Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network
With the growing importance of climate change as an emerging public health challenge, communities need the capacity to monitor, respond, and adapt. Developing effective systems for accessing local information is part of the challenge. The Local Environmental Observer (LEO) Network provides a model for engaging communities and connecting with technical experts and resources. It also informs about specific events and the impacts, needs, and responses.
LEO is a network of local experts who collect observations about unusual environmental events. They apply local and traditional knowledge, western science, and modern technology to record and share observations and to raise awareness about changing environmental conditions. Currently, LEO has participants in more than 100 communities in Alaska and Canada, and membership is expanding into the lower 48 U.S. states.
LEO uses web-based, public Google Maps™ to post observations about unique or unusual events. LEO members and their organizations are responsible for deciding what information to share. A new map is developed each month, and the observations are listed in chronological order. All maps are archived on the LEO website. Each event has its own text box, which can also include photos, video clips, links, and attachments. Users can choose from a variety of different map types, including the monthly event maps, categories of environmental impact (such as air quality, water bodies, and different plant and animal species), and geographic regions of Alaska and Canada.
Many topic-specific networks exist to record changes in wildlife and environmental conditions. LEO complements these networks by connecting them with observers who are reporting topical impacts where they live. The outcomes are posted to the maps and archived. The LEO Network meets virtually on a monthly basis to review recent observations and consult with topical experts.
LEO is based at the Center for Climate and Health at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. It is supported by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Indian Health Service, and the Western and Arctic Landscape Conservation Cooperatives. Members of the LEO Network are employed in the environmental, health, natural resource, or community services field for tribal and first nations governments and organizations.