Network environmentalism: Citizen scientists as agents for environmental advocacy
Citizen science – public participation of non-scientists in scientific research – has become an important tool for monitoring and evaluating local and global environmental change. Citizen science projects have been shown to enable large-scale data collection, increase scientific literacy, and monitor environmental quality. However, few studies have examined the individual-level motivations and impacts of citizen science participation. We employ an exploratory multi-method approach (on-line surveys, a focus-group session, informal interviews, and descriptive statements) to evaluate the experiences of citizen scientists volunteering with two conservation organizations based in Bangalore, India. Our findings suggest that citizen science may contribute to increased environmental awareness among the general public. In particular, we identify a three-step process whereby highly motivated individuals, or environmental opinion leaders, seek out citizen science opportunities due to an interest in one or more environmental issues; gain expertise through citizen science participation; and diffuse acquired skills and knowledge to peers through social networks, education of other non-scientist Indian citizens, and/or changes in career or education trajectories. As a result, citizen scientists in India promote environmental principles through an active environmental advocacy network.