Calling citizen scientists: NAU looking for participants to help map Flagstaff’s food, energy, water sources

The next time you wash your hands or get a drink of water, think about where that water came from before it hit your pipes. How far has it traveled from its original source? Where was it treated? How much of your community’s resources went into obtaining and moving that water to get to your home, and is that process sustainable in the long term?

No matter your day job, you can now be a part of a community that’s answering those and other questions related to resources, sustainability and the supply chains that connect communities to each other throughout the country. A group of researchers at Northern Arizona University is asking for citizen scientists to participate in the PLACE4FEWS Project, which focuses on mapping the food, energy and water systems of the Flagstaff area and using that data to examine and strengthen community resilience and connections between social networks of individuals.

Community members age 18 years and older can participate; they don’t need any type of background or special skills to participate, though people who work in the food, energy and water systems are encouraged to apply. Elected and unelected public officials, college students, emergency responders, open-source researchers, people in data entry or community engagement are encouraged as well. Participants will spend about 80 hours in the next six months doing training, data collection and providing feedback. The spring schedule includes the list of meetings and other events.

An information session for people interested in participating is:
5:45-7:30 p.m. Jan. 30
Room 513, Science and Health Building (Building 36), NAU Campus (See the campus map for location and parking.)
To learn more, visit

PLACE4FEWS is a partnership between the Center for Science Teaching and Learning and the School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS). In 2017, the National Science Foundation provided NAU with a $463,000 grant to recruit citizen scientists to actively map and study local community food, energy and water systems (FEWS) for the Flagstaff area. This will be the second cohort of citizen scientists.

“By participating in this research, citizens will have the opportunity to improve the sustainability of the Flagstaff community, learn about where their food, energy and water comes from and help advance the field of citizen science,” project manager Sean Ryan said. “We hope this new data and conversation will enable positive change in our community, through science and awareness.”

The project builds upon and leverages the unique national level supply chain data, maps and visualizations of the FEWSION project, led by SICCS professor Benjamin Ruddell, which maps the nation’s food, energy and water systems for counties and cities. What is missing from FEWSION is an understanding of each neighborhood’s supply of food, energy and water. PLACE4FEWS engages volunteers to collect this information and begin a local conversation between business owners, elected officials and emergency managers about the sustainability and security of those supplies.

The application form is available online. For questions about volunteering with PLACE4FEWS, please contact

NAU logoHeidi Toth | NAU Communications
(928) 523-8737 |

NAU Communications