Citizen scientist stand tall

In a world of remorseless (and often accelerating) biodiversity decline, one bright star that seems to shine brighter all the time in the conservation firmament is the movement called ‘citizen science’. According to Wikipedia, the term itself only entered the Oxford English Dictionary last year, suggesting it has only recently achieved a certain ‘orthodoxy’. Of course, it’s been around for much longer than that, centuries according to Jessie Cappadonna.

However, what is new is the growing network of Citizen Science Associations (Australia has recently set up its own chapter), a growing evidence base demonstrating its potential (see Ayesha Tulloch’s story), and the increased use of citizen-science collected data in authoritative conservation research (see our story on how citizen-science projects like Eremaea eBird have informed studies on extinction risk of nomadic bird species).

Citizen science is a bright shining light because not only is it helping collect information for better conservation outcomes, it’s also engaging an ever enlarging population of nature lovers with the ideas of biodiversity and conservation. As Ayesha points out, the bird citizen-science group in India (eBird India) reports that the number of new users is growing at a rate of 6% per month – that’s in a country of more than a billion people! The possibilities are huge.

And the data being generated by citizen science isn’t just for research that only appears in conservation science journals, it’s also guiding real-world investment. There’s the story on BirdReturns in which eBird observations inform compensation payments to farmers who are providing habitat to migratory shorebirds.

And having mentioned the topic of ‘research that only appears in conservation science journals’, Hugh Possingham and Vanessa Adams discuss the sometimes vexed issue of publication and outcomes. The Environmental Decisions Group has an impressive record when it comes to our published science underpinning significant conservation advances. We’re also an active player in the world of citizen science with CEED launching the Eremaea-eBird portal (see Decision Point #77).

David Salt
Editor Decision Point
David.Salt@anu.edu.au

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