Boy fishing

Community-Based Science

Partnering with Impacted Communities for Transformative Change

The Ecology Center has partnered with communities impacted by pollution for over a decade. Through community-based science, we help community members investigate sources of pollution, collect environmental data, and advocate for environmental justice.

Community-based science is more than simply putting air, soil, and water monitoring tools in the hands of community members; it shifts power from corporate polluters and bureaucratic institutions to people directly affected by pollution. 

For example, when grimy dust clouds began blowing into Southwest Detroit in 2013, the community members grew concerned. When the Michigan Dept. of Environmental Quality failed to act, the Ecology Center helped by testing the soot from houses and nearby petroleum coke piles for toxic metals and other substances. Armed with data, community members approached elected officials with both their lived experience and the evidence behind it. 

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The Ecology Center’s Healthy Stuff Lab has worked with community groups around the country to conduct research on impacts of everyday products on people’s health.  For example,  we collaborated with the Campaign for Healthier Solutions and community groups in six states to collect and analyze products from discount “dollar” stores in 2018 and 2022. This research resulted in significant changes to dollar store chemical policy. We also work with a network of community-based organizations concerned about chemical hazards in playgrounds and artificial turf fields. This work resulted in community-led studies which for the first time documented the presence of lead and PFAS in synthetic playground and artificial turf materials. 

Community members are experts on how environmental pollution affects their neighborhoods. Through community-based science, we combine the existing strength of neighborhood residents with the power of science to take down polluters and move bureaucrats to action. 

Are you interested in investigating an environmental concern in your community? Sign up for our newsletter to learn about opportunities to collaborate!