Across the country, ordinary Americans are doing extraordinary things, and the White House Champions of Change program aims to identify and recognize those people, who are “winning the future” in their communities.
This particular Champions event honored people who have demonstrated exemplary leadership in engaging the broader, non-expert community in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics (STEM) research. Henderson joined 11 others being recognized for their contributions to the rapidly expanding field of citizen science at the White House on June 25 to discuss their work and the challenges and opportunities they have encountered in creating and implementing STEM-centric citizen science programs.
In 2007, Henderson co-founded Project BudBurst, a national online citizen science campaign where individuals from all walks of life report on the timing of leafing, flowering, and fruiting of plants in their communities. The data are freely available to researchers and educators who can use them to learn more about the responsiveness of individual plant species to local, regional, and national changes in climate. Project BudBurst is co-managed by NEON and the Chicago Botanic Garden.
“Sandra is an excellent scientist and educator and we are so proud to be sharing her spotlight in this important moment,” said NEON Chief Executive Officer Russ Lea. "Project BudBurst has set a high standard for citizen science programming at NEON, and Sandra and her collaborators have set an even higher standard for the world of science education. I’m absolutely delighted for her.”
Brief descriptions of each nominee’s work, blog posts written by the nominees, and an archive of the event are featured on the White House’s Champion of Change website.
Dr. Sandra Henderson has been part of the NEON community since 2006. Her work on Project BudBurst and other NEON citizen science programs allows her to merge her background in biogeography and experience in developing climate change educational programs.
“Being able to combine my interest in science education with my passion for nature through NEON’s Project BudBurst has been a career highlight. It is so inspiring to work with thousands of people across the country to make a difference in our understanding of how plants respond to environmental change,” says Henderson. “Plants have stories to tell us about changing climates if we only take the time to observe and learn.”
Henderson has more than two decades of environmental science education experience, which includes managing teacher professional development courses and workshops (online and face-to-face); development of climate change educational resources; and dissemination of information about climate change to broad audiences. Prior to her tenure at NEON, she worked at the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research (UCAR) in the Office of Education and Outreach. She also worked as a project scientist studying the impacts of climate change on biodiversity at the U.S. EPA’s Environmental Research Laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon. It was there that she first started working with educators to develop instructional resources that addressed climate change.
In 2012, Henderson founded NEON’s Citizen Science Academy (CSA) – a first-of-its-kind online resource for both informal and formal educators. She is particularly interested in science education programs and citizen science campaigns that address the needs of underrepresented populations.
Henderson is a proud graduate of Oregon State University where she earned all three of her degrees. She has published in peer-reviewed journals and the popular press. Recently, she served as the guest editor for a special issue of the Ecological Society of America’s Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, which focused on citizen science.