An initiative of Earthwatch Institute

Latest in citizen science

May 2014

By Linden Ashcroft

Citizen science programs received a lot of attention in online and scientific publications in the last month! Here is a brief wrap up of the buzz.

Citizen Science Network Australia (CSNA) was launched last week in Brisbane, bringing together over 80 scientists, educators and citizen science organisers from across Australia. From discovering old weather records to finding meteorites, CSNA aims to connect and support the exciting citizen science programs that are occurring around the country. The network is developing, so check back on the website over the next few months to learn more.

In the United States, an initiative to transcribe historical bird observations reached its 1 millionth record at the end of March. Bird sightings recorded between 1880 and 1970 have been digitised by more than 2000 volunteers as part of the USGS North American Bird Phenology Program. Citizen scientists from all over the world transcribed the bird sightings through the program website, including volunteers from Japan, Turkey and Belgium. Combining these historic observations with modern data (like sightings made by the US equivalent of ClimateWatch!) gives scientists a remarkable 130 years of records to examine changes in bird migration and abundance.

Bird migration cards

North American Bird Phenology Program Coordinator Jessica Zelt looks through the old bird sightings. Image: US Geological Survey.

Records from other citizen science projects have also been used in several scientific articles published in the last month. Scientists from the University of Adelaide, University of South Australia and CSIRO used sightings from the Great Koala Count to model the population of koalas in South Australia. The Great Koala Count, conducted by citizen scientists in November 2012, was the first time that koalas have been surveyed on mainland South Australia since the marsupial was re-introduced in the 1950s.


One of the great koalas from the Great Koala Count. Image: University of South Australia.

Meanwhile, researchers in Britain have found that urbanisation is associated with a decrease in moth diversity, thanks to the data from the Garden Moth Scheme. The Garden Moth Scheme encourages people across the UK to set weekly moth traps in their backyard, and record the count and diversity of these important pollinators. The program has been running since 2003.

As more ClimateWatch sightings are recorded, they will also be used for scientific research. To ensure that your sightings will make a valuable contribution, check the accuracy of your sightings before you submit. Are you sure the species is correct? Is your location right? Have you taken a photo? These quick checks can be a big help to scientists using your data, and will make you a great citizen scientist.