As the fossil fuel industry becomes further entrenched in communities across the globe, there exists an exponential multiplication of environmental damage as extraction processes wreak havoc on the area’s physical landscapes. With environmental protection in mind, the FracTracker Alliance launched its namesake mobile application to further their mission of offering “insights empowering action”. Active since 2018, the app allows Smartphone users to submit reports on oil and gas activity in their communities, such as drilling, transportation, pipeline development, activity hotspots as well as health hazards. Users simply snap a photo, categorize and locate their report, and submit details regarding the activity and which human senses are impacted as a result.

The app reports can be as straightforward or detailed as the user wishes them to be, however, FracTracker encourages users to add as much detail as possible. Unlike many other citizen science-based reporting apps, FracTracker actively monitors and leverages user-generated data for various activism initiatives and campaigns to stop oil and gas developments. By garnering evidence surrounding the evils of the fossil fuel industry, FracTracker strengthens its case for the necessity of a clean energy transition.

Users can create profiles on the app, facilitating communication surrounding potential action plans. The larger the user community, the more transparency and awareness is generated surrounding the omnipresence of oil and gas. With a large number of users living in the state of California, FracTracker has concentrated a vast effort towards raising awareness of the state’s fracking activity, which is particularly important in light of the recent changes in the permit-issuing moratorium. While such a moratorium was bound to end, the approval of new permits amidst the global COVID-19 pandemic has proved worthy of sounding the alarm bells given the numerous reports linking air quality to increased severity and incidence of the virus.

While citizen users did not generate the information used to create FracTracker’s interactive maps outlining the recent uptick in permitted wells throughout the state of California, the company will now pass the baton to citizen scientists to report on the state of well development, along with the human effects they will bring. The FracTracker mobile app is the alliance’s number one way to keep tabs on the experienced impacts of such well developments on affected populations, which allows for a more comprehensive analysis to be reported to both the public and regulatory bodies. This inclusion of lived experiences highlights the importance of such citizen science initiatives in bringing justice to those who warrant it.


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Jalbert, K., Rubright, S., & Edelstein, K. (2017). The Civic Informatics of FracTracker Alliance: Working with Communities to Understand the Unconventional Oil and Gas Industry. Engaging Science, Technology, and Society, 3, 528-559. doi:

Photo by Courtenay Crane