WHY IS CITIZEN SCIENCE SO IMPORTANT

July 20, 2019

Citizen science is often called community science, crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, volunteer monitoring, or online citizen science. Whatever the name, it is real scientific research. Citizen Science is conducted as a whole or in part by amateur scientists or by scientific leaders that are not a part of a research institute. 

A BioBlitz is a type of citizen science activity. In a BioBlitz we attempt to find and identify as many species as possible in a specific location over a short period of time. The primary goal of a BioBlitz is to document an overall count of the plants, animals, fungi, and other organisms that live in a place. It is a presence-absence study, rather than a quantitative one, meaning that it doesn't matter how many individuals we've seen, only that we've seen them there.

The data accumulated in this huge database is being used constantly by researchers around the world. In  2018, over 112 scientific studies used iNaturalist (read more). One study analyzed the impact of climate change on mountain goats shading across their range. Another study is looking at the relationship between fog maps and fog lichens' distribution. Other projects use iNaturalist as a platform to conduct large-scale surveys and impact policymakers. One such study is the Lexington Reservoir Newt study, that documents the devastating mortality of the California newt and the rough-skinned newt due to car collisions. 

Citizen Science and Bioblitzes, in particular, create an additional benefit for the community: they expose people to nature. Nature is all around us, but some populations have historically not been as invested and involved in conserving it. Bringing people from all walks of life to nature, helping them see its diversity, its complexity, and its fragility allows for more informed conversations when people are asked to vote and take environmental considerations into their personal voting considerations. 

Not only is science benefiting from the data that people are collecting, but also the environment is benefiting from a more aware and engaged public.

Sources and more material on National GeographicWikipedia, citizenscience.org, Cool green science, and Earthwatch  

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