Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Amateur divers share species data for science

Species observations from thousands of scuba divers all over the world are now freely accessible via the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.

The citizen science platform Diveboard has published over 15,000 records from the 'electronic log books' submitted by its community of nearly 100,000 registered divers.

The dataset, available on the GBIF portal, includes records of species occurrences from dives in all the world's oceans, as well as many inland water bodies.

The data will be updated as divers contribute more species observations, using GBIF's new real-time indexing system in which new or modified data can be seen on the portal within minutes or hours of being entered by the data publisher. Diveboard is the first new dataset to be indexed using this system.
The idea for Diveboard originated from French divers Alexander Casassovici and Pascal Manchon, who wanted to design an electronic system to enable scuba divers to record details of their dives once they reached the surface.

"We were sad that we couldn't do much from our log books because we had the worst handwriting," Casassovici recalls. "The data in our log book was basically lost.

"We started to aggregate the data we were creating through the dive computer, taking pictures, and everything we recorded on the dive. We tried to narrow down the species we had seen in a given spot, and to build a tool that would crystallize the experience that scuba divers have underwater."

The Diveboard team hoped the project would build a bridge between casual recreational divers and marine biologists, providing data that could help researchers understand trends such as the impacts of climate change and spread of invasive alien species.

13 Nov 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Scuba app turns users into citizen scientists

Credit: Cecil Walker
Scuba divers explore vast underwater ecosystems and encounter all kinds of interesting things on their trips. Two Parisian divers, Alexander Casassovici and Pascal Manchon, wanted to create a database where other scuba fans could share photos, advice, etc. from their outings, so they rolled out Diveboard. It's a social networking app for scuba divers that operates on both iOS and Android platforms.

Diveboard began in 2011 as a simple interactive logbook for these adventurous folks, but it has quickly developed into something quite unexpected. Casassovici and Manchon rely on existing scientific databases to help users ID the diverse marine species they encounter on their dives. However, all of that information divers share on Diveboard is now helping scientists keep their information up-to-date.

05 Jul 2013
M Wollerton

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Citizen science contributes valuable information to conservation

Many people want to contribute to conservation efforts, but have not found a manner that is right for them.  For some, citizen science might be the answer.

Citizen science provides a way to make contributions without destroying your budget. In addition to contributing to the wealth of scientific data and information, participating in citizen-science projects might get you outdoors for fresh air and exercise.

Majoring in biology while in college, then never working as a biologist, left me with a void that often has been filled by citizen-science projects.

... There are many ways you can get involved in citizen science. For folks like myself who can't donate large or moderate sums of money, citizen science provides a way we can make contributions. Keep watching and you will probably find something that is a good fit for you.

Go Erie
M Bleech
24 Jun 2013

Monday, June 24, 2013

Bat study seeks ‘citizen scientists’ - Can you Help?

The Maine Audubon Society is seeking volunteers from across the state to help it take stock of the health of the state’s bat colonies, which continue to be impacted by the deadly white nose syndrome.

Maine Audubon said that one of the sure signs of summer, seeing bats swooping to catch insects at dusk, is likely to become a rarer and rarer sight due to the disease, which has wiped out more than 5 million bats in the Northeast.

Now, the society is asking for the help of Maine residents to identify maternal bat colonies to help establish a baseline for breeding bats.

Sun Chronicle - Keep Me Current
19 Jun 2013
KI Collins

Monday, June 17, 2013

In frogs’ croaks, volunteer hears environment’s pulse

Half an hour past sunset in rural western Hennepin County, Madeleine Linck strains her ears. She’s listening, believe it or not, for the sounds of courtship. Frog courtship, that is.

Linck is helping with a state Department of Natural Resources survey gauging the presence of the state’s 14 frog and toad species. She’s listening for the male mating call.

... The survey started 19 years ago due to concerns worldwide that amphibian populations were in decline due to habitat destruction, disease and other factors. Results show the state’s frog and toad population is relatively stable with the exception of grey tree frogs and spring peepers, where the number of calls heard is down.

InForum News
14 Jun 2013
D Olson

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Citizen Science as a Novel Scientific Instrument

In the way that smart phones have permeated our culture, citizen science seems equally ubiquitous, appearing at science conferences, museums, conservation organizations, government agencies, journal articles, web sites and yes, in blogs. Citizen science covers a diverse collection of activities in which groups undertake investigations alongside or under the supervision of scientists....

Over the past decade I have been a local leader in monitoring Alewife populations, an anadromous fish, like shad and salmon, that return to fresh water to spawn, and a participant in protecting the rare Blanding’s turtle during nesting season.

Through my experiences, I’ve come to think that the citizens in citizen science are like a new kind of scientific instrument. This new instrument can make measurements that are not possible using the capacity and approaches of standard scientific enterprise. This new instrument can process large amounts of data relatively quickly. This is the difference between a scientist going out and doing all the work or enlisting the help of citizens to gather observations that are shared with the scientific community, be it one scientist or a whole organization. Citizens can allow a project to be sustained longer than what a traditional funding source can provide. Citizens can also cover a wider geographical range, where scientists will be limited by the scope of the their range, by the area that one person can humanly traverse.

PLoS Blog
12 Jun 2013
C Cooper

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

How to do a wildlife survey and be a citizen scientist

In the past, bird-watchers and bug-hunters have been frowned upon by academics for just looking at wildlife, rather than studying it in depth.

A naturalist - previously considered an expert - is now defined as "an amateur concerned more with observation than with experiment" by the Oxford English Dictionary.

But in the 21st Century, experts are realising the potential of simple observations to provide essential data to help conserve our wildlife.

Citizen science is making an impact.

The UK-Environmental Observation Framework has recently published a guide to citizen science, which it defines as the "volunteer collection of biodiversity and environmental information which contributes to expanding our knowledge of the natural environment".

This all makes it sound very serious but the key to citizen science is enthusiasm on a grand scale.

BBC Nature
30 May 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

SA 'citizen scientists' share online

A southern African nature sharing website is gaining momentum with over 50 000 observations as ‘citizen scientists’ contribute to the online project.

iSpot southern Africa was launched in 2011 and gives nature enthusiasts the opportunity to share knowledge, learn, and contribute to the conservation of local plants and animals by uploading and identifying interesting observations.

The site has recently exceeded 50 000 observations uploaded by it’s over 2 500 users. These observations have been translated into almost 100 000 agreements, which serves to verify species.

News 24 
29 May 2013

Friday, May 31, 2013

An elegantly visual citizen science concept: Monitor environmental and social change using iPhones, photo-stitching, and time lapse

Sam Droege's idea has lots of applications to the type of work that ecologists, foresters, land managers, and environmental citizen groups do and provides an easy (and actually information dense) way of tracking long-term changes using volunteers using the smart phone that many carry in their pocket.

The concept is broad and is meant to be applicable to any location you would like to create uniform documentation of change over long or short periods of time without having to install a permanent camera.

The concept uses little more than a camera phone and a stout piece of bent steel to start.

Monitor Change
No date provided

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Many Faces of Success in Citizen Science

Citizen science seems to be in vogue now – it even goes by different names, like ‘public participation in scientific research’, ‘co-produced knowledge’, ‘collaborative research, and ‘democratized science’. A handful of scholars have tried to classify the different types while many others expound the myriad benefits this new type of science might bring.

However, I always got the feeling that even with concerted efforts to compare across efforts in citizen science, there was still some underlying disconnect between program expectations and what might qualify them as ‘successful’.

So I decided to interview program coordinators and compare what they had to say about recommendations for success to those in the published literature. Lo and behold, my suspicion was correct. Now, my work with Max Pfeffer, recently published in PLoS ONE, describes the many aspects of success and provides a new lens to look at the diversity of citizen science programs.

PLoS Blog
16 May 2013
C Copper


Tuesday, May 7, 2013

What the citizen scientists found in shoreline survey

SO what did 357 people find in almost three years of searching the North East coastline? Lots, apparently.

The volunteers, dubbed “citizen scientists”, are part of a Newcastle University project to build up a baseline picture of the species which live in the inter-tidal shoreline of the region.

... The survey participants were given a long list of coastal marine species and asked to choose five which they would look for on regular trips to the coast.

A total of 134,000 records have been amassed so far of what was – and was not – found, covering more than 200 species.

The aims of the project are to produce an up-to-date record of marine intertidal species records along the coast which will feed into management strategies and provide the baseline for detecting environmental change, and to raise awareness of marine issues.

“The survey is providing good data of species against which we can measure changes in the future, such as how climate change may effect species,” said project officer Dr Heather Sugden, who is based at the university’s Dove Marine Laboratory in Cullercoats.

“Volunteers came forward mainly by word of mouth. People are really interested in, and care about, the coast in the North East and wanted to be involved.”

Finds have included a very rare, for the North East, colony of stalked jellyfish, with 190 discovered at Beadnell in Northumberland.

The Journal
27 Apr 2013
T Henderson

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Thank You!

Thank you for spreading the word about the bird mortality events occurring along the US' East coast and for asking your friends and colleagues to share their sightings of dead and sick birds to the Wildlife Health Event Reporter (WHER), www.wher.org.  You made a difference. We have seen an increase in reports to WHER as well as the addition of new members.  While these incidences are saddening, through the eyes of your reports to WHER, researchers like Drs. Ellis and Courchesne at SEANET/Tufts are gaining a better understanding of what is happening on the ground.

And hey! Non-US East-coasters, oh no - we are not leaving you out! WHER can accept observations from around the globe and your reports are just as important. Take a minute and consider the number of researchers who are working on wildlife disease issues and compare that to the number of people who during their day to day actives come across sick or dead wildlife. OK if you did the math, you would agree that comparably there are many more citizens.  Rallied together, that is an amazing corps who can be the 'boots on the ground', for researchers and other wildlife professionals who are on the alert for wildlife health events.

Your observations are valuable! Each report expands our baseline knowledge and understanding of disease ecology! 

Thanks from the WDIN Team!
Questions/problems with WHER? Email wher@wdin.org 

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Butterflies get a hand from citizen scientists

Satterfield is recruiting “citizen scientists” — ordinary people with an interest in collecting scientific information — for her study monitoring monarch butterflies. In particular she’s looking at a monarch parasite called Ophryocystis elektroscirrha or Oe for short.

It’s a microscopic, single-celled organism first discovered in monarchs and queen butterflies in the 1960s. It’s harmless to humans and other animals, but it’s tough on these orange and black beauties.

Infected females transmit the parasite to the milkweed plants where they lay their eggs. When caterpillars emerge, they unwittingly eat the spores. Sometimes they have trouble developing properly. Sometimes they survive to adulthood with the infection, but are still weakened.

“We know they can’t fly as well, as fast or as far as healthy monarchs,” Satterfield said.

Savannah Morning News
21 Apr 2013
M Landers

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Citizen scientists stretch their wings and research dollars

Seneca Kristjonsdottir, left, who studies bees, and Colorado master
gardener Tina Ligon look at different species of Colorado bees with
magnifying glasses before a "Bees' Needs" meeting last month
at the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History.
(Jamie Cotten, Special to The Denver Post)

The birds and the bees naturally excite interest. But people were jam-packed into the University of Colorado Museum of Natural History one night in late March — extra seats crammed at the last minute behind fossil-display cases — as two scientists recruited them for a research project on native bee species.

CU is asking citizen scientists to help gather data about the roughly 150 species of bees that nest locally in any little cavity or tunnel in woody material — dead trees, fallen logs, hollowed-out twigs.

The crowded hall was, forgive the expression, buzzing with anticipation, as Dr. Alexandra Rose, the university's citizen-scientist coordinator, said CU was "conning the public into doing our work for us."

The public didn't mind.

Denver Post
07 Apr 2013
E Draper

Friday, March 15, 2013

Marine Diversity Study Proves Value of Citizen Science

Citizen science surveys compare well with traditional scientific methods when it comes to monitoring species biodiversity -- according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Research published today in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution shows that methods to record marine diversity used by amateurs returned results consistent with techniques favoured by peer-reviewed science.

The findings give weight to the growing phenomenon of citizen science, which sees data crowd-sourced from an army of avid twitchers, divers, walkers and other wildlife enthusiasts.

The field study compared methods used by 'citizen' SCUBA divers with those used by professional scientists, to measure the variety of fish species in three Caribbean sites.

...While the traditional scientific survey revealed sightings of 106 different types of fish, the volunteer technique detected greater marine diversity with a total of 137 in the same waters.

Science Daily - www.sciencedaily.com
12 Mar 2013

Journal Reference
Ben G. Holt et al. Comparing diversity data collected using a protocol designed for volunteers with results from a professional alternative. Methods in Ecology and Evolution, 2013; DOI: 10.1111/2041-210X.12031

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Effort enlists citizens to shine light on light pollution

Light may be one of the most overlooked environmental threats to the Great Lakes, according to a project that recently mapped them.

Researchers with the Great Lakes Environmental Assessment and Mapping Project mapped environmental stressors to the Great Lakes, including light pollution.

Excessive lighting disrupts wildlife habits and habitats, said David Allan, a professor with the School of Natural Resources and Environment at the University of Michigan who led the project.

... Reaching out to people everywhere, including the Great Lakes region, the GLOBE at Night project is attempting to build a global database of light pollution through citizen-science.

“In cases like this, no one scientist can get all the data they need,” Said Connie Walker, an associate scientist and senior science education specialist with the GLOBE at Night program. “That’s the nature of citizen-science. It’s the best way to involve people in science and get a lot of data from a lot of places in a short amount of time.”

Great Lakes Echo - greatlakesecho.org
13 Feb 2013
J Dau

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

How Your Vacation Photos Could Help Save the Freaking Whale Shark

Prior to the 1980s, there were fewer than 350 confirmed sightings of whale sharks (Rhincodon typus) worldwide. But by next year, that annoying girl on your Facebook feed who seems to do nothing but go on vacation will probably have a whole album full of whale shark pics. And that’s just what might save the beautiful bastards from extinction.

Whale sharks are thought to be quite rare, but scientists have long struggled to estimate their true numbers. Individual animals can be identified through unique markings behind each gill and an inventory of scars, but the fact that the creatures seem to migrate thousands of miles over the course of a year makes it difficult to keep pace with them. (Help us help you, whale sharks.) They are officially listed as facing a high risk of extinction in the wild, where they are vulnerable to collisions with boats and lovers of shark fin soup.

Fortunately, tourists love to take pictures of sea monsters. It probably helps that the world’s largest fish enjoys warm waters, slow surface swimming, and a diet that looks nothing like a human being. And while they react when touched, whale sharks usually pay little mind to swimmers and divers, likely because their massive size—they’re about the length of a school bus and weigh 20 tons—means they fail to see us as a threat. (Hubris: not just for humans.) This matter-of-factness also means any old tourist with a decent point-and-click can capture clear enough images to use for identification.

Thanks to a study by Tim Davies, a researcher at Imperial College London, scientists are now confident these amateur images can be used to identify the whereabouts of individual whale sharks on a global scale. Utilizing pattern recognition software and photo management tools, crowd-sourced pics from sites like Flickr were successfully used to obtain IDs in 85 percent of cases. The ability to recognize and log sightings of individual whale sharks is huge because it allows scientists in, say, Australia to keep tabs on animals that appear locally for a only a few weeks a year. (Over the course of 36 months, one whale shark took a world tour of over 8,000 miles.) Checking positive IDs against other images also gives us a more accurate representation of just how many of these filter-feeding crazies are really out there. Plus, flipping through the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library is like a marine biologist’s version of Facebook. (You’ve gotta see how much weight #716AC put on this winter!)

Slate - www.slate.com
12 Feb 2013
J Bittel

Friday, February 8, 2013

Citizen science: People making a difference in their community and across the state

Everyday people from across the state are contributing their time to collect information on Michigan’s bountiful natural resources that scientists can use to increase our knowledge and understanding of the environment. Michigan Sea Grant works with numerous organizations who offer opportunities for interested people to get involved in citizen science.

One such project, the Michigan Herp Atlas Program is seeking assistance from people who observe reptiles and amphibians (collectively known as herpetofauna) in their natural habitats here in Michigan.

According to program administrator, David Mifsud, volunteer observations are critical to the success of the project. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources lists more than 60 percent of all of Michigan’s amphibians and reptiles as Species of Greatest Conservation Need. These imperiled species are important indicators to the quality of our natural resources and a critical part of healthy, functioning ecosystems.

Michigan State University - msue.anr.msu.edu
01 Feb 2013

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Raccoon rabies – Citizen-based surveillance is a success

Rabies is an important health concern for humans, domestic animals and wildlife throughout Canada. In 2006, the province of Québec launched a major initiative to eliminate raccoon rabies since its initial discovery in southern Québec. For the past six years, this program has continued its efforts of surveillance, vaccination and research, all of which rely heavily on public participation and awareness.

The provincial government of Québec recently issued a press release stating that citizen participation has greatly contributed to the success of the raccoon rabies prevention plan. Citizen reports of suspect animals increased by 18% in 2012, and visits to the program website increased by 25%.

Thanks to surveillance and vaccination of wild raccoons, skunks, and foxes, no cases of raccoon rabies were detected in Québec for the 3rd consecutive year. It remains clear that public participation is key to the continuing effectiveness of the provinces provincial rabies program.

CCWHC healthywildlife.ca blog - www.healthywildlife.ca
05 Feb 2013


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DNR requests reporting of sick or dead birds and cleaning of feeders after salmonella confirmed in southern Wisconsin

State wildlife officials are asking back yard birders to clean feeders and be on the lookout for sick or dead birds, after salmonella has been confirmed in a small number of pine siskins from Dane County. Sick goldfinches and sparrows have also been reported in Dodge and Crawford Counties.

 “We appreciate citizens reporting sick or dead birds around their feeders to the DNR so we can monitor the disease,” said Nancy Businga, wildlife health lab manager with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. “Salmonella is a bacterial disease that has the potential to spread to other areas so we also ask that people follow recommendations to help protect healthy birds that visit the feeder or bird bath.”

 Contact(s): Nancy Businga, DNR wildlife health lab manager, (608) 221-5375

Wisconsin Dept of Natural Resources - dnr.wi.gov 
10 Jan 2013

Monday, January 14, 2013

'Citizen scientists' explain mysterious die-offs, trace oil spills back to surprising culprits

Sol Katzman and Stew Perlman are spending a sunny Saturday morning on Scott Creek Beach leaning over a rotting sea lion carcass.

The body has lost its moisture and begun to flatten into the sand. The two men manage not to grimace as they measure the pungent heap from nose to tail and tie green twine around the rear flipper to show it's been counted.

Katzman, 60, and Perlman, 64, are "citizen scientists," part of a volunteer project that collects information about beach-cast marine mammals, birds and turtles along 40 miles of Monterey Bay coastline, from Davenport to Carmel.

The BeachCOMBERS project, which turned 15 this year, has explained mysterious die-offs, exposed harmful fishing practices and traced oil spills back to surprising culprits. The project's goal is to determine how much animal mortality is normal on various beaches, enabling year-to-year comparisons.

Project Manager Hannah Nevins, a seabird biologist with Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, said marine mammals and birds reflect the health of the whole environment they live in. Their population numbers mirror those of the species they eat, including forage fish such as anchovies and sardines, which are hard to count or monitor directly.

MercuryNews.com - www.mercurynews.com
03 Jan 2013
K Servick

Friday, January 11, 2013

Citizen science can produce reliable data

Citizen science occurs when data for scientific research is collected by members of the public in a voluntary capacity. Public participation in environmental projects, in particular, has been described as a global phenomenon.

But there is a stigma associated with these types of projects. The data collected are often labelled untrustworthy and biased. Research in this area continues to show however, that data collected by what is essentially a non-professional workforce, are comparable to those collected by professional scientists.

Provided steps are in place to deal with data integrity, we have much to gain by putting more trust in citizen scientists.

Across the globe thousands of people collect data on everything from counts of stars in distant galaxies to the timing of flowering events. Volunteers have long been collecting data on the health of coral reefs, and ornithologists encourage volunteers to collect data on bird migration.

Citizen science has benefits for scientists – including an inexpensive and potentially large labour force – and citizens, who get knowledge and fulfilment. These schemes expose people to the environment and develop the stewardship ethic.

But what motivates my interest in this area is the potential to create a more scientifically literate society; building the capacity for people to take information they receive in their everyday lives and then being able to make informed choices based on the what they have learned. Those choices could be anything from the products they buy as consumers or the political parties they support.

The Conversation -  theconversation.edu.au
07 Jan 2013

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Can Citizen Scientists Be Our First Line Of Defense In Environmental Disasters?

It can be months before the true experts finally get into an area affected by disasters like oil spills, but there are thousands of concerned citizens interested in documenting what’s happened. The problem is: We never use their data.

How do you assess the impact of a large oil spill? Not easily, says Sabrina McCormick. If it’s like the Gulf disaster, the oil will have spread far and wide, and the effects will be lingering and insidious. It’ll take scientists years to take readings, and even then, their conclusions are likely to miss a lot.

McCormick, an associate professor at George Washington University, has studied the scientific response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster. She says most reports tend to downplay the effects on the environment and human health because of a lack of good data for many areas.

Instead of traditional data-gathering, McCormick thinks disaster responders should turn to citizen-scientists, who can provide more timely, granular information. "The data collected through crowd-sourcing is generally more time-sensitive. It’s able to fill a gap in the data-collection process that otherwise wouldn’t get filled," she says.

Co.Exist - www.fastxoexist.com