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Recap: Kentuckiana Meeting for Advancing Participatory Sciences

A regional meeting in Louisville, Kentucky on April, 18th brought together 70 practitioners from across the Kentuckiana region to explore synergies between climate change, health, outdoor recreation, and community resilience. The Kentuckiana region encompasses several counties in both Kentucky and Indiana surrounding the Louisville metropolitan area.

Two morning plenaries set the stage for afternoon discussions and visioning sessions that highlighted how participatory approaches to environmental health, water resources, air pollution, and more are being championed in the region. See a full agenda here.

We opened the morning with a keynote address from Dr. Luz Huntington-Moskos discussing her work with youth and other community groups to support and encourage the development of environmental health literacy throughout western Kentucky. Dr. Huntington-Moskos directs the Community Engagement Core at the NIEHS-funded University of Louisville’s Center for Integrative Environmental Health Sciences. The center addresses lifestyle behaviors and their connection to contaminant exposures in western Kentucky, where agricultural and industrial sectors often exist side by side, affecting community partners throughout the area. Her talk illustrated the important role that science literacy plays to spark interest in participatory sciences for health and beyond. 

We next heard from Dr. Chris Lorentz, who spoke about some of the research and participatory science efforts supporting efforts to monitor, restore, and protect the Ohio River basin. The Biology Field Station that he directs at Thomas More University is part of a network of organizations working to monitor and protect the Ohio River and surrounding river basin. Work happening in the Ohio River basin has benefited from the input and support of community members through participatory programs happening at formal research centers like the Thomas More Biological Field Station, through volunteer monitoring programs like the Kentucky Watershed Watch, and community listening events that have shaped the restoration plan. Dr. Lorentz ended his talk with a vision for a future participatory science project that harnesses the power of volunteer contributors from across the Ohio River Basin to better understand and manage water quality beyond the Ohio River itself and across the entire watershed. 

After lunch, there were a series of breakout sessions that gave participants an opportunity to explore some of the common strategies and challenges that we encounter when supporting participatory science projects. A second facilitated session in the afternoon walked participants through a community visioning exercise in which they explored potential solutions to common barriers and challenges we face in the participatory sciences. We ended the day talking about how a Kentuckiana regional group could help turn some of these ideas into action, and encouraged people to leverage the resources available to them through others at the event. 

The meeting was held at the Urban Design Studio at the Envirome Institute in downtown Louisville with support from the University of Louisville’s Christina Lee Brown Envirome Institute, Center for Healthy Air, Water, & Soil, and Center for Integrative Environmental Health Science. Special thanks go Lauren Anderson and Ted Smith at the Envirome institute for their leadership and support of this event.

If you are interested in seeing a regional event like this come to your area, please check out the regional event support available through AAPS.

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