Shannon Dosemagen

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2015


This profile was prepared when Shannon Dosemagen was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2015.
The New Idea
Communities facing environmental hazards crave access to the tools and techniques needed to participate in decisions being made about their communities. But science has been professionalized to the point that the public cannot easily access it. Self-regulation by corporations proliferates and the tools and techniques to monitor the environment are highly technical and prohibitively expensive.

Shannon Dosemagen, co-founder and director of the Public Lab nonprofit, believes that communities negatively impacted by industry and environmental degradation should be able to interface with the entities necessary to create change. By using inexpensive do-it-yourself techniques and opportunistically repurposed materials, Public Lab community members create low cost solutions for monitoring air, water, and land. Public Lab organizers work with more than fifty local organizations and thousands of individuals around the U.S. (and beyond) to create healthier environments as a result of tools they build, data that is collected, and actions they take.

By bringing an ethos of hands-on, do-it-yourself, grassroots organizing to the fields of environmental monitoring and environmental justice, Public Lab is effectively leading the field of “community-based science”. Beyond helping collaborators design and build tools, collect data and organize, the Public Lab team works to ensure data collected by community scientists is legible (and often highly visual), legally admissible, and widely-available online and as part of public databases maintained by Google Earth and others. Even regulatory agencies have recognized the competitive precision of community-generated data compared to traditional, prohibitively expensive, and centrally-controlled collection processes. Through these efforts the equilibrium is shifting as more engaged community-based scientists bring new insights, power, and possibility to the environmental justice movement.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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