community science is hard to do and takes a long time to get results. Numerical modeling is also hard and it also takes a long time to get results, but we make it easier by providing infrastructure (computing centers, for example). What if colleges and universities invested in infrastructure for community science?  Infrastructure includes space to hold community meetings, hubs in local neighborhoods, online engagement tools, workplace flexibility that allows people to manage engagement around community work schedules, help navigating languages and cultures, solid partnerships with community-serving organizations, and administrative services that support community engagement (see point 8).
  6. Educate people to do community science. Make it a part of every science graduate program and encourage proficiency before graduation. Create opportunities to learn and practice community ethics, community engagement, cultural humility, conflict management and listening as a research skill. There are fields that do this well already – public health, human geography, ecology, and anthropology – other sciences can learn a lot.  Offer mentorship program around community science.   For physical scientists, NSF has a new program that pays students and advisors to do internships – why not internships in community science?  One thing that would be especially cool is classes where community leaders and scientists learn community science together. Cornell Lab of Ornithology has a remarkable project, the NOISE project, that does exactly that.
  7. Make equity the foundation of community science. Science is already influenced by and a partner in the implicit biases and systemic inequities that are part of the larger world. Unless you are designing with equity in mind, you’re probably perpetuating inequity. Equity as a foundation of community science means respecting, welcoming, and advancing all communities. It also means being a partner to communities in their efforts to tackle inequity and looking for ways science can help elevate community voices and perspectives. Institutions that were designed to advance equity – Tribal Colleges, HBCU’s – are the obvious exemplars, but I think any institution, can and should, make a commitment to equity.
  8. Share power, money and decision-making. Doing community science means that institutions with power and privilege, universities and colleges, will make a conscious decision to share that power and privilege.   The most successful community science projects share the budget so that community organizations benefit as directly as the science institution, build in fair compensation for the expertise and participation of community members, have well-defined leadership roles that are shared by community leaders and scientists, and have clearly outlined processes for making decisions. This backed up by open agreements about intellectual property, community review boards, and shared ethical principles of engagement.  One thing I would love to see is research dollars going to community groups, so they can invest in the research to answer their questions.   We should also look at how resources are shared among colleges and universities. Will new funds for community science go to smaller schools that have been doing it well forever, or to high-profile institutions that are new to community science?


The cool thing about all of these practices is that they are doable. In fact, some institutions are already doing them – as revealed in the recent AGU Union Session.  What that means is that the revolutionary part of the community science revolution isn’t knowing how to do community science, or even finding people who are doing community science. The revolutionary part is changing structures and systems so that we encourage, facilitate, and reward community science.  I think universities and colleges have an opportunity to lead that revolution, and some already are.  What do you think?

Raj Pandya, Director, Thriving Earth Exchange, American Geophysical Union

Ten tips for creating successful community science projects

Join Thriving Earth Exchange for a free webinar on community science on 15 August,  2:00–3:00 p.m. EDT. Speakers will offer key tips and strategies based on their experiences with successful community science projects.

Register to attend.

Work with a scientist on a community priority

With its new Community Science Fellowship program, Thriving Earth Exchange is ready to support more communities than ever before! Please take a moment to share this opportunity with a colleague:
Would you like to work with a scientist to advance a priority in your community? If you have time and community buy-in, Thriving Earth Exchange will help you design a practical project, match you with a scientist, and accomplish something meaningful.
Learn more. (apply by 16 August to be considered for a September start)
(Don’t forget to have the incredible project you design approved so that you get credit.)

Thriving Earth Exchange introduces the Community Science Fellowship

Thriving Earth Exchange’s new Community Science Fellowship offers the chance to build your skills and make a difference as you facilitate a collaborative project to address critical community priorities. Shepherding a community science project from idea to impact, our volunteer Fellows hone the skills to manage diverse teams, work across disciplinary boundaries, and connect science to action.

Learn more about the Fellowship experience.

Apply to become a Fellow.

Help develop a feasibility study for community choice renewable energy options

The goal of this Thriving Earth Exchange project is to carry out a feasibility study for the creation of a Community Choice Aggregation (CCA) program to provide options for the residents and businesses of Arlington, outside the incumbent electric utility, to choose their rate plans and energy sources. Arlington was chosen due to its transformative Community Energy Plan, though Arlington is not an official partner of this effort. This project will be accomplished through a study on CCA options to explore how Arlington could procure, generate and competitively fund renewable energy projects and inform policymakers and ratepayers of opportunities for renewable energy generation. The options to use of solar photovoltaic (PV) and solar thermal energy in buildings has become increasingly cost-effective over time and aids in energy resilience to peak load events at the macro level when coupled with advanced energy storage. This project will align with Arlington County’s commitment to climate action and stand in accordance with the goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, and may serve as a demonstration model for similarly-urbanized communities or those with comparable energy use patterns and volumes.

The team will work in hand with Virginia Clean Energy led by local residents Silvia Zinetti and Morris Meyer. Virginia Clean Energy is a new nonprofit fiscally sponsored by LEAN Energy US, a 501 (c)(3) organization based in California.

Silvia and Morris seek a scientific partner to help Virginia Clean Energy with:

  • data analysis, visualization, and interpretation for the implementation of a technical study to incorporate renewable energy into the electricity market with a CCA.
  • resulting price structures and GHG reduction scenarios of various energy combinations.
  • Preparation and development of the findings for local conferences and County board meetings.

The community is looking forward to working with an energy engineer or energy economist and enthusiastic graduate student assistants with an interdisciplinary mindset.


Start a Thriving Earth Exchange Project

Jump to submission form.

Thriving Earth Exchange projects start with community priorities. Communities of any size from around the world are encouraged to submit a local issue and/or project idea related to natural hazards, natural resources, or climate change. Any community can start a Thriving Earth project. All we ask is that you commit to the time and energy needed to work hand-in-hand with a volunteer scientist. (Read more about what it means to be a Thriving Earth Exchange community leader.)

The submission process is meant to be simple, allowing you to provide baseline information about local challenges.

Thriving Earth Exchange projects can be completed as part of a cohort, individually, or via a dialogue. How it works video.

Thriving Earth Exchange Project Types

Type Description Benefits
Cohort A cohort is a group of projects that communicate
with and support one another. They are often launched at regional or theme-based Project Launch
Workshops. Communities in the cohort move through the Thriving Earth milestones at the same pace.
Communities benefit from
peer support,
sharing and
Individual Your project team will be supported “1-on-1” with a
Thriving Earth project liaison, and you will move
through the milestones at your own pace. Thriving
Earth is only able to accommodate a limited number
of individual projects.
This is ideal
communities with time-
Dialogue This is ideal for communities who wish to explore  how community context intersects with Earth and space science. A team of 3-5 community leaders will engage with 3-5 scientists using an online platform. An example of this is the Resilience Dialogues, a program Thriving Earth is a partner in. A dialogue
may serve as a precursor to individual or cohort Thriving Earth participation.

Once You Submit an Idea:

We will reply within one week with information about next steps.

Check out science communications workshops at AGU Fall Meeting

Photo: Barbara J. Saffir (c)

We all know that science matters, but sometimes it’s hard to figure out exactly how, and with whom, to share it.

Sharpen your ability to share research with the world. Join the American Geophysical Union science communication sessions to learn how to tell good stories, become a science advocate, and explain science to any audience.

All events are in the Science Communication: A Sharing Science Room (Convention Center, 203 A/B) unless otherwise noted.

For high school teachers and students, registration is free

Highlights of the schedule

Sunday, 10 December

Communicating Science With Any Audience: Workshop at AGU18
Science Storytelling in Multimedia: Workshop at AGU18

Monday, 11 December

Sketch Your Science
How to Sketch (Your) Science
Luncheon: How to Become a Congressional Science Fellow or Mass Media Fellow
Sharing Science Mentoring Meet-up
Blogging and Social Media Forum 101
Blogging and Social Media Forum 201

Tuesday, 12 December

Sketch Your Science
ED21B: The Up-Goer Five Challenge: Tell Us About the Hard Things You Do in Ten Hundred Words I
Everything You’ve Always Wanted to Know about Science-Art-Sustainability Collaborations (but were afraid to ask…)
Rhyme Your Research: Workshop
Sharing Science in Plain English (Panel & Lunch)
ED23B: The Up-Goer Five Challenge: Tell Us About the Hard Things You Do in Ten Hundred Words II
Live Third Pod from the Sun podcast recording with photographer James Balog
Dialogue with Religious Publics (AAAS DOSER event)
Open Mic Night

Wednesday, 13 December

Sketch Your Science
Communicating Your Science: Ask the Experts
Sprint workshop: SciComm via Multimedia
Film Making Crash Course

Thursday, 14 December

Sketch Your Science
Sustainable Futures: Short Films About Science
Tell me a story: Storytelling in SciComm
Voices for Science Panel
Sharing Science Mentoring Meetup
When Is Science Newsworthy?
Film Screening & Panel Q&A — Summiting the Solar System: Pluto & Beyond
(Science) Podcasting 101
AGU Story Collider

Friday, 15 December

Sketch Your Science
Summiting the Solar System: Pluto & Beyond: Film Screening

Students in Community Science blog posts

These blog posts are part of Students in Community Science, a series of Thriving Earth Exchange articles featuring students who have had internship, educational or volunteer experiences in community science.

14 September 2018

Haley Gannon – Translating a Pivotal Internship Experience into a Satisfying Career

When I first came to the Thriving Earth Exchange, I was relatively new to the idea of community science. My experience up […]

13 September 2018

Shahan Haq – Adapting to Life after Adaptation Analytics: Reflection from an Intern

During an atmospheric chemistry course I took a few years ago, the professor would pause his lecture before major discoveries in the […]

11 September 2018

Babak J. Fard – Insights from an Interdisciplinary Community Science Experience

The Brookline, Mass. Thriving Earth Exchange project “Building Community Resilience to Extreme Heat” started in February 2016 with several initial meetings […]

10 September 2018

Angela DapremontHow Studying Mars is Relevant to Helping Earth’s Communities

angela.jpgI was fortunate to have a unique Thriving Earth Exchange internship experience during the summer and fall months of 2015. I started from scratch by familiarizing myself with the definition of community science, and ended up participating in the 2015 AGU Fall Meeting Thriving Earth Exchange events. […]