Reblogged: CitSci2017 – Call for leading volunteers

It’s time to start thinking about the Citizen Science Association (CSA) conference in 2017, but conference don’t happen by themselves, so the CSA published CitSci2017: Call for leading volunteers – a call for the people who will form the core of the organising committee.

‘Nature’ Editorial on Citizen Science

The journal Nature published today an editorial on citizen science, titled ‘Rise of the citizen scientist’. It is very good editorial that addresses, head-on, some of the concerns that are raised about citizen science, but it is also have a problematic ending.

On the positive side, the editorial recognises that citizen scientists can do more than just data collection. The writer also demonstrated an inclusive understanding of citizen science that encompass both online and offline forms of participation. It also include volunteered computing in the list (with the reference for SETI@Home) and not dismiss it as outside the scope of citizen science.

It then show that concerns about the ability of citizen scientists to produce high quality data are not supported by research findings and as Caren Cooper noted, there are many other examples across multiple fields. My own minor contribution to this literature is to demonstrate that this is true for OpenStreetMap mappers. It also recognises the important of one of the common data assurance methods – the reliance on instrument reading as a reason to trust the data.

Finally, it recognise the need to credit citizen scientists properly, and the need to deal with their personal details (and location) carefully. So far, so good. 

Then, the article ends with rather a poor paragraph about ‘conflicts of interest’ and citizen science:

More troubling, perhaps, is the potential for conflicts of interest. One reason that some citizen scientists volunteer is to advance their political objectives. Opponents of fracking, for example, might help to track possible pollution because they want to gather evidence of harmful effects. When Australian scientists asked people who had volunteered to monitor koala populations how the animals should be managed, they found that the citizen scientists had strong views on protection that did not reflect broader public opinion.

Checking for air qualityI have already written here about the attitude of questioning activism and citizen science in specific local issues, but it seem that motivations especially irk scientists and science writers when they look at citizen science. So here some of the reasons that I think the claim above is contradictory.

There are two reasons for this: first, that scientists themselves have a complex set of motivations and are under the same ‘conflict of interests’ and secondly, if motivations having such an impact on science in general, than this is true for every science, not just citizen science.

Let’s start with the most obvious one – the whole point in the scientific method is that it investigates facts and conditions regardless of the motivation of the specific person that is carrying out the research. I have a reminder of that every day when I go to my office, at UCL’s Pearson Building. The building is named after Karl Pearson (known to any scientist because of the Pearson correlation), who was one of the leaders of Eugenics, which was the motivation for parts of his work. While I don’t like the motivation (to say the least) it doesn’t change the factual observations and analysis of the results though it surely change the interpretation of them, which we today reject. We therefore continue to use Pearson’s methods and science since they are useful despite of the motivation. We have detached the motivations from the science.

More generally, scientists like to believe that they are following Mertonian Norms and that they are ‘disinterested’ in their research – but listen to some of the episodes of the BBC Life Scientific and you discover that what keep them motivated to apply for research grants against the odds and to carry out long stretches of boring work are very deep personal motivations. They wouldn’t do it otherwise! Therefore, according to the paragraph above we should consider them conflicted.

Citizen Scientists are, of course, motivated by specific interests – they wouldn’t volunteer their free time otherwise. Look at the OED definition of citizen science at the sources of the term, and you discover that the first modern use of the term ‘citizen scientists‘ was in a report about the Audubon effort to campaign about acid rain. The fact that it was activism did not influence the very careful data collection and analysis operation. Or take the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) in which ‘Campaign with us‘ is the top option of ‘what we do’, and yet they run the valuable Big Garden Bird Watch with results used in scientific papers and for policy. The source of the activism, again, does not influence the outcomes, or the quality of the science.

Is it some forms of activism that Nature have a problem with?

The value of using citizen science in cases such as fracking, air quality or noise is that the scientific method support a systematic, disinterested, and objective data collection and analysis. It therefore allows to evaluate concerns about a specific issue and check if they are justified and supported by the evidence or not. In the same way that the environmental impact assessment and report from the fracking operators are created from a point of conflicts of interest, so does the data that come from the people who oppose it. As long as the data is being collected in a rigorous way, with evidence to back that it was done this way (e.g. timestamp from the smartphone, as the article noted) the scientific approach can provide evidence if the level of pollution from the fracking site (or planned site) is acceptable or not. Arguably, the risk of falsifying the data or pressure to drop inconvenient observations is actually greater, in my view, from the more powerful side of the equation.

My conclusion is that you can’t have it both ways: either science work regardless of motivations or the motivations and conflicts of interest are central to every other piece of science that Nature report on. 

Beyond quantification: a role for citizen science and community science in a smart city

Arduino sensing in MaltaThe Data and the City workshop will run on the 31st August and 1st September 2015, in Maynooth University, Ireland. It is part of the Programmable City project, led by Prof Rob Kitchin. My contribution to the workshop is titled Beyond quantification: a role for citizen science and community science in a smart city and is extending a short article from 2013 that was published by UCL’s Urban Lab, as well as integrating concepts from philosophy of technology that I have used in a talk at the University of Leicester. The abstract of the paper is:

“When approaching the issue of data in Smart Cities, there is a need to question the underlying assumptions at the basis of Smart Cities discourse and, especially, to challenge the prevailing thought that efficiency, costs and productivity are the most important values. We need to ensure that human and environmental values are taken into account in the design and implementation of systems that will influence the way cities operate and are governed. While we can accept science as the least worst method of accumulating human knowledge about the natural world, and appreciate its power to explain and act in the world, we need to consider how it is applied within the city in a way that does leave space for cultural, environmental and religious values. This paper argues that a specific form of collaborative science – citizen science and community science – is especially suitable for making Smart Cities meaningful and democratic. The paper use concepts from Albert Borgmann’s philosophy of technology – especially those of the Device Paradigm and Focal Practices, to identify the areas were sensing the city can gain meaning for the participants.”

The paper itself can be accessed here.

Other papers from the same workshop that are already available include:

Rob Kitchin: Data-Driven, Networked Urbanism

Gavin McArdle & Rob Kitchin: Improving the Veracity of Open and Real-Time Urban Data

Michael Batty: Data About Cities: Redefining Big, Recasting Small

More details on the workshop will appear on the project website

Science-Society Dialogue – from Citizen Science to Co-Design (ICCB/ECCB 2015 – Day 4)

The final day of the ICCB/ECCB 2015 (see my notes on citizen science sessions from Day 1, Day 2 and Day 3) included a symposium that was organised by Aletta Bonn and members of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) to explore the wider context of citizen science. The symposium title was Science-Society Dialogue – From Citizen Science To Co-Design. The 6 talks of the session (including mine) were:

Lucy Robinson - 10 principlesTen principles of citizen science: Sharing best practice amongst the citizen science community – Lucy Robinson (NHM) – the London NHM have been active in citizen science for the past 10 years, though indirectly for much longer. They see the importance of developing citizen science as a field, and especially through networks such as ECSA – a network of different people who are involved in citizen science – advancing the field and sharing knowledge. There are different definitions of citizen science, but it is important to think about best practices, and part of the work in ECSA Lucy leads the effort to share best practice. This includes the development of the 10 principles of citizen science, which can be summarised as:
1. Involve citizens in the process in a meaningful way.
2. Activities should have a genuine science outcomes.
3. All involved should benefit.
4. Citizen scientists may participate in multiple stages of the scientific process.
5. Providing feedback to participants.
6. Citizen science should be considered as a research approach and understanding. the limitations, biases and not over estimating what is possible.
7. Data and metadata should be made available and results should be open access.
8. acknowledging participants in results.
9. need for evaluation for scientific output, data quality, participant experience and wider social and policy impacts.
10. Need to pay attention to legal and ethical issues of copyright, IP, data sharing, confidentiality, attribution, and environmental impacts.
The ten principles are open to development over time and the aim of having that is to help with the challenges in the field – such as duplication of efforts, mixed messages, and there are opportunities for collaborations and partnerships. They can help new joiners to start with best practices. There are other tools to improve the work of practitioners – including the 2012 guide on understanding citizen science & environmental monitoring which covered 150 projects. The report identified that one size doesn’t fit all and they identified that projects need to learn from others. There are guides for BioBlitzes and how to conduct them, and there are guides for choosing citizen science, evaluation tools from CLO (See Tina Philipps talk from yesterday).

Helen Roy - 51 years of BRCIn Celebrating 50 years of the biological records centre – Helen Roy covered the history fo the UK Biological Record Centre (BRC). The BRC coordinates 85 recording schemes and societies in the UK which are covering wide range of taxa, with publications of atlases in different topics that are covered by these programmes. The people who are involved in these schemes provide a lot of data, and to celebrate it there is a several papers on the 50 years of the BRC in the Biological Journal. Biological recording have developed with different ways – biological recording don’t have a specific scientific aims – just passion about collecting and identifying the different taxa. The national schemes are diverse – from 500 members of a bees, wasps & ants recording charity or a leafhoppers society that is more ad-hoc, to the completely ad-hoc ladybird recording survey, with 17,000 recorders. All the different schemes are lead by an individual, but involved a wide variety of people and there are now programmes that are involving many young people, which is important for the future of recording. There are mutual benefits – the recorders provide information but they get tools that help them – even stacking envelopes and sending newsletters, as well as data management, website design, editing atlases etc. The BRC is benefits from working with wide range of volunteer experts, and use the data for many purposes. The core activity is to create the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) – collect, review, share, publish and integrate the information. There are different technologies that support it from iRecord to NBN Gateway. Examples of how the Data was used include the analysis of invasion of alien species, as well as predictions of invasive species, informing UK biodiversity indicators, demonstrating impacts of climate change and modelling future distributions. The environmental challenges require a lot of data, and through this extensive community. (summary of her previous talk on the history of BRC at the BES 2014 )

Marisa Ponti - OER valuePotential of digital technologies to enhance openness in learning and science – Marisa Ponti – many citizen science project still happen off line, and there are many digital technologies that can be used to share and use the data. However, it is worth thinking about the potential of educational resources that can be used in such programmes. Open education and resources – learning, teaching and research that is in the public domain under open licence for reuse and modification has a role to play. Openness and access are important to citizen scientists – it can be increased and improve in the outputs of citizen science projects. Outputs are not the final publications, but also the  data, protocols, logs and systems. Open Education Resources (OER) can help in make ideas and scientific knowledge accessible, inspire people to be involved so they are not just passive participants, and can also help to meet funders’ requirements to make the research open. OER can help in reimagining what science is – can build a community outside institutional settings – such as Cornel Lab of Ornithology. It can also support self-driven and peer-based learning approaches, allowing people to run their own investigation, and OER can support experimentation with open practices. There is a specific website in the OER area of citizen science for learning and research. Resources help in creating suitable teaching sessions. There are other training material that can be reused and changed. There are, however, warning – the conditions for broad participation – OER in themselves with digital technology are not a solution unless we create the conditions for engagement of many people. There is a need to create the condition to allow participants to own the project. OER need to be in dialogue in terms of how people use them.

Learning in citizen scienceCitizen science, social learning and transforming expertise – Taru Peltola – She discuss the learning in citizen science with a paper that is currently under review (part of the ALTER-Net). In citizen science there is plenty of rhetorics – transparency, local knowledge, democracy … but social learning is usually seen with broader benefits that are related to citizen science and didn’t receive enough attention. There is a need to critically analyse the learning within citizen science, and learning is an important mechanism that require mutual learning (by participants, organisers and scientists), and learning can occur in all types of citizen science initiatives. Looking at literature on learning, there are questions on the outcomes (facts, instruments), process (individual/social/institutional), and who is involved (scientists/volunteers). It is wrong to assume that only the volunteers learn in citizen science – there are also important learning that the scientists get from the process. To gain more understanding, they looked at 14 cases across Europe – mostly monitoring species, but also cultural ecosystem services through participatory GIS or reindeer herding. The results from the cases are that the learning processes and outcomes are both intended and unintended, the learning is situated, the learning are unevenly distributed – need to pay attention who is getting the attention and how people are included, and the learning outcomes are continuous. They also found out that factual and instrumental learning outcomes are easier to assess, but it is important to pay special attention to the social and institutional process. These need to included in the design and implementation of citizen science projects.

Extreme citizen science: the socio-political potential of citizen science – Muki Haklay – in my talk, I have situated citizen science within the wider changes in access and use of environmental information. I have used the framework of 3 eras of environmental information (covered in details in the talk in the Wilson Center). The first two eras (between 1969-1992 and 1992-2005) are characterised by experts who produce environmental information and use it to advise decision makers. In the second era, information is shared with the public, but in unidirectional way – experts produce and release information to the public in a form that is suitable to share with other experts – so it is challenging to comprehend it. While the role of civic society and NGOs was recognised in the second era (e.g. Rio’s Principle 10), in terms of citizen science, the main model that was acceptable was the contributory model in which volunteers focus on data collection, so the information is verified by experts. With the third era (since 2005), we are seeing that the public is also accepted as producer of environmental information. This transition is opening up many opportunities for citizen science activities within environmental decision making. However, looking at the state of the art of citizen science, there is plenty of scope of involving people much more in the process of setting up citizen science projects, as well as engaging people with lower levels of education. I used 3 classifications of participation in citizen science (slides 14-16) to demonstrate that there is a range of ways to participate, and that different issues and different people can participate at a level that suit them and their life.
After introducing the vision of ‘Extreme Citizen Science’, I demonstrated that it is a combination of participatory process and use of technology. I introduced the participatory process of Mapping for Change, which deliberately starts with less use of technology so people can discover the issues that they would like to explore, and then decide how system such as Community Maps can be used to address their issues. I introduced GeoKey, which provides the infrastructure for participatory mapping system (such as Community Maps), and then demonstrated how Sapelli (data collection tool for low literacy participants) can be used in a careful participatory process with indigenous groups to design suitable citizen science projects. I used examples from the Congo basin and the work of Gill Conquest, the Amazon in Brazil-Peru border work of Carolina Comandulli and the current crowdfunding effort in Namibia for the Ju|’hoansi people by Megan Laws. I ended with a note that intermediaries (such as conservation organisations) have an important role to play in facilitating citizen science and helping in maintaining and sharing the data. The slides from the talk are provided below.

Annet Mihatsch - German Citizen Science StrategyThe final talk was citizen science strategy 2020 for Germany by Anett Richter – the ‘citizens create knowledge – knowledge create citizens’ project is a German Citizen Science capacity building project: it includes building citizen science platform, scientific evaluation of citizen science, developing resources for teaching and developing projects and a citizen science strategy 2020 for Germany. The need for strategy is that it helps focus on a problem and thinking about how to solve it. There are many projects already happening in Germany, with museums and NGOs, as well as conservation organisations. Lots of technologies are enabling it. However, we don’t have common understanding of where we want to go? Need framework for data use, there are risks of inconsistent communication to stakeholders. The way to open the strategy is involve wide range of stakeholders in the development – public, politicians, funders, community. The wider engagement in development strategy, require time and resources and there might be lack of public interest. They run 5 dialogue forums on different issues with 400 people involved. They explore capacities in science – think of science culture for citizen science – rewards for scientists to do so. Strong data infrastructure – data quality, validation, database management and other issues. Their vision – in 2020 citizen science is integral part of German society and open in all areas of science and for all people. Also want to have reliable web-based infrastructure. They will carry out consultation online in the autumn and publishing the strategy next year.


Notes from ICCB/ECCB 2015 (Day 3) – Citizen Science, engaging local knowledge and urban areas

The third day of the ICCB/ECCB 2015 (here are notes from first and second days) was packed with sessions about citizen science and local knowledge throughout the day (so this post is very very long!). It started with two sessions on citizen science / public participation in science that included the following talks:

Citizen science online: Producing high-quality data from camera trap images (Alexandra Swanson, University of Oxford) looking at a crowdsourcing process – the growth of use of technology in conservation produce huge amount of data – images are especially an issue as they are produced from camera traps, drones etc. and difficult to analyse with computers. She describe snapshot Serengeti – in which many camera traps are used: half a million images a year. They teamed with Zooniverse to set a system for volunteer classification. The website allow people to classify without being experts, without limitation of participation other than web connection. They had 1m classifications in the first 3 days of operations. To get best data possible, each image is sent to multiple people and there is no ‘I don’t know’ so to ensure that everything is being used. Looking at multiple users we can see the level of agreement between them. When people disagree on what they’ve see, there will be high level of disagreement in their classification. The aggregate results over multiple volunteers, then they have certainty metrics (how confident the final answer is) and compare a subset with expert answers. People are 97% correct – agreement with experts’ analysis is very common. Accuracy varies by species – some species are more commonly missed (false negative) and reported when they are not there (reported when not there). Rhinos, for example, suffer from high false positives (people want to see them). To improve classification, analysed errors against total pictures and found that rare species are harder than others – and moderate erros for these rare species is the purpose of camera trapping projects. False negatives are harder to identify. The classification by multiple users allows the development of a disagreement metric and they can see in wrong images high level of disagreement. Below the 0.75 disagreement score is 98.2% accurate. Therefore it can be used to target volunteer effort. They calculated dynamic improvement in quality as the number of classifiers increase – for more difficult images, you use more volunteers… conclusion: can dynamically target the volunteers and expert effort to make the most of the effort. Zooniverse is increasing the potential of starting new citizen science projects.

Corporate citizen science; A novel tool for tackling environmental sustainability? – (Jenny Cousins, Earthwatch Institute).  Citizen Science has multiple goals, and the interaction with the corporate sector is important for EarthWatch as they have a critical role to play in different activities. Freshwater Watch is part of a wider HSBC programme, and bring a global community of scientists and participants – 5000 citizen science (HSBC employees mostly) in 32 locations across the world. The participants fill that they are part of a global project. Employees join for a day, and then collect data every 3 months of a local freshwater locations (e.g. ponds) – they want people to be engaged and collect data, but also to think of water footprint in daily life. The data become part of local and global data – there are some aims to make the data widely available and use for academic publications and local management plans. EarthWatch evaluates how well people learn from the day, and their commitment to the project. They look at how people participate over time – including longer ‘stories’ from participants to see their journey. There are also signs of behaviour change outside work. The benefits of the partnership – funding global research programme, unique dataset, and personal and corporate outcomes. There are challenges in quality control, multi cultural aspects and continuity (only 21% continue to contribute data). The sustainability leadership citizen science programme is 5 days immersive programme for senior staff – 1000 senior manages, with 12,000 hours of data collection and learn about climate change and how it is relevant to their work. The hope is that participants will be integrating an understanding of climate change into their work. For participants is help to connect to nature, and change their perspective on life. Working with scientists is a key to increase knowledge and awareness, and changes in behaviour personally and at corporate levels. Majority of participants led to development and implementation of sustainability strategy – reducing energy, waste, use of renewable energy etc. The challenge that they identified is how to support actions in the workplace, and they created an online community of practice to support such change. Corporate projects can be immersive and aimed at senior staff, or higher volume but less engagement. Face to face training is a key to commitment. Training does not always translate into action – so they are looking at the barriers and identifying the factors that will help making a better change. They also want to understand and measure the wider and longer term outcomes.
Local people count: Using citizen scientists to monitor fruit bat populations (Tammy Mildenstein, Cornell College) covered citizen science in the Philippines, and how data can be used. For her, citizen science has multiple goals – build capacity, increase awareness, local knowledge can help in improving programme. In the Philippines people are involved in conservation research from limited engagement to higher level of monitoring – but only rarely in analysis. Depending on the question, can we trust citizen science data? Her case is about Flying Foxes which are largest bats, they are threatened and Old World fruit bats are not covered well in the literature. Monitoring give baseline trend information, and also identify conservation priorities, and feedback to conservation management. It also provide community-based harvest regulations (people hunt the bats) and local monitor provide the ability to manage the population. We tend to monitor to identify population trends – the power to detect is based on the population size, but we can deal with survey effort and survey error. So trying to increase survey effort and reduce the error. From 20 years of data, they compared the survey data that was gathered, and the error was calculated as difference in mean count among groups of observers, and they also compared different levels of skills – from biologists, bat hunters, to inexperienced helpers. Anyone above 4 surveys is classified as expert, forest works (hunters of workers) and everyone else. The error among experts – 2.9% error, forest workers 7.0% error and for untrained counters – almost 30% error. In terms of identifying the impact of the effort, they simulated a trend, and then simulated count assuming that they can get with these errors from different participants. Looking at the untrained participants – they realised that over longer period of monitoring, there is no error in trend detection for more experienced monitors. Conclusions: error rates to not affect much trend detection – citizen scientists help in increasing survey effort (more frequent monitoring and spatially too).

Essential Biodiversity Variables – and the emerging role of citizen science Mark Chandler (EarthWatch) – the challenge is how we aggregate data to understanding regional trends – but a lot of biodiversity data is limited, patchy, hidden data, limited capacity within nations to maintain programme, limited integration, and weak links between data collectors and policy-makers. The GEO-BON aim is to meet user needs (e.g. REDD or CBD), and they suggest the creation of essential biodiversity variables, similar to the climate change variables that are used by IPCC. It’s top down effort, the can work with bottom-up with national and regional capacity building. There are suggested 6 classes (Pereira et al, science, 2012) and the challenge is to mix remote sensing data and citizen science data to get detailed information. They identified that many of the gaps in variables can be helped by citizen science. They can consider participatory research: community based monitoring, crowdsourced citizen science (iNaturalist) and intensive research question driven (EarthWatch projects). The recommendations include that there is a need for build capacity to carry out citizen science projects, and large scale platform that will support data movement from local projects to global platforms such as GBIF. Citizen Science can contribute to monitoring protected area management – from park staff to outside visitors. The key is how to make data discoverable and shared. He demonstrated from Montane Meadows of the Sierra Nevada, where there is significant funding to restore wetlands, with only 1% of meadows studied – and remote sensing don’t give enough information, so the opportunity is to encourage people who like to visit the place to collect standardised data. EarthWatch help in developing a programme with 6 other organisations on this.

Several short talks followed:

What motivates citizens to take part in the management of an invasive non-native species? the case of tree mallow control on the islands of the Firth of Forth, Scotland – Marie Pagès, University of Aberdeen – she looks at volunteers who are involved in dealing with invasive species. Important to understand motivation and keep people motivated. She studies an Island, and there are plants that threatens the nests of puffins, a project worked well to control the plants. The survey showed that initial involvement was a combination of interest in the environment and having a nice day outdoors in an interesting place. On going motives include seeing progress and experiencing learning about nature, but the social dimension was critical – being with like minded people, interacting with project leaders. The implications for volunteering – the meaning and attachment to place are important to engage volunteer and maintain engagement. There is also importance in social aspect and being in nature (e.g. places that are inaccessible)

Another short talk Understanding the motivations and satisfactions of volunteers to improve the effectiveness of citizen science programs – Dale Wright, Birdlife South Africa – understanding the people who make monitoring  possible. Ornithology have a long history of engaging the public, and they create a project of create a bird atlas, and created psychometric instrument and with 75 questions, with looking at motivation and satisfaction, but also understand ‘ambassador potential’, with different tests. Used environmental volunteer functions inventory (EVFI) and modified it – the volunteer want to link to nature, they want to contribute to nature conservation, they wanted to see personal development. They put participants in the centre of the logic model and working around them. They developed evaluation programme and have some. Results of research are shared back with participants

The next short talk covered Citizen science in rural Africa: The conservation and monitoring of a threatened carnivore by Maasai hunters – Stephanie Dolrenry, Lion Guardians – she talks about working in rural SA. They realised that lions are hard to study – found more dead lions that live lions. They engaged with the warriors in the Maasai who are many times killing. They asked them to collect data that they use and the participants are illiterate, and taught them to collect the data by telemetry and GPS. The worriers helped in many ways. The data that came out of the monitoring, they have the same number of researchers, but now they cover 4000 sq km with the help of the citizen scientists. They discovered much more as a result of the work, and tripled the populations, the warriors took ownership over the lions and there are societal, social and conservation outcomes – many people can name a lion and they relate to them. Number of lions decreased – the reporting is 90% accurate. (in a paper Dolreny Hazzah at all ‘citizen Science in Africa). Engaging the  worriers in the process of tracking lions, giving them skills, providing job opportunities and prestige from using telemetry and GPS. They are paid to be guardians – once they show the opportunity, they are being compensated. They do get the participants together and report back, discussing what was seen and how to understand the outcomes.

Nature in your backyard – Citizen science in gardens – Silvia Winter, University of Natural Resources And Life Sciences Vienna – she looks at citizen science in urban garden which are under-studied habitat but difficult to access. There are a lot of people living in cities and gardens cover large surface (8% in Vienna). They had an aim of recording biodiversity of target species – bees, butterflies, garden birds and hedgehogs . They carried out work with 16 schools wand 428 pupils, with 309 garden interview about management and structures, and they got 132 gardens that are being monitored. They have tracking tunnels to hedgehog that can be checked after 5 days for footprints. Information is then shared online in a specific site. They found hedgehogs tracks in 54% of the garden.

The first long talk of the second part was Promotion of biodiversity in agricultural landscape via umbrella bird species, agri-envi scheme and citizen science project: Lessons from central European country  – (Vojtěch Kubelka, Charles University, Prague) – combining biodiversity in agriculture. In agricultural spaces, there is intensification and reduction in birds, butterflies and other species. Agri-envi schemes promote biodiversity, and they wanted to promote umbrella bird species (Northern Lepwing). They designed model of data collection that involve citizen scientists who are interested in birds together with farmers’ involvement. After 2 years of monitoring, they have online system for collecting observations from the field. The project is running since 2012 and  increased to over 3500 observation, from 1248 localities with 222 observers, and because the birds nest in arable land, they designed suitable agri-envi schemes in suitable areas, with 11,420 ha. The potential of the project is great – the project was successful and the selection of the umbrella/flagship species was successful, with a promising agri-envi project design.

Predicting impacts of forest management and climate change on dead-wood dependent fungi distributions using citizen science data and a range of modeling approaches – (Louise Mair, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) – overall aim  is compare future viabilities of species among different forest management scenarios, considering both use of forest and the biodiversity. The evaluate – looking at specific fungi that relate to the age of the forest. The recording is presence only, and there is a need to understand distribution of fungi and the behaviour of volunteers. They evaluate how good are the observers and some of them are very good. She modelled the data with different approaches: GLM, MAxEnt, PA/PO and Occupancy models – using environmental covariants, species observation data (presence-absence from recorders who are especially good, and presence-only in other cases, and background data, as well as bias layers – including information about where population are. Using different models mean that they agree that there is different between two scenario, but big disagreement in the scale or the rate of change. Models are producing different projections.

Can citizen science yield conservation outcomes? A framework describing pathways to conservation – (Tina Phillips, Cornell Lab Of Ornithology) looking at conservation within large scale citizen science projects. The field of citizen science grown with lots of special issues, conferences etc. There is a need to measure/document outcomes and impacts – scientific outcomes are clear, education outcomes are also clear, but what about the conservation outcomes? The problem is that it’s about site management-> conservation outcomes – but this is not how large scale projects work. So citizen science work indirectly – supporting research, education, policy or local community activity. They look at the theory of change from Shirk et al 2012 which is a logic model that expects outputs, outcomes and impacts. A results chain is a way to describe the conservation goals – understanding strategies and outcomes. The are causal, and you work backwards from the results – using an if-then – it also help identify intermediate outputs & outcomes, and linked outcomes and activities to explain how and why thins happen. The COASST project is a large scale survey of dead birds on coasts – the goal is improved bird population, the can articulate, the intermediate stages: e.g. if training material is provided, and if sufficient volunteers trained and if data collected by volunteers then you got the data, but if it’s not validated and accepted, the chain can fall apart – it’s useful to articulate that. Similar analysis was carried out for the Monarch Larva Monitoring project and they developed pathways that led to a success with people managing the project. in eBird who is successful in use for different projects. In eBird, Cornel Lab evaluated what people do with the data – they identified site and habitat management, habitat protection and even for law & policy and species management – they had 150 answers of users of the data. There are many pathways to conservation, and need to align goals to outcomes and activities. Data quality is paramount. In the implementation there is a need for data feedback, ensure data transparency, and local stakeholder involvement. – finally, need to have useful evaluation as it goes along.  Many of the processes are not linear and are more messy in reality. Pathways are messy in reality

Another set of short presentation started with Online conservation – Updated spatial information on threatened plant species in Israel – (Ofer Steinitz, Israel Nature And Parks Authority) information about threatened species – they have red book for Israeli plant from 2007 and 2011, but they need to monitor it dynamically, They developed an interactive website that encourage people to collect information about the plants and can do different things with the information such as query it and visualise maps. People share information from smartphones, or images that they collected, and there are experts vetting of the information. Absences can also be reported in the system. Since the launched in may 2015, they received 74 new observations of 56 threatened species, and including a rare  observation. There are 3000 observations that are explored by experts , and they see themselves progressing Red Book update online, with a process of expert reviews (

Citizen science projects in environmental NGOs – Bridging the gap between scientific standards and civil engagement – Eick von Ruschkowski, Naturschutzbund Deutschland (Nabu – Nature And Biodiversity Conversation Union) looks at process beyond citizen science – argue that it’s controversial buzzword – seeing citizen science as second-rate science or providing cheap field research assistants. These are not correct – debate in Germany about the quality of the data, and there are varying levels of citizen science in terms of how people should be engaged. There are questions about questions on motivations and many projects are at local and regional in which there is a lack of research funding, and we need to identify the link between age, taxonomic knowledge, and digital affinity. We need to look at citizen science from NGO perspective – have mutual respect for professional and non-professional scientists. and managing volunteers but require. Also users want to have control over the data, and need to agree about data ownership and how it is used.

Those two session followed by a lunchtime workshop on the role of citizen sciences and collaborative research in conserving bio cultural diversity (Sylvie Blangy), the session on how to improve citizens-researchers dialogues. They explores 5 projects: Orchidees sauvages de Frances, Observatoire des Saisons, Sauvages de marue, Aborinet and Ewé relict forest . The session was organised by GDR Parcs working on Participatory Action Research and citizen science – trying to involve citizens in alls stages of the research project. Camila Leandro from Tela Botanica – NGOs in Montpellier to reunite French-speaking botanists. Having a network that everyone can create projects and develop them – data is shared openly. They have a team of 10 employees – coordiantors and IT experts, and work with a wider network. They have FloraData and eVeg that allow recording, and an online book – Carnet En Ligne, identification by peers – IndetiPlante and coordinate citizen science projects. Sauvages de ma rue is a way to study urban plant, through easy process of data collection. Observatoire Des Saisons started in 2006 and is about phenology, with more than 10,000 records, and they linking news about climate change and biodiversity laws etc. They also provide visualisation tools to explore the data. They have a system of newsletters – to update people on what is happening with the data (Lettre de Printemps) . Philippe Feldmann presented Orchisauvage – monitoring wild orchid in France. 3000 people involved. Website was developed to support an NGO – it’s a new approach on interactions between science and society. Website open to people from all walks of life and also include mobile application – the data is validated bu experts. There are many tools – including ability to export maps by participants with limited knowledge. Since Feb 2014 They got 150,000 records, with 1500 registered users, with 14K images. There is high level of commitment of observers. Alfred Houngnon from Benin showed how to involved local communities in collaborative research. Benin is part of the Dahomey Gap hotspot – which is biodiversity hotspot Ewé relict forest is emblematic in Benin and is recognised as important. The forest area is shrinking from 571 ha in 1987 to 364 in 2007. Created farmer field school and sharing with communities in the area. The facilitators are native to of Ewé and the aim to developed common view on the goals of the project – the project is deliberately bottom-up. They identified over 250 plants that are unknown in Benin and contributed to conservation. The final case looked at community based indigenous tourism, starting in 2006, with 2000 copies sold – and then moving to collaborative website, that connect the communities, exchange lessons learned, share information and improve the location as destinations. Aboriginal-ecotourism website created the network.

The workshop included an exercises and identify problem that you seen in presentation (yes, but) and also positive comments (Yes, and) to the different activities, and trying to improve the systems that are used in citizen science.

A Symposium Power to the People? Valuing and Integrating Local Perspectives in Conservation the session was organised by Emily Woodhouse, and it included early career researchers. A core question was how to address inequalities in conservation projects and engage and listen to local voices.

Conservationist vs local voices: Telling a story of conservation and conflict from different perspectives Jevgeniy Bluwstein, Copenhagen University – is doing work in Tanzania, in the Kakoi – village land between two protected areas, wildlife management area. There is a conflict between private investor in wildlife sanctuary and the community who want to access the land for cattle grazing. Issues in the community about conservation include: land ownership, local participation in decision making and others. The conflict started with investor with a contract in the community based organisation that created a contract and think that the contract set the relationship, but negotiation by representative is not enough – as they wouldn’t agree to the contract if they knew that they would not be allow to graze. There is also issues with who’s land it is – investor think that it’s not part of Kako, while the local people see it as their own land, and the investor need to come and as their permission. The investor is treated as external and without rights. There is also issue of participation – the investor consider negotiation with CBO as enough, and claim that ‘the whole community support the land-use concept’ as he consider talking to a representative body. Villagers don’t feel that they were part of the decision. In terms of environmental protection, investor consider it as need to rehabilitate this path and see grazing cattle as misuse, while local people want to use it sustainability and need it in the dry season. more fundamental disagreement about what grazing is – sustainable practice or not? In terms of rural development – the investor argue that he bring tourism and that will create income locally, and support local school, while the local people consider it that they don’t benefit and think that support goes to other villages and not to them. So we have value system that then lead to concept and these are based on facts, but there is disagreement about how to understand these facts.

Understanding locally defined human well-being to measure impacts of conservation projects on the northern plains of Cambodia – Emilie Beauchamp (Imperial College London), there are linkages between wellbeing and conservation. Conservation need to understand wellbeing perception and contextualise the indicators. Measuring wellbeing is difficult. To define wellbeing, she looked at existing studies – ‘voices of the poor’ and work from the university of Bath on that. Five elements – physical environment, human capital resources, social resources and relationships, security, and autonomy and freedom of choice. The Material and natural resources and human resources are being address in conservation, but the other are not being dealt with. In her work in North Cambodia, looking at 3 villages who are impacted by land concessions. Carried out in-depth qualitative interviews with 56 people exploring ‘what does it mean to have a good life’, and evaluated cultural salience assuming that the earlier things that are mentioned are higher priority. Natural and human assets top of the list (top is agricultural land), with relationships also being important. If there is activity that influence fairness, risk of loosing land influence the  view of wellbeing. Conservation projects need to be sensitive to land and natural resources, and changes can have high impact on wellbeing.

Communities count: The role of local people in ecological monitoring – Samantha Earle (Imperial College London) she talked about one specific approach. Monitoring is a way to measure the state of the system so it can be used in decision making. Many stakeholders, including local people. Monitoring involving local people is seen as a way to allow local people to deal with management decisions. Involving local people improve their understanding as well as integrating their traditional knowledge, and potentially economic benefits. She reviewed 42 papers on participatory monitoring, and among them there are many feasibility studies and a whole range of goals and objectives. The things that are measures – anthropogenic activities (e.g. logging), information about species but also food security etc. The common data collection are line transects but also catch data but many other ways. The approach is seen cost effective, frequent data collection, capture and enhance local traditional ecological knowledge and build capacity and empowerment, and create awareness. Limitations include issues with quality control issues, create internal conflicts with unequal distribution of benefits, there is also concern of information misuse, and there is reliance on external support. There are social impacts – justice and ethics: the right to have a say, and get benefits, as well as understanding the projects. Only few papers discuss the impact of the project on local people and even that is only in anecdotal way. There is an evidence of increased awareness within the community, promote community discussions, and individual and community empowerment. What are the durable long-term methods? which ways should we measure social impacts? how to maintain motivation and enthusiasm?

Some points from the panel discussion included that if local community cannot see the reason to carry out conservation, they will not participate and there is no value in pursuing it.

An afternoon symposium was dedicated to Creating Natural Connections In Unnatural Habitats Through Citizen Science and included:

Citizen science as a potential tool to prevent the extinction of experience – (Assaf Shwartz, Technion) – there is biodiversity crisis is a result of human action, and the solution largely depend on actions of individuals, and public support to encourage government to act. Part of the arguments is the diversity message is too complex – so difficult to link it to action (Swartz et al 2012). The literature also suggest that conservation biology don’t use the right langauge (hence the ecosystem services framework). But there is the concept of ‘extinction of experience’ – lack of experience of nature in urban areas and missing these experiences when living in cities. Measuring this issue is complex and he is using the natural environment link it to affective and cognitive results. Currently using a survey in an urban and rural area. Using the framework of Nisebet et al. 2009 and checked how many common species people identify. People in rural area are more connected to nature, but in terms of correct answers, more correct ones in a rural area, but how many people know – the urban people claim to know more species. To enhance biodiversity experience in different places – it’s easy to increase biodiversity in urban areas in garden through simple interventions (Shwartz et al. 2014). The social side – there was no difference in people perceptions of the biodiversity. Urban dwellers are less connected to nature and there are health and wellbeing benefits to such connection which is missing. The challenge is to prevent the extinction of experience – and increasing biodiversity of urban areas is not enough, so need to increase positive interactions between people and biodiversity, and people don’t notice it. Citizen science is a method to increasing knowledge and he is exploring how participating in citizen science change attitude. The worked with 316 fourth-grade children, and then compared class to citizen science activities. The post intervention results, the was increased ability to recognise bird, but increase in attitude.

What’s in your backyard? Citizen science camera trapping as a lens to study mammal diversity in classrooms – Stephanie Schuttler- children have all sort of natural connection that lead to interest in science, but this is difficult in urban environments. The student discover project there are lesson plans that use camera trap (eMammal ) programme, they are being used as a way to record different animals that are describing the place – and it’s an evidence. Users upload the images on a specially designed website, the photos are reviewed by experts – to ensure that classification is correct. Projects are now increasing in urban areas, and backyards of people are important habitats, and these places were ignored by scientists traditionally. The teachers are trained to be experts in the field, and that helped in increasing confidence, and the teachers have a lot of fun – but also once they know that it’s for real science, they take it seriously. They noticed that coyotes are becoming more urban, and they see that in the Raleigh area. They are now setting a wider programme – eMammal International in India – showing that roads that are used in the day are also used by tigers at night. There is increase knowledge of natural history, and they found that they created advocates

Take back the block: An urban citizen science program – (Amanda Sorenson, Rutgers), with Rebecca Jordan, working on socio-ecological systems. The aim is to increase resilience and build capacity in the community to respond to changes. A resilient community can keep critical functions in times of uncertainty, and they can monitor, cope and adapt and thrive, So they create ‘’ a website that enable citizen scientists to join, and do place-based work, while having access to resources at other levels. An example of that is the Virgina Master Naturalists – individuals with capacity for monitoring and advocacy – retired, wealthy and using it for conservation, and focus on things such as stream protection. They recruited a scientists, set a monitoring programme, to check for sources of pollution, checking in different results, and they secure $200K to improve a stream bank remediation. Another platform is Mosquito Stoppers in highly West-Baltimore, in a non-engaged community in terms of local decision making and also underserved. They worked in areas that have low socio-economic status and explored is unmanaged container habitats support greater mosquito production? they develop a programme to monitor change over time and using adaptive strategies to remote the trash, and developing capacity for action and choice. The citizen science is an opportunity to provide voice and agency – they worked with a whole range or participants, with 74% said that they are bothered by the mosquito every day and 60% reported changing behaviour to avoid being bitten. After participation in citizen science, the participants believe that personal and community actions will have broader impact. We see in citizen science change in agency. Citizen science have a role in agency, epistemic practice etc.

 Short and long term consequences of urban citizen-science projects to individual connection to nature – (Anne-Caroline Prevot, CNRS and the NHM), concerned with extinctions of experience and environmental generational amnesia (Kahn 2002). using the (Stren 200 J Social Issues) model of pro-environmental behaviour. The theory of planned behaviour accept habit and routine as major factors. Citizen science can be used to improve connection to nature – biodiversity representation, environmental values, in-group social identity, practical knowledge and habits and routine. She use data from the programme vigie-Nature programme – a questionnaire to the volunteers and 1723 responses, 30 in-depth interview using anthropological approach (Cosquer et al 2012 Ecol Society) and finally working with 400 pupils using questionnaire and drawing in school. Experts said that they didn’t learn much, but the volunteers said that they learned before. In the voluntary butterflies monitoring, they volunteered because of confidence in science and the museum, but showed high interest and knowledge of butterflies, change gardening practices. Within the school programme, they ask students to draw urban garden they would dream of in checked for environmental values and outdoor activities. Used drawing to count natural elements , human presence and built elements. In the study they show that participation in citizen science, make nature more present in drawing, as long as they had outdoor extra school activities. In the short term there was no change in environmental values.

Notes from ICCB/ECCB 2015 (Day 2) – Citizen Science data quality

Posters session at ICCB/ECCB2015

The second day of the ICCB/ECCB 2015 started with a session that focused on the use and interpretation of citizen science data. The  Symposium Citizen Science in Conservation Science: the new paths, from data collection to data interpretation was organised by Karine Princé and included the following talks:

Bias, information, signal and noise in citizen science data – Nick Isaac – information content of a dataset is question dependent on what was captured and how, as well as survey effort. Data is coming in different ways from a range of people who collect them for different purposes. Biological records are unstructured – they don’t address a specific question and need to know how they come about – information about the data collection protocols is important to make sense of the data. If you are collecting data through citizen science, remember that data will outlive the porject, so need good metadata, and data standards to ensure that it can be used by others. There are powerful statistical tools and we should use to model the bias and not try to avoid it, and little bit of metadata would go a long way so worth recording it.

Conservation management prioritization with citizen science data and species abundance models – Alison Johnston (BTO/Cornell Lab of Ornithology) distribution of species are dynamic and they change by seasons. This is especially important for migratory birds – conservation at specific times (wintering, breading or migrating). The BirdReturns programme in California is a way to flood rice field to provide water-birds habitat, and is an effective and not hugely costly. However, dynamic conservation need precision in information. Citizen Science data can help in occurrence model and want to identify abundance as this will help to prioritise the activities. They used eBird data. In California there are 230,000 checklists but there are biases in the data. There are variable efforts and expertise, and bias in sites, seasons, time. There are also different relationships with habitat, it is also difficult to identify the extreme abundance. They used the Spatio-Temporal Exploratory Models (STEM) which allow modelling with random grids – averaging across cells that have different origins (Fink et al 2010 Ecological Applications). Using the model, they identified areas of high activities – especially the abundance model. Of the two models, the abundance model seem more suitable in using citizen science data for dynamic conservation. The results were used with reverse auction to maximise the use of the available funds to provide large areas of temporary wetland.

Citizen sciences for monitoring biodiversity in habitat structured spaces – Camille Coron (Paris Sud)  described a model estimate for several species and their abundances – they wanted to use several datasets that are at different types of protocols from citizen science projects. Some with strong protocols and some without. They assume that space is covered wtih different types of habitat, but the habitat itself is not known. They look at bird species in Aquitaine – 34 species. 2 datasets are from precise protocols and the third dataset is oportunistics. They developed a statistical model to allow to estimate the data, using a detection probability, abundance, and the intensity of the observation activity. In opportunistic dataset the effort is not known. The model have important gains when species are rare, secondly when the considered species in hardly detected in the data and when there are many species. By using the combined robust protocol projects, the estimation of species distribution is improved.

Can opportunistic occurrence records improve the large-scale estimation of abundance trends? – Joern Pagel – there is lack of comprehensive data large scale variation in abundance and he describe a model that deal with it. The model is based on the assumption that population density is a main driver of variation in species detectability. Using UK butterfly data they tested the model, combining the very details local transects (140 with weekly monitoring) with opportunistic presence recording (over 500K records) using 10×10 km grid. The transects were used to estimate the abundance (described in a paper in methods in ecology and evolution). They found that opportunistic occurrences records can carry a signal of population density but need to be careful about assumptions and there are high uncertainties that are associated with it.

When do occupancy models produce reliable inferences from opportunistic data?– Arco Van Strien (statistics Netherlands) Statistics Netherlands are involved in butterflies and dragonflies monitoring – from transects and also opportunistic data. opportunistic data – unstandardised data, and can see artificial trends if effort varies over time – so the idea was to changes in recorder efforts derived from occupancy models. They coupled two logistic regression models – modelling the ecological process and the observation process. They wanted to explore the usefulness of opportunistic data & occupancy models, and used a Bayesian model, evaluating the results against standardised data. They looked for inferences – phenology (trying to find the pick date in detection), national trend in distribution, species richness per site, local trends in distribution.  The peak date- found a 0.9 correlation between opportunistic data and standardised data. National trends – there is also strong correlation – 0.8/0.9. Species richness – also correlation of over 0.9, but in local trends, the correlation is dropping to 0.4-0.5 for both butterfly and dragonfly. the conclusion – opportunistic data is great and need to be careful about the inference from it.

Making sense of citizen science data: A review of methods – Olivier Gimenez (CNRS) – interest in large terrestrial and marine mammals, they are difficult to monitor in the field and thinking of citizen science data can be used for that. Looked at all the papers with citizen science, and looked as specifically those that look at the data. Wanted to build taxonomy of methods that are used to handle citizen science data. He identified five methods. First, filtering and correction approach – so know or assume to know bias and trying to correct it – e.g. list length analysis. They are highly sensitive to specific biases. The second category – simulation approach, simulate the bias and check how your favourite method behaves given this bias. Third approach is a regression approach – use relevant variables to account for biases -e.g. ecological variables that used to build and predict models, and then use observer bias variables – e.g. distance from cities. The fourth approach is combination approach – combine citizen science data with data from standard protocol to allow to understand and correct the data. The last approach is the occupancy approach – correction for false-negatives and time/spatial variation in detection, so it can be used also extended to deal with false-positives and and also to deal with multiple species. Conclusion: we should focus more on citizens, to describe the models – we need to understand more about them (e.g. record data and the people that collected it) and social science have a major role to play.


In the session paths for the future: building conservation leadership capacity, Kirithi Karanth (Wildlife Conservation Society) looked at ‘Citizen Scientists as agents for conservation‘. In the 1980s WCS started monitoring tigers and some people who are not trained scientists wanted to join in. What draw in people was interest in tigers, and that was the start of their citizen science journey. 5000 km walked in 229 transects in the forest. It started with ecological survey across entire regions from charismatic species but also to rare species. Current project projects have 40-50 volunteer in amphibian and bird survey outside protected areas. The volunteers identify rare species. As project grown, so the challenges – e.g. around human-wildlife conflicts and that helped in having over 5000 villages and 7000 households surveyed in their area. Through the fieldwork, people understand conservation better. Another project recruited 75 volunteer to document tourism impact and the result were used by decision in the supreme court on how to regulate tourism. The have over 5000 citizen scientists, with active group of 1000 at each moment. The impact over 30 years – over 10,00 surveys in 15 states in India, with over 250 academic publications and 300 popular articles. A lot of the people who volunteers evolved into educators, film-makers, conservationists, and also share information blogs, articles, films, activists, and academics. The recognition also increase in graduate programmes – with professional masters programmes. Some of the volunteers – 10% become fully committed to conservation, but the other 90% are critical to wider engagement in society.


Notes from ICCB/ECCB 2015 – Traditional ecological knowledge, Conservation 3.0 & citizen science

These are my notes from the first day of the International Congress on Conservation Biology (ICCB) & the European Congress on Conservation Biology (ECCB) in Montpellier.

I’ve took notes from some of the talks in 3 sessions about traditional knowledge, ‘Conservation 3.0’ and the citizen science posters.

In the session on Traditional Knowledge and Conservation noteworthy talks include:

The role of tribal colleges in preserving traditional ecological knowledge and biocultural diversity – Teresa Newberry (Tohono O’Odham Tribal College in the US), the tribal colleges and universities (TCUs) in the US represent diverse communities and cultures. The Tribal Colleges has a mission to preserve the culture of the local nation, and engaged with their community, thus TEK is part of the education in them. Language is critical to understanding biodiversity: indigenous groups speak about 85% of world’s languages and take care of 80% of the World’s biodiversity (Nelson 2015) so it is important. There is a link between biodiversity and language diversity. Local languages encode local knowledge and they specifically adapted to their local area. 40% of the languages are in risk of disappearing and therefore this loss is monumental amount of TEK. Looking more closely, language encodes worldviews and traditional knowledge systems – it’s evolution of one group of people in a specific place, and also encode practices and rules. It includes many layers of meaning and relationships between living things. For example, in the Tohono O’Odham language there is a term that make you notice that you don’t collect the flower until a hummingbird collect the nectar – and it is included in the way you talk about local ecology. Teresa developed a local calendar that helps linking phenology to specific language and events. Another tool that she developed is the TOCC Plant Atlas – linking plants with audio that state the traditional name in addition to write it. There are multiple values in traditional knowledge: unique multi-contextual perpectives, time-tested adaptation and mitigation strategies to environmental change and deep, local knowledge of place.

 ‘Manngem Thapnee’: The crocodile worship ritual of an agrarian community of Indian state of Goa, and its conservation context  – Manoj Borkar  (Goa University) – Goa is coastal and crocodiles are protected by the Red List of IUCN. The current trends is for the crocodiles population to increase and they have groups in swamps and some in fresh water areas. There are also tourism activities to see the crocodiles. The contemporary scenario – pressure of overexploitation of sand from riverbed, use of canals for shipping, unregulated backwater tourism, and fishing are making it difficult to protect the population. During the Portuguese control of Goa (450 years ago) there are reports on abundance of crocodiles. Crocodiles are viewed as demonic and also as divine status. Within the indigenous tribal culture there is a crocodile worship ritual in which they create a crocodile from clay and they want to appease the crocodile to avoid inundation of fields by water (the crocodile seen as the link to water sources) – the practice is going in December. The veneration is translated to protecting the crocodiles and can be seen as an example of integrating local practices in conservation.

Augmenting survey data with community knowledge to inform a recovery strategy for an endangered species in Canada: Identifying important areas of habitat for Peary caribou – Cheryl Johnson (Environment Canada). The aim is to develop a recovery strategy for the caribou – to maintain healthy species distribution and keep their area – the are very wide ranging area species – migrating over hundreds of kilometres. The process started with identifying locations, then the amount that need to be protected, and then the very specific type of the habitat. This mean working at different scales. They collected survey information from scientists and integrated it with information from local communities of where they’ve seen the caribou. Once they’ve identified 3 main seasons in the migration, they integrated it into their spatial model. When comparing the information from survey information compared to community information – the community had much more holistic and complete view of where they’ve seen the animals. The modelling process include consulting with both scientific experts and community members with knowledge of the caribou and that helped in identifying the most relevant model. The TEK was crucial in eliminating spatial and temporal biases in survey data by scientists.

The session Conservation 3.0 was open with Alex Dehgan explaining what it is about: technology, behavioural interventions and financial innovations are changing conservations. The field of conservation biology, after 30 years, there is increase in areas that are protected, but there are very high extinction rates, and we still have major challenges. The population growth will require 70% more food and the intensity of agriculture, especially with increase in meat consumption. Wildlife trade increase and we don’t have enough financial resources. Conservation biology is sometime technophobic, but how can we used opportunities to deal with issues? Maybe we should learn from other areas – e.g. the change from ‘tropical medicine’ to ‘global health’ – by increasing the tent to more people involved from more areas of research. We can have conservation technology & engineering. 3D printing to cellphones, we can consider the connected conservation and the used of multiple sensors, or use synthetic biology. There is also need to consider how to use ideas from behaviour change, marketing & conservation – altruism doesn’t work, only as last resort. Financial innovations – maybe environmental impact bonds, conservation finance and other tools. Think of design under constraint just like with iPhone. We can also consider crowdfunding – $16.2 billion – compared to NSF total budget of $5.8 billion. There are other ways to harness the crowd- from ideas, to creativity, to funding.

Paul Bunje – XPRIZE Foundation, considering the incentivizing innovation for conservation. Problems are increasing exponentially and solution are only increasing in a linear way and try try to find solution at huge scale. Open innovation takes lots of ideas internally and externally, and trying to find tools from all sort of areas. There are also new opportunities for identifying new sources of funding. The benefits of prizes/challenges – solve important problems, set aspirational goals – a moonshot, novel partnerships, inspire with new ideas. There are all sort of methods in open innovation, from incentive prizes or just innovation networks. Prizes continue to increase – flexibility, openness, but also the new ways in which stories are being done.

Asher Jay – creative conservationist. She explore the linkage between science and stories. Humanize science – not introducing a bias, but need the link those in the know and other poeple. Content need to be contagious, and enable the individual – making the individual impact about conservation. Looking at facts and figures, and then thinking how the story evolve – what is the point, how to create protagonist/focus, which elements will be included, emotional triggers – need to think about consuming the science and then acting on it. That can be done through using existing signs, symbols, icons. There is also the issue of foreground and background to help structure the understanding. A lot of the campaign that she created are about ‘stating the obvious’ that people as they are not always aware of it. The design for the digital age is that they need to be shared – open source images mean that they are used in many ways (including tattoos).

Ted Schmidt – covered Paul Allen philanthropy through ‘Vulcan’ and trying to bridge technology and conservation science. Some of the focus areas includeillegal fishing, wildlife monitroing and management, but also wildlife surveys and database. They carried out a great elephent survey – flying over 20 countries to count elephents. The data is working with IUCN to ensure that the data live on. Shah Slebe suggested the idea of the ‘internet of Earth Things’ – ability to understand how things changes in real time. Technology is a tool that can help but there are no silver bullets. We need to have be aware not about the drone but what the data is used for. The SMART – spatial Monitroing and Reporting Tool created a tool to understand conservation areas. SMART is a good model to solve problems. Technology need to be designed for the context – need to show that it can be deployed over time and in a reliable area.

Lucas Joppa  – the impact that people have on the planet is the anthropocene and the information age – we have a combination of having 50 billion objects linked. Levereging information technology for conservation biology is seem obvious to those who are interested in technology areas. Empowering the crowd to collect information and identify (iNaturalist), or instant wild to work with camera traps, and GPS tags on the environment – animals also involved in sensing the environment for people. Mongabay – got a section on Wildtech area. Engaging with industry – there are different partnerships with technology industry and conservations – questions for help are backward – people don’t ask for the resources of working with the talented engineers that are part of the organisation. If asking in the right way, we can get donation of time and money from the engineers.

In the Poster session, there was a set of posters about citizen science, and some of the one that I’ve explored are

DSC_0069Understanding the environmental drivers of recording bias in citizen science data across Sweden Alejandro Ruete looking at biases in the data that was collected, and developing an ignorance index that let you evaluate how much you would know about a location.
DSC_0067Earning your stripes: Does expertise aid the ability to match bumblebee images in identification guides Gail Austen-Price compared the identification abilities of experts and non-experts, showing that the ability to match is good regardless of expertise, but that experts are more careful and are willing to say that it’s not clear how to differentiate.
 Utilizing citizen science and new technology to improve the Palau national bird monitoring program Heather Ketebengang showed how in Palau they’ve used information from experienced and trusted birdwatchers (through systems such as eBird) with experts’ survey to create a more comprehensive picture of their bird population.
Maximizing mangrove forest conservation through multi-scale stakeholder engagement in citizen science Jenny Cousins showed a long running project that have yield many benefits to all sides involved – including better local skills, academic publications and more.
The microverse citizen science project: Collaborative microbiology research with UK secondary schools Lucy Robinson describe the work of UK NHM work which I’ve covered in the ECSITE post.
DSC_0065DSC_0064Online participatory mapping of ecosystem services and land use preferences in the Polish tatras – experiences and challenges Barbara Peek describe an online PPGIS that ask people to identify values, positive and negative activities in an area of Poland. The project had it’s own participation inequality (2% of participants putting 25% of the information) and fairly few qualitative comments, but they were useful.

DSC_0071Population census of house martins in Switzerland: A web based citizen science project Stephanie Michler is an interesting project with species that people are already interested in and provided many artificial nest, so the level of engagement and activity in the project seem to be good. Within 3 years, the project presented good growth.
Dealing with observer bias when mapping species distributions using citizen science data: An example on brown bears in Greece Anne-Sophie Bonnet-Lebrun show that a model that takes only roads as a proxy for where people will collect information is not good enough, so there is a need to understand where are the tourist area.
Using citizen science to map geospatial and temporal trends in human-elephant conflict Cheli Cresswell show the progress in her app development to engage people in reporting on human-wildlife conflict.