Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) is a feminist, anti-colonial, marine science laboratory. This means our methods foreground values of equity, humility, and justice. We specialize in community-based and citizen science monitoring of plastic pollution, particularly of plastics in food webs.
[see our Lab Book for our value guidelines and protocols]
As feminist and anti-colonial scientists, we build equity into our practices—the idea that people start from different social, economic, historical, and political positions and that the root of these differences should be acknowledged and addressed in all research, including science. For example, we consider experiences and styles of collaboration more than grades when we hire research assistants. Anti-colonialism is a critical response to imperialism and colonialism, including questioning and transforming the underlying assumptions, motivations, and values we take for granted in Western science. We work to make room for other ways of knowing, and direct our science to serve the needs articulated by Indigenous communities, including the ones we live in. For example, we hold community meetings to determine research questions that matter, and again before we publish findings.
[see more about feminist and anti-colonial science here]
Some of our frameworks for conducting feminist and anti-colonial science include:
Relational Science: We strive to be in good relations with each other, our communities, animals we encounter in science, and to the Land. To this end, we have developed protocols that keep us in good relations: we report back contamination results to communities before we publish them to hear their interpretations, needs, and insights so we cause as little harm as possible; we are developing animal respect protocols that go beyond university animal care processes that foreground gratitude and humility; whenever we can, we pay our workers, particularly those often considered to be volunteers (such as citizen scientists).
Place-based and Land-based Science: Many of the techniques and tools developed in the south do not work in Newfoundland or Labrador. Our tools and protocols are designed to work in and for the places they are used, and to emerge from local issues, landscapes, materials, and contexts. We strive to always be accountable to our locale. This also means that our field work observes Indigenous protocols for interacting with plants, animals, and other aspects of Land (mainly these are based in Métis protocols).
Action-based and Activist Research: Research is designed from the beginning to be transformative and bring about environmental or social change. Often this means working with communities impacted by pollution, but also includes the creation of policy white papers, joining in public discussions about pollution, and ensuring our scientific findings, data and methods are accessible to people who want to use them for their own activist science.
Citizen Science: Citizen science is when people who are not conventionally trained scientists systematically collect and analyze data to develop a deeper understanding of their world. Most of our instruments and protocols are designed with citizen scientists in mind, and researchers without science degrees play key roles in our collaborations, including determining our research questions.
Open Science: An ethos of designing tools and methods that are accessible, cheap, and shared, so that people can do it themselves or can work in groups to do it together, so they can monitor their own communities, homes, and environments. We are a proud part of the Gathering for Open Science (GOSH) community and our goals are in line with the GOSH manifesto for open science. At the same time, we know that some information can cause harm if it is freely accessible (such as sacred stories or fishing spots), so we work to differentiate between cases where openness is good, and where openness can cause harm.
You can see our lab in action in a photographic series called, How We Do Science by Bojan Fürst, our photographer-in-residence.