AbstractCitizen science has been increasingly applied in environmental monitoring projects as a way to address large-scale social-environmental problems, including a lack of awareness of such problems as well as the capacity for using science to inform decision making. While studies have found that citizen science can help improve environmental literacy and engage participants, knowledge about the extent of such changes in environmental literacy and behaviors as well as how these changes are influenced by participants’ socioeconomic characteristics remains limited. In response, we have developed a contest-based citizen science study focused on drinking water quality data collection and education. We sought to understand how socioeconomic characteristics affect participant knowledge in the context of drinking water quality and lead contamination, willingness to take preventative actions to improve health protection, and frequency of communication about water quality issues with those around them. Comparison of pre- and post-surveys showed statistically significant increases in participants’ likelihood to communicate about drinking water. With respect to knowledge, this project showed success in improving scientific literacy relating to key lead information and provided self-assessed educational benefits to those who participated. This project demonstrates that citizen science methods could be used to actively engage and inform participants in water quality monitoring efforts, creating a more scientifically literate and active public.

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