Excerpt: On Aug. 21, as the moon passes in front of the sun and casts a shadow across the United States, millions are expected to gaze at the totality. Meanwhile, a smaller crowd will be glued to 150 custom-made radio receivers set up across the country.

The project, called EclipseMob, is the largest experiment of its kind in history. By recording changes in the radio signal, these citizen scientists will collect data on the ionosphere — the region of the atmosphere where, miles above Earth’s surface, cosmic and solar radiation bumps electrons free from atoms and molecules. It plays a crucial role in some forms of long-distance communication: Like rocks skipped across a pond, radio waves can bounce along the top of the ionosphere to travel farther around the globe. But signals passing through the ionosphere sometimes behave in unpredictable ways, and scientists still have a lot of questions about its properties and behavior.

Source: Guarino, B., 2017. A massive atmospheric experiment is planned for August solar eclipse. The Washington Post, 12 July 2017.

Excerpt: In her introduction to the round table, Dr. Katrin Vohland, Director of the Research Programme “Public Engagement with Science” and Executive Chair of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), reflected on the importance and challenges for CS in the current situation in Europe. Two opposing trends that can be observed: On one hand, science appears to be firmly established in European societies. More people than ever attend universities, newspapers have their own science sections, science festivals grow everywhere, and there is a boom in Citizen Science, do-it-yourself science, FabLabs and other forms of participatory knowledge creation and innovation. Scientific evidence plays an increasing role in political decisions, at least science-policy platforms that promote such aims multiply, e.g. the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES).

On the other hand, increasing scepticism towards science can be observed. While critical discussions, e.g. on the representation of different knowledge systems or access to the benefits of science and technology, and scrutiny regarding scientific integrity are much needed for healthy research systems. Caution is warranted when overly emotional rhetoric and populism gain ground, like when narratives of a post-truth or post-factual age take hold. Another observation is a coming

Source: Göbel, C., Agnello, G., Baïz, I., Berditchevskaia, A., Evers, L., García, D., Pritchard, H., Luna, S., Ramanauskaite, E. M., Serrano, F., Boheemen, P. v., Völker, T., Wyszomirski, P., Vohland, K., 2017. European Stakeholder Round Table on Citizen and DIY Science and Responsible Research and Innovation. Doing-it-Together Science Report. URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1563626

Excerpt: Students from St Thomas Primary School discovered the small jumping Lycidas Karschi spider during a Bug Blitz field day in September. Experts have now verified the spider’s identification. “They’re a tiny little jumping spider, about 5 millimetres long,” Bug Blitz program director John Caldow said.

“Children are catching things with nets and bringing them up to me all day and I’m madly photographing things, but it wasn’t until later on that we realised we had discovered something interesting.” Year 5 student Hannah Abdalla said it had been an exciting, hands-on way to learn about science. “We were searching in trees and on the ground and the only thing I found at first was a yellow ladybug, and I was thinking ‘Geez, I hope I find something else’,” she said.

Source: Lazzaro, K., 2017. Scientists verify spider discovered by young citizen scientists not seen before in Victoria. Australian Broadcasting Corporation News, 28 Jun 2017. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-29/rare-spider-discovered-by-young-citizen-scientists-verified/866250 [Last accessed 1 August 2017].

Excerpt: Old guys who hunt have been stepping up to help the Snapshot Wisconsin project, a booming citizen-based science initiative that’s using trail cameras to document what’s going on in our woodlands and other wild places when we’re not looking. Since its launch in spring 2016, Snapshot Wisconsin has worked with 604 citizen volunteers to set up 726 trail cameras in 18 counties around the state. According to the Department of Natural Resources, Snapshot Wisconsin has compiled nearly 12.18 million photos of birds, mammals, people and anything else triggering its cameras’ motion sensors.

Source: Durkin, P., 2017. Snapshot Wisconsin is citizen science success story. Green Bay Press Gazette, 13 July 2017.

Excerpt: Citizens who research and gather data: digital media are opening up whole new ways for science to arrive at new insights. Citizen science is in gold rush fever, with researchers around the world – at University of Zurich (UZH) as well − sounding out the potential of crowd-sourced research and hatching promising new project ideas. This year’s LERU (League of European Research Universities) Doctoral Summer School, organized by the Graduate Campus at UZH under the banner “Citizen Science – Nexus between Research and Public Engagement,” revolved around participatory research. Forty-four junior researchers from all over Europe met to exchange and develop professionally. At the end of last week at UZH, seven Summer School working groups presented their ideas for citizen science projects, and discussed them with their peers and a range of experts.

Under great pressure – they had only around 24 hours –they came up with project outlines covering an astonishingly broad array of research topics. The ideas included enlisting the help of laypeople to ferret out and document old lost movies, analyze and measure medical images to improve the diagnosis of disease, and track down harmful asbestos in cities.

Source: Nickl, Roger, 2017. Friendly Wake-up Calls and Fine Tomatoes, 14 July 2017. Available at UHZ News: http://www.news.uzh.ch/en/articles/2017/doctoral-summer-school-0.html [Last accessed 1 August 2017]

UZH – UZH News – Friendly Wake-up Calls and Fine Tomatoes

Abstract: The number of emerging tree diseases has increased rapidly in recent times, with severe environmental and economic consequences. Systematic regulatory surveys to detect and establish the distribution of pests are crucial for successful management efforts, but resource-intensive and costly. Volunteers who identify potential invasive species can form an important early warning network in tree health; however, what these data can tell us and how they can be best used to inform and direct official survey effort is not clear. Here, we use an extensive dataset on acute oak decline (AOD) as an opportunity to ask how verified data received from the public can be used. Information on the distribution of AOD was available as (i) systematic regulatory surveys conducted throughout England and Wales, and (ii) ad hoc sightings reported by landowners, land managers and members of the public (i.e. ‘self-reported’ cases). By using the available self-reported cases at the design stage, the systematic survey could focus on defining the boundaries of the affected area. This maximized the use of available resources and highlights the benefits to be gained by developing strategies to enhance volunteer efforts in future programmes.

Source: Brown, N., van den Bosch, F., Parnell, S., Denman, S., 2017. Integrating regulatory surveys and citizen science to map outbreaks of forest diseases: acute oak decline in England and Wales. Proceedings of the Royal Society of Biological Sciences, Vol 284(1859). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2017.0547

Abstract: Neighborhood level air pollution represents a long-standing issue for many communities that, until recently, has been difficult to address due to the cost of equipment and lack of related expertise. Changes in available technology and subsequent increases in community-based participatory research (CBPR) have drastically improved the ability to address this issue. However, much still needs to be learned as these types of studies are expected to increase in the future. To assist, we review the literature in an effort to improve understanding of the motivations, approaches, and outcomes of air monitoring studies that incorporate CBPR and citizen science (CS) principles. We found that the primary motivations for conducting community-based air monitoring were concerns for air pollution health risks, residing near potential pollution sources, urban sprawl, living in “unmonitored” areas, and a general quest for improved air quality knowledge. Studies were mainly conducted using community led partnerships. Fixed site monitoring was primarily used, while mobile, personal, school-based, and occupational sampling approaches were less frequent. Low-cost sensors can enable thorough neighborhood level characterization; however, keeping the community involved at every step, understanding the limitations and benefits of this type of monitoring, recognizing potential areas of debate, and addressing study challenges are vital for achieving harmony between expected and observed study outcomes. Future directions include assessing currently unregulated pollutants, establishing long-term neighborhood monitoring sites, performing saturation studies, evaluating interventions, and creating CS databases.

Source: Commodore, A., Wilson, S., Muhammad, O. et al., 2017. Community-based participatory research for the study of air pollution: a review of motivations, approaches, and outcomes. Environ Monit Assess 189: 378. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-017-6063-7

Abstract: Fisheries management is potentially a short-term measure for reducing floodplain fisheries degradation. This objective can only be achieved if adequate measures to improve fishery governance and ecosystem conservation are taken. The monitoring of fisheries management is likely to be important for understanding the effectiveness of local rules and the impacts on aquatic biodiversity. Given that monitoring is the periodic assessment of fish stock characteristics regarding reference data, adopting tools and procedures for monitoring at different scales is a challenging task. Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have enabled local communities to gather data on key resources in a cost-effective way. This article presents a community-based monitoring of fisheries based of smartphones that supports the annual fishing quotas and legal harvest permits procedures. The precision of community-based monitoring data is assessed and a model to integrate these data into a large-scale monitoring scheme examined. Data collection performance was evaluated at communities in the Kaxinawá Nova Olinda Indigenous Territory, in the State of Acre, where fishery management was monitored. The results indicate that voluntary collectors are able to provide data with precision comparable with government agency measurements, but at lower cost.

Source: Oviedo, A.F.P., Bursztyn, M., 2017. Community-based monitoring of small-scale fisheries with digital devices in Brazilian Amazon. Fisheries Management and Ecology, Vol 24(4): 320–329. DOI: 10.1111/fme.12231

Abstract: Public participation in scientific research, now commonly referred to as citizen science, is increasingly promoted as a possibility to overcome the large-scale data limitations related to biodiversity and conservation research. Furthermore, public data-collection projects can stimulate public engagement and provide transformative learning situations. However, biodiversity monitoring depends on sound data collection and warranted data quality. Therefore, we investigated if and how trained and supervised pupils are able to systematically collect data about the occurrence of diurnal butterflies, and how this data could contribute to a permanent butterfly monitoring system. We developed a specific assessment scheme suitable for laypeople and applied it at 35 sampling sites in Tyrol, Austria. Data quality and its explanatory power to predict butterfly habitat quality was investigated comparing data collected by pupils with independent assessments of professional butterfly experts. Despite substantial identification uncertainties for some species or species groups, the data collected by pupils was successfully used to predict the general habitat quality for butterflies using a linear regression model (r² = 0.73, p <0.001). Applying the proposed method in a citizen science context with laypeople could support both the long term monitoring of butterfly habitat quality, as well as the efficient selection of sites for professional in-depth assessments. Source: Rüdisser, J., Tasser, E., Walde, J., Huemer, P., Lechner, K., Ortner, A., Tappeiner, U., 2017. Simplified and still meaningful: assessing butterfly habitat quality in grasslands with data collected by pupils. Journal of Insect Conservation (2017): 1–12. DOI: DOI 10.1007/s10841-017-0010-3

Abstract: Citizen science, where citizens play an active role in the scientific process, is increasingly used to expand the reach and scope of scientific research while also achieving engagement and educational goals. Despite the emergence of studies exploring data outcomes of citizen science, the process and experience of engaging with citizens and citizen-lead groups through participatory science is less explored. This includes how citizen perspectives alter data outcomes, a critical upshot given prevalent mistrust of citizen versus scientist data. This study uses a citizen science campaign investigating watershed impacts on water quality to interrogate the nature and implications of citizen involvement in producing scientifically and societally relevant data. Data representing scientific outcomes are presented alongside a series of vignettes that offer context regarding how, why, and where citizens engaged with the project. From these vignettes, six specific lessons are examined towards understanding how integration of citizen participation alters data outcomes relative to ‘professional’ science. In particular, elements of participant social identity (e.g., their motivation for participation), and contextual knowledge (e.g., of the research program itself) can shape participation and resulting data outcomes. Such scientific outcomes are particularly relevant given continued concerns regarding the quality of citizen data, which could hinder scientific acceptance of citizen sciences. Importantly, the potential for meaningful engagement with citizen and participants within citizen groups – given significant capacity within the community – represents a substantial and under-realized opportunity.

Source: Jollymore, A., Haines, M.J., Satterfield, T., Johnson, M.S., 2017. Citizen science for water quality monitoring: Data implications of citizen perspectives. Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 200: 456–467. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.05.083