(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects:

State Project(s):

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“PADEP”) solicits data collected by volunteers, provided that it complies with the quality assurance protocol developed by the state.  See P.A. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., Data Submission Form (2018),  PADEP uses this data to comply with the Clean Water Act section 303(d) listing requirement.  Id.; see also Data Collection Protocols, P.A. Dep’t of Envtl. Prot., (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


The Pennsylvania Game Commission manages multiple wildlife observation citizen science projects, including: the Comprehensive Pennsylvania Osprey Nest Survey; the Heron Colony Observation Survey; the Marsh Birds Survey; the Sandhill Crane Survey; the Appalachian Bat Count; and the Pennsylvania Mammals AtlasSee Get Involved, P.A. Game Commission, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


Smell PGH is a smartphone application available for smartphone users in Pittsburgh, allowing them to report foul odors and related symptoms. See Smell, Submit, Share!, Smell Pittsburgh, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). This phone application was developed with the Allegheny County Health Department (“ACHD”) such that the ACHD “receive[s] all Smell PGH odor complaints as they are submitted…[and can] use this information to better monitor [] air quality and identify pollution sources.” Id.; see also Smell Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon CREATE Lab, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).

Collection of Information:

Scientific Collectors’ Permit:

A permit is required to collect or take wildlife for scientific or educational purposes. See 30 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2905; 58 Pa. Code § 51.71.

Trespassing Laws:

Criminal Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

No.  A person commits criminal trespass if, “knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so, he enters or remains in any place as to which notice against trespass is given by: (i) actual communication . . .  (ii) posting . . . (iii) fencing . . . [or] notices[.]”  18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3503(b)(1). 

Agricultural Trespass:


“A person commits an offense if knowing that he is not licensed or privileged to do so he…enters or remains on any agricultural or other open lands when such lands are posted in a manner prescribed by law or reasonably likely to come to the person’s attention or are fenced or enclosed in a manner manifestly designed to exclude trespassers or to confine domestic animals….”  18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3503(b.2)(1)(i).


“An offense under paragraph (1)(i) constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree and is punishable by imprisonment for a term of not more than one year and a fine of not less than $250.” Id. § 3503(b.2)(2)(i).

Agricultural Biosecurity Area Trespass:


“(1) A person commits an offense if the person does any of the following:

(i) Enters an agricultural biosecurity area, knowing that the person is not licensed or privileged to do so.

(ii) Knowingly or recklessly fails to perform reasonable measures for biosecurity that by posted notice are required to be performed for entry to the agricultural biosecurity area.” 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3503(b.3).


An offense under subsection (1)(i) constitutes a misdemeanor of the third degree and an offense under paragraph (1)(ii) constitutes a summary offense. Id. § 3503(b.3)(3)(i)-(ii).

Drone Laws:

Surveillance Law:

“A person commits the offense of unlawful use of unmanned aircraft if the person uses an unmanned aircraft intentionally or knowingly to:

(1) Conduct surveillance of another person in a private place.

(2) Operate in a manner which places another person in reasonable fear of bodily injury….” 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3505(a).


“An offense under subsection (a)(1) or (2) is a summary offense punishable by a fine of up to $300[.]” Id. § 3505(b)(1).


“Subsection (a)(1) shall not apply if the conduct proscribed is committed by a person engaged in aerial data collection if:

(1) the person utilized the unmanned aircraft in a manner which complies with Federal Aviation Administration regulations or the unmanned aircraft is authorized by an exemption that is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration; and

(2) the person did not knowingly or intentionally conduct surveillance of another person in a private place.” 18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 3505(e).


“The provisions of 18 Pa.C.S. § 3505 (relating to unlawful use of unmanned aircraft) shall preempt and supersede any ordinance, resolution, rule or other enactment of a municipality regulating the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft. As of the effective date of this section [January 10, 2019], a municipality shall not regulate the ownership or operation of unmanned aircraft unless expressly authorized by statute.” 53 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 305(a).

State Parks:

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Bureau of State Parks permits drone use at six designated flying sites within the following state parks: Beltzville State Park; Benjamin Rush State Park; Hillman State Park; Lackawanna State Park; Prompton State Park; and Tuscarora State Park. Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and Drones Use, Dep’t of Conservation & Nat. Resources, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). The use of drones at other state parks is prohibited. See id.

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law:

“A person commits the crime of stalking when the person either:

(1)  engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts toward another person, including following the person without proper authority, under circumstances which demonstrate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person; or

(2) engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly communicates to another person under circumstances which demonstrate or communicate either an intent to place such other person in reasonable fear of bodily injury or to cause substantial emotional distress to such other person.”  18 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 2709.1(a).

Use of Information:

Although our research is incomplete, these provisions address the use of information collected by citizens.

Explicitly Allows:

PADEP is authorized to receive citizen-collected air quality information if the conditions listed below are met. See 25 Pa. Code § 139.2.

Prohibitive by Effect:

PADEP may only accept citizen-collected air quality information if: (1) [PADEP] has been given reasonable notice of the sampling and testing and has been given reasonable opportunity to observe and participate in the sampling and testing; (2) The sampling and testing is conducted under the direct supervision of persons qualified, by training and experience, to conduct the sampling and testing; (3) Procedures for the sampling and testing are in accord with [PADEP’s regulations]; and (4) The reports of the sampling and testing are accurate and comprehensive.  25 Pa. Code § 139.2.

Evidentiary Standard:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that “the factual allegations have evidentiary support or, if specifically so identified, are likely to have evidentiary support after a reasonable opportunity for further investigation or discovery.”  Pa. R. Civ. P. No. 1023.1(c)(3).

Authentication or Chain of Custody:

“To satisfy the requirement of authenticating or identifying an item of evidence, the proponent must produce evidence sufficient to support a finding that the item is what the proponent claims it is.”  Pa. R. Evid. 901(a).

Expert Testimony:

Frye for novel science.  See Commonwealth. v. Walker, 92 A.3d 766, 789-90 (Pa. 2014); Grady v. Frito-Lay, Inc., 839 A.2d 1038, 1047 (Pa. 2003).


Please note that this discussion is not moderated by the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.