Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing

Making Waves: Marine Citizen Science for Impact

Schläppy M-L, Loder J, Salmond J, Lea A, Dean AJ, Roelfsema CM. Making Waves: Marine Citizen Science for Impact. Frontiers in Marine Science [Internet]. 2017 ;4. Available from: http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fmars.2017.00146/full
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

The benefit of engaging volunteers in marine citizen science projects goes beyond generation of data and has intrinsic value with regards to community capacity-building and education. Yet, despite the documented benefits of citizen science, there can be barriers to the process of developing strategic citizen science projects and translating data into valued results with natural resource management applications. This paper presents four case-studies from fifteen years of Reef Check Australia (RCA) marine citizen science research and education projects. These case studies convey approaches and lessons-learned from the process of designing, implementing and sharing citizen science programs with the goal to create valuable social and environmental outcomes:

(1) Demonstrating citizen science data quality through a precision study on data and analysis of 15 years of standardized Reef Check (RC) reef health data in Queensland, Australia.

(2) Identifying and responding to data gaps through volunteer monitoring of sub-tropical rocky reefs in South East Queensland, Australia.

(3) Adapting citizen science protocols to enhance capacity building, partnerships and strategic natural resource management applications through reef habitat mapping.

(4) Tailoring new pathways for sharing citizen science findings and engaging volunteers with the community via a Reef Check Australia Ambassadors community outreach program.

These case studies offer insights into considerations for developing targeted and flexible citizen science projects, showcasing the work of volunteers and project stakeholders, and collaborating with partners for applications beneficial to research, management and education.

Comparison of marine debris data collected by researchers and citizen scientists: Is citizen science data worth the effort?

van der Velde T, Milton DA, Lawson TJ, Wilcox C, Lansdell M, Davis G, Perkins G, Hardesty BDenise. Comparison of marine debris data collected by researchers and citizen scientists: Is citizen science data worth the effort?. Biological Conservation [Internet]. 2017 ;208:127 - 138. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0006320716302063
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $35.95
Type: Journal Article

As part of a national research program studying the sources, distribution, and effects of litter entering the ocean, we established a national citizen science program engaging nearly 7000 primary and secondary students, teachers and corporate participants in collecting marine debris data around Australia's coastline. Citizen scientists undertook a one-day training program, which addressed data collection skills and academic topics in the national science curriculum. A subset of teachers and corporate sponsor staff participated in an intensive multi-day training program with researchers before venturing into the field.

Data collected by citizen scientists were compared with data collected by researchers at nearby locations. We found the citizen science data were of equivalent quality to those collected by researchers, but there were differences among students. Primary school students detected more debris than did older secondary students. Students detected small items (< 1 cm2), and were as accurate as researchers in identifying debris type and size categories. However, sampling approach was important — students detected more debris during quadrat searches than during strip transects. Comparing researcher effort to volunteer-collected data, citizen scientists were often more efficient (per m2) than researchers at collecting marine debris, but the results varied among methods. Researchers made more surveys within a given day (0.8 surveys/person-day). However, participants of one day programs working with secondary students or adults were nearly as efficient (0.6 surveys/person-day). This study shows that engaging with citizen scientists can broaden the coverage and increase the sampling power of coastal litter and other ecological survey assessments without compromising the data.

Reliability and utility of citizen science reef monitoring data collected by Reef Check Australia, 2002–2015

Done T, Roelfsema C, Harvey A, Schuller L, Hill J, Schläppy M-L, Lea A, Bauer-Civiello A, Loder J. Reliability and utility of citizen science reef monitoring data collected by Reef Check Australia, 2002–2015. Marine Pollution Bulletin [Internet]. 2017 ;117(1-2):148 - 155. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X17300899
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Reef Check Australia (RCA) has collected data on benthic composition and cover at > 70 sites along > 1000 km of Australia's Queensland coast from 2002 to 2015. This paper quantifies the accuracy, precision and power of RCA benthic composition data, to guide its application and interpretation. A simulation study established that the inherent accuracy of the Reef Check point sampling protocol is high (<± 7% error absolute), in the range of estimates of benthic cover from 1% to 50%. A field study at three reef sites indicated that, despite minor observer- and deployment-related biases, the protocol does reliably document moderate ecological changes in coral communities. The error analyses were then used to guide the interpretation of inter-annual variability and long term trends at three study sites in RCA's major 2002–2015 data series for the Queensland coast.

The role of citizen science in monitoring small-scale pollution events

Hyder K, Wright S, Kirby M, Brant J. The role of citizen science in monitoring small-scale pollution events. Marine Pollution Bulletin [Internet]. 2017 . Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X17303454
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $39.95
Type: Journal Article

Small-scale pollution events involve the release of potentially harmful substances into the marine environment. These events can affect all levels of the ecosystem, with damage to both fauna and flora. Numerous reporting structures are currently available to document spills, however there is a lack of information on small-scale events due to their magnitude and patchy distribution. To this end, volunteers may provide a useful tool in filling this data gap, especially for coastal environments with a high usage by members of the public. The potential for citizen scientists to record small-scale pollution events is explored using the UK as an example, with a focus on highlighting methods and issues associated with using this data source. An integrated monitoring system is proposed which combines citizen science and traditional reporting approaches.

Determining global distribution of microplastics by combining citizen science and in-depth case studies

Bosker T, Behrens P, Vijver MG. Determining global distribution of microplastics by combining citizen science and in-depth case studies. Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management [Internet]. 2017 ;13(3):536 - 541. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/ieam.1908/full
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $38.00
Type: Journal Article

Microplastics (<5 mm) are contaminants of emerging global concern. They have received considerable attention in scientific research, resulting in an increased awareness of the issue among politicians and the general public. However, there has been significant variation in sampling and extraction procedures used to quantify microplastics levels. The difference in extraction procedures can especially impact study outcomes, making it difficult, and sometimes impossible, to directly compare results among studies. To address this, we recently developed a standard operating procedure (SOP) for sampling microplastics on beaches. We are now assessing regional and global variations in beach microplastics using this standardized approach for 2 research projects. Our first project involves the general public through citizen science. Participants collect sand samples from beaches using a basic protocol, and we subsequently extract and quantify microplastics in a central laboratory using the SOP. Presently, we have 80+ samples from around the world and expect this number to further increase. Second, we are conducting 2, in-depth, regional case studies: one along the Dutch coast (close to major rivers, a known source of microplastic input into marine systems), and the other on the Lesser Antilles in the Caribbean (in the proximity to a hotspot of plastics in the North Atlantic Ocean). In both projects, we use our new SOP to determine regional variation in microplastics, including differences in physicochemical characteristics such as size, shape, and polymer type. Our research will provide, for the first time, a systematic comparison on levels of microplastics on beaches at both a regional and global scale.

GoPros™ as an underwater photogrammetry tool for citizen science

Raoult V, David PA, Dupont SF, Mathewson CP, O’Neill SJ, Powell NN, Williamson JE. GoPros™ as an underwater photogrammetry tool for citizen science. PeerJ [Internet]. 2016 ;4:e1960. Available from: https://peerj.com/articles/1960/
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Citizen science can increase the scope of research in the marine environment; however, it suffers from necessitating specialized training and simplified methodologies that reduce research output. This paper presents a simplified, novel survey methodology for citizen scientists, which combines GoPro imagery and structure from motion to construct an ortho-corrected 3D model of habitats for analysis. Results using a coral reef habitat were compared to surveys conducted with traditional snorkelling methods for benthic cover, holothurian counts, and coral health. Results were comparable between the two methods, and structure from motion allows the results to be analysed off-site for any chosen visual analysis. The GoPro method outlined in this study is thus an effective tool for citizen science in the marine environment, especially for comparing changes in coral cover or volume over time.

Effectiveness of community and volunteer based coral reef monitoring in Cambodia

Savage JM, Osborne PE, Hudson MD. Effectiveness of community and volunteer based coral reef monitoring in Cambodia. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems [Internet]. 2017 ;27(2):340 - 352. Available from: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/aqc.2690/abstract
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $38.00
Type: Journal Article

Globally, coral reef monitoring programmes conducted by volunteer-based organizations or local communities have the potential to collect large quantities of marine data at low cost. However, many scientists remain sceptical about the ability of these programmes to detect changes in marine systems when compared with professional techniques. A limited number of studies have assessed the efficacy and validity of volunteer-based monitoring, and even fewer have assessed community-based methods. This study in Cambodia investigated the ability of surveyors of different levels of experience to conduct underwater surveys using a simple coral reef methodology. Surveyors were assigned to four experience categories and conducted a series of six 20 × 5 m belt transects using five benthic indicator species. Results show decreased variation in marine community assessments with increasing experience, indicating that experience, rather than cultural background, influences survey ability. This suggests that locally based programmes can fill gaps in knowledge with suitable ongoing training and assessment.

Incorporating citizen science to study plastics in the environment

Zettler ER, Takada H, Monteleone B, Mallos N, Eriksen M, Amaral-Zettler LA. Incorporating citizen science to study plastics in the environment. Anal. Methods [Internet]. 2017 ;9(9):1392 - 1403. Available from: http://pubs.rsc.org/en/content/articlelanding/2017/ay/c6ay02716d#!divAbstract
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $45.59
Type: Journal Article

Plastic marine debris is a global problem, but due to its widespread and patchy distribution, gathering sufficient samples for scientific research is challenging with limited ship time and human resources. Taking advantage of public interest in the impact of plastic on the marine environment, successful Citizen Science (CS) programs incorporate members of the public to provide repeated sampling for time series as well as synoptic collections over wide geographic regions. A key challenge with any CS program is to ensure standardized methods and quality control so that the samples and data can legitimately be compared and used in peer-reviewed research. This article describes several successful examples and outlines suggestions for projects cooperating with citizen scientists to provide reliable samples and accurate data, with benefits to science, citizen scientists, and society in general.

Plastic debris straps on threatened blue shark Prionace glauca

Colmenero AI, Barría C, Broglio E, García-Barcelona S. Plastic debris straps on threatened blue shark Prionace glauca. Marine Pollution Bulletin [Internet]. 2017 ;115(1-2):436 - 438. Available from: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X17300127
Freely available?: 
No
Summary available?: 
No
Approximate cost to purchase or rent this item from the publisher: 
US $39.95
Type: Journal Article

Juveniles of blue shark Prionace glauca caught in pelagic longlines targeting tuna and swordfish in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea were found entangled with plastic straps around their gill region. The plastic debris were identified as strapping bands and caused several degrees of injuries on the dorsal musculature and pectoral fins. They were also obstructing the gill slits probably causing breathing issues. These records were uploaded in the web site seawatchers.org, and highlight the potential of citizen science in revealing the occurrence of such problems which could help to measure the effects of plastic debris on marine life.

The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science

Pocock MJO, Tweddle JC, Savage J, Robinson LD, Roy HE. The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science. PLOS ONE [Internet]. 2017 ;12(4):e0172579. Available from: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0172579
Freely available?: 
Yes
Summary available?: 
No
Type: Journal Article

Citizen science—the involvement of volunteers in data collection, analysis and interpretation—simultaneously supports research and public engagement with science, and its profile is rapidly rising. Citizen science represents a diverse range of approaches, but until now this diversity has not been quantitatively explored. We conducted a systematic internet search and discovered 509 environmental and ecological citizen science projects. We scored each project for 32 attributes based on publicly obtainable information and used multiple factor analysis to summarise this variation to assess citizen science approaches. We found that projects varied according to their methodological approach from ‘mass participation’ (e.g. easy participation by anyone anywhere) to ‘systematic monitoring’ (e.g. trained volunteers repeatedly sampling at specific locations). They also varied in complexity from approaches that are ‘simple’ to those that are ‘elaborate’ (e.g. provide lots of support to gather rich, detailed datasets). There was a separate cluster of entirely computer-based projects but, in general, we found that the range of citizen science projects in ecology and the environment showed continuous variation and cannot be neatly categorised into distinct types of activity. While the diversity of projects begun in each time period (pre 1990, 1990–99, 2000–09 and 2010–13) has not increased, we found that projects tended to have become increasingly different from each other as time progressed (possibly due to changing opportunities, including technological innovation). Most projects were still active so consequently we found that the overall diversity of active projects (available for participation) increased as time progressed. Overall, understanding the landscape of citizen science in ecology and the environment (and its change over time) is valuable because it informs the comparative evaluation of the ‘success’ of different citizen science approaches. Comparative evaluation provides an evidence-base to inform the future development of citizen science activities.

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