Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs

Ayesha Tulloch, Hugh Possingham, Liana Joseph, Judit Szabo, Tara Martin

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    Abstract

    Citizen science is on the rise. Aided by the internet, the popularity and scope of citizen science appears almost limitless. For citizens the motivation is to contribute to "real" science, public information and conservation. For scientists, citizen science offers a way to collect information that would otherwise not be affordable. The longest running and largest of these citizen science programs are broad-scale bird monitoring projects. There are two basic types of protocols possible: (a) cross-sectional schemes such as Atlases - collections of surveys of many species contributed by volunteers over a set period of time, and (b) longitudinal schemes such as Breeding Bird Surveys (BBS) - on-going stratified monitoring of sites that require more coordination. We review recent applications of these citizen science programs to determine their influence in the scientific literature. We use return-on-investment thinking to identify the minimum investment needed for different citizen science programs, and the point at which investing more in citizen science programs has diminishing benefits. Atlas and BBS datasets are used to achieve different objectives, with more knowledge-focused applications for Atlases compared with more management applications for BBS. Estimates of volunteer investment in these datasets show that compared to cross-sectional schemes, longitudinal schemes are more cost-effective, with increased BBS investment correlated with more applications, which have higher impact in the scientific literature, as measured by citation rates. This is most likely because BBS focus on measuring change, allowing the impact of management and policy to be quantified. To ensure both types of data are used to their full potential we recommend the following: elements of BBS protocols (fixed sites, long-term monitoring) are incorporated into Atlases; regional coordinators are in place to maintain data quality; communication between researchers and the organisations coordinating volunteer monitoring is enhanced, with monitoring targeted to meet specific needs and objectives; application of data to under-explored objectives is encouraged, and data are made freely and easily accessible.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)128-138
    Number of pages11
    JournalBiological Conservation
    Volume165
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013

    Fingerprint

    monitoring
    birds
    breeding
    atlas
    volunteers
    communication (human)
    programme
    science
    citizen
    data quality
    researchers
    breeding bird
    communication
    bird
    cost
    protocol

    Cite this

    Tulloch, A., Possingham, H., Joseph, L., Szabo, J., & Martin, T. (2013). Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs. Biological Conservation, 165, 128-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.05.025
    Tulloch, Ayesha ; Possingham, Hugh ; Joseph, Liana ; Szabo, Judit ; Martin, Tara. / Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs. In: Biological Conservation. 2013 ; Vol. 165. pp. 128-138.
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    Tulloch, A, Possingham, H, Joseph, L, Szabo, J & Martin, T 2013, 'Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs', Biological Conservation, vol. 165, pp. 128-138. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biocon.2013.05.025

    Realising the full potential of citizen science monitoring programs. / Tulloch, Ayesha; Possingham, Hugh; Joseph, Liana; Szabo, Judit; Martin, Tara.

    In: Biological Conservation, Vol. 165, 09.2013, p. 128-138.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

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