Citizen Science for Conservation

Frosted Elfin, Special Concern; Photo by Mike Nelson, NHESP © 2002

I wanted to write a bit more on citizen science because it is such a cool concept and I keep seeing more and more papers published with data collected by everyday people (i.e. nonscientists). In fact, scientists in Massachusetts were able to use records collected by people in the Massachusetts Butterfly Club– just a group of butterfly-loving people. And what did those butterfly lovers do? They conducted nearly 20,000(!) surveys of butterflies from 1992-2010. That’s almost 20 years of constant data on butterfly species, locations, and abundances! Pretty amazing. What can you do with all those data? They were able to show that species are shifting their ranges northward, most likely due to warmer temperatures. Specifically, butterflies typically found in the north were declining-even those that were once common- while those in the south were expanding their ranges and increasing in numbers, including the protected Frosted Elfin.

Citizen scientists have also been active monitoring bumble bees in their backyard gardens. Bees are a great insect for citizen scientists to monitor because most people can identify a big fuzzy bumble bee and a honey bee (which you can do if you are involved in ZomBee Watch!). The Bumblebee Conservation Trust in the UK has had a citizen science program for people to record the bumblebees in their backyards. They recently published a paper in the Journal of Insect Conservation on its success. Not only did citizen scientists collect photos and information about Bumble bee species in their backyards, but also information on bee nests and nesting behavior! This is a great participation scheme because the citizen scientists were able to learn as much or as little about Bumble  bees as they wanted- from  just taking photos to documenting different colonies in the backyard nests. From the data collected by citizens scientists, the researchers were able to show that 1. there isn’t much evidence that bumble bees nest in the same spot year after year and 2. that a once common bumble bee declined relative to other bumble bees.

Overall, these two studies have shown that citizen participation in science is a worthy endeavor for both researchers and citizens. Everyday people get to learn about nature in their backyards, while scientists get to exploit the observation powers of millions of people- with real outcomes for conservation.


About tcornelisse
This entry was posted in Conservation solutions, Insects! and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Citizen Science for Conservation

  1. Ms. Still says:

    So cool to read this! I am involved in a citizen science project that was started this summer in Ecuador. We donated GPS cameras to communities so they could photograph all the life that surrounds them, feel more connected to it, and contribute to science. And the organization is called The Biodiversity Group! Here’s our Facebook page:

  2. Pingback: Citizen Science for Conservation | Kunstkitchen's Blog

  3. tcornelisse says:

    That’s awesome! What cool work! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Pingback: Resolutions that help protect biodiversity | Conservation of Biodiversity

What do you think?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s