5 Examples Of The Power Of Citizen Science
For animal advocates and many members of the general public, participating in science may seem out of reach. Science is the realm of scientists, specially trained people who speak in a language that many laypeople don’t understand. However, there is the problem of scale: in some cases, researchers gather far more data than they are able to feasibly process; in other cases, scientists would like to be able to gather more data than they’re physically able to. In both cases, more scientists are beginning to turn to “citizen science” as a potential solution, allowing members of the public to help their process along.
In the animal world, conservation advocates and companion animal advocates seem to be increasingly engaging with citizen scientists, and the results are inspiring. If you have ever wanted to take part in the scientific process, but didn’t think it would be possible without years of training, being a citizen scientist may be for you. Below we outline five recent examples of citizen science (including four from our research library) that show just how much laypeople can make a difference by participating in data collection and analysis.
Using ‘Citizen Science’ To Help Monitor Dolphins
In this survey, stretching over a 2-kilometer coastal region of Scotland, researchers found that citizen scientists were able to correctly identify and detect bottlenose dolphins at a rate that would be useful in monitoring human disturbances. They found that even “lower levels of effort [could] still be useful” and that “consolidating volunteer effort at these locations would help to ensure sufficient survey data to achieve statistical rigor in identifying trends,” to help “ensure that the conservation objectives of the bottlenose dolphin are maintained.”
Citizen Science Reveals Healthy Bat Populations
From 1997-2012, the National Bat Monitoring Programme (NBMP) in the U.K. conducted four separate animal surveys (“Roost Count, Hibernation Survey, Field Survey, and Waterway Survey”) to monitor the health of bat populations. Researchers took measures to ensure volunteers had the relevant skills to take part in surveys, including “bat detector workshops, online training tutorials, field notes on identification and video demonstrations.” Looking at the numbers from the last two decades, they found “a generally favourable picture for bats over the monitoring period with all species monitored showing a stable or increasing trend… from the base year of surveys to 2012 from at least one survey type.”
Citizen Science And Dog Behavior Research
This meta-review looked at potential future applications of citizen science for canine behavior research. Specifically, the paper identified potential benefits (and challenges) of three types of useful citizen science projects:
- Projects in which participants both provide and analyze data (e.g., a participant plays a game with her or his dog and records the results): These would enable researchers to reach far-off dog populations and gather information on fleeting events.
- Projects in which participants only provide data (e.g., participants attach a streaming video camera to their dogs’ collars): Researchers benefit from such projects by gaining access to data on real-life scenarios.
- Projects in which participants only provide data (e.g., volunteers characterize dog vocalizations): These projects could save time and effort on the part of researchers.
Cat Tracker: Citizen Science And Cats In Australia
This project had two distinct phases. First, citizen scientists completed a questionnaire about their companion cats, how they manage their cats’ indoor and outdoor movement, and their attachment to their cats. People who completed the questionnaire could then nominate themselves and their cats to be involved in the cat-tracking phase of the project. This phase used GPS devices to track the movement of their cats. The researchers wanted to get a sense of the size of these cats’ home ranges and of any differences in night and day activities. They also wanted to determine whether the cats’ characteristics or the way their human companions “managed” them related to their home ranges.
The project resulted in more than 3,000 completed surveys about more than 4,000 cats. And the tracking phase gathered home range and movement data on more than 400 cats.
Camera CATalogue: Analyze Wildlife Photos to Help Panthera Protect Big Cats
Run by Panthera, a global conservation organization founded in 2006 “to preserve wild cats and their ecosystems,” the Camera CATalogue is part of an effort to monitor big cats at a large enough scale to assist wildlife management and conservation. According to the CATalogue website, at numerous places around the globe, “scientists have set up a suite of motion-activated camera-trap stations. Each station comprises two cameras, enabling us to photograph both flanks of an animal as it walks past the cameras.” However, since camera traps can’t differentiate between wild cats and other animals, it means the CATalogue’s camera-traps generate a huge amount of photographs. “This is why,” the organization says, “we need the assistance of citizen scientists like you to help identify and classify all the images we collect so we can better understand—and protect—wild cats across the globe.”