Citizen science is described as a way for the general public to contribute to the production of new knowledge. But flag citizens are volunteers not always represent a wide segment of society. Rather, they are mostly White, male, middle-aged, educated and already interested in science.
This lack of representation has many problems. can undermine Ability Citizen science to bridge the gap between ordinary people and experts. It also means that fewer people take advantage of the opportunity to advance their informal science education and gain valuable life skills.
It is important that citizen science projects involve volunteers from all parts of society, including youth. A new Australian initiative is doing just that.
The BioBlitz It aims to get school students to collect data about the natural environment in Australia. This year’s event shows how citizen science at school can help develop STEM skills and make gains in biodiversity research.
More hands on deck
It is widely accepted that Australia needs to be more hands-on when it comes to collecting scientific data. For example, only about 30% Of the estimated 750,000 Australian species that have been officially named and documented. Correcting this will require a massive increase in information collection.
What’s more, Australia has one of the world’s worst Extinction Chronicles. Citizen science is important way To fill information gaps, identify species declines and their causes, inform conservation decisions and evaluate their effectiveness.
This year’s state of the environment report a favour The need for more citizen science. He said the level of biodiversity research required “cannot be achieved by professionals and institutions alone”.
This is where BioBlitz BioBlitz comes in.
What exactly is BioBlitz?
The BioBlitz is a citizen science program at the National School coordinated by PlantingSeeds Projects – a non-profit sustainability organization founded by the lead author of this article. The inaugural event was held at National Biodiversity Month in September this year. Both authors of this article were project organizers and teachers.
Sixty schools from all Australian states and territories participated. Participants consisted of students from children to secondary school and their teachers.
Most of the schools are located in urban areas, which makes it of particular value Scientific research sites. many threatened Plant and animal species live in urban areas, however, only 5% of citizen science projects in Australia are in urban areas.
The project involved students taking pictures of plant and animal species in their school grounds on devices such as tablets and smartphones provided by the school. The students also recorded information such as the time, date, and location of the photo.
A particular teacher uploaded images and data to the BioBlitz project at I am a naturalist, one of the world’s most popular biodiversity citizen science platforms and applications. At the time of writing, iNaturalist has more than 121 million notes uploaded by citizens from all over the world.
Throughout the month of September, students made more than 2,300 observations in the school grounds, involving 635 species of plants, animals, and fungi. Students can log into iNaturalist to see a project ‘leaderboard’, browse submitted notes and learn about species classification and distribution.
a The study proved Young people can contribute feedback to iNaturalist which is a ‘research degree’ – and therefore easily accessible and potentially useful for biodiversity research and monitoring. The longer they participate, the better their feedback becomes.
Species observations during this project have contributed to the comprehensive data sets that scientists can now draw upon. It is noticeable that there are unfamiliar images “balm monsterThe famous desert Sturt’s katydid and peas.
All observations uploaded to iNaturalist are also exported directly to CSIRO’s Atlas of Living Australia.
Pros and Cons
Verbal and online feedback by students reveal how citizen science can be a practical and positive experience.
A student at North Melbourne Primary School said the activity made her feel “like part of the community”.
One student at Darwin said the activity was “the most fun he’s ever had” and his teacher mentioned that while he was participating, the student was “the most engaged he had seen”.
But BioBlitz BioBlitz was not without its challenges.
Many teachers, including science teachers, had limited knowledge of citizen science and had not often heard of the term. This means that educators need a basic education on this subject prior to any school participation in BioBlitz.
Teachers are busy and face many pressing demands. However, if the benefits of citizen science are to be fully realized, there is a need to broaden teachers’ awareness of the practice, and improve their skills in accessing databases such as iNaturalist.
8 tips for successful biodiversity habitat science
How can young people be helped to take a good scientific note of citizens? The following eight tips provide a guide:
Capture as many angles and as much information as possible. While some groups such as birds can be identified from a single image, many other taxa require multiple features for positive identification
When observing plants, photograph as many features as possible. This includes flowers and leaves (top and bottom), bark, fruit if present, a branch showing the arrangement of the leaves, and a snapshot of the whole plant to give a sense of its re-growth
Photograph the fungus from the top, bottom (showing the gills or pores), and the side
Record the “substrate” you find the fungus on, such as soil or dead wood, and the type of soil the plant is growing in
Identification of insects can often be aided by the number and location of veins on the insect’s wing. Try and capture this by getting screenshots directly from above
Noting the plant on which you find a beetle or insect can help with identification and provide useful ecological data
If you find a spider in the web, photographs of the top and bottom sides may be helpful
If in doubt, just record as much information as possible. You never know who might find your data useful!
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