Climate change threatens more than one-fifth of the world’s birds, according to a new report published in collaboration today by BirdLife International and Audubon. Titled The Messengers, the report draws on 92 studies and reviews—including Audubon’s own Birds and Climate Change Report—to show how birds from all seven continents will be affected by global warming.

It’s tough to say exactly how many birds will suffer from climate-induced disturbances in habitat, food availability, weather, predation, and disease. Out of 570 species considered in one recent international review (cited in the report, but not yet peer-reviewed), 24 percent are responding negatively to global warming. And while 13 percent of species seem to responding positively and 14 percent of species appear unaffected, it’s still unclear how 49 percent of species will respond to the impending global changes, the review found. “What’s striking is the global nature of this problem,” Stuart Butchart, head of science at BirdLife International, says. “There’s a consistent message that climate change is causing trouble for species in [many] places.”

Birds, it seems, are the mediums of this message; they’re highly reactive to changes in their environment, and are well studied as a result. With the Conference of the Parties (COP 21) convening in Paris next week, this “increasing body of evidence” of how global warming influences species survival becomes all the more relevant, Butchart says. “We want to draw attention to the importance of people mitigating climate change and reducing these risks.”

Source: What Birds Tell Us About Climate Change’s Threats

Citizen scientists’ important contributions to biodiversity conservation are constrained by their focus on data collection and public outreach in wealthy, accessible places. Sustainable conservation actions require initiatives such as those supported by the Participatory Monitoring and Management Partnership (, in which data collected by land owners and resource users help to guide local decision-makers on conservation management.

Citizen scientists do not formulate research questions, analyse data or implement management solutions on the basis of research findings. By contrast, participatory monitoring by local and indigenous communities in tropical, Arctic and developing regions enables them to propose solutions for environmental problems, advance sustainable economic opportunities, exert management rights and contribute to global environmental data sets.

Such monitoring could benefit from the large-scale databases and knowledge integration pioneered by citizen science. Conversely, citizen science could benefit from the community-based monitoring practices used to build data-collection methods, analytical tools, communication networks and skilled workforces in culturally appropriate, place-based governance structures.

Source: Conservation management: Citizen science is not enough on its own

I thought this post significant as I personally found the idea of discovering multiple new species – even if they are flies – in a heavily urbanized area such as Los Angeles to be astonishing. – LFF


The latest buzz in the world of newly discovered insects was not in a distant jungle far away but in the bustling city of Los Angeles.  On this week’s TechKnow, Phil Torres speaks with a team of experts working at the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum’s BioScan project The project uses 30 volunteers with large malaise traps to find new species of insects. This year’s BioScan project focused on flies. And at each of the sites, a new fly was discovered. It only took the first three months of the project to obtain these results

Lisa Gonzalez, Assistant Collections Manager of the BioScan project, is in charge of obtaining samples each week from the volunteers’ homes. Her field of study is the traffic and wilds of Los Angeles rather than distant jungles.

Featured image: Phil Torres with Walter Renwick and his daughter Eleanor. They are one of thirty LA families taking part in the BioScan program.

Source: Citizen lords of the flies

Citizen science has become a firm feature of established research. The University of Zurich has joined forces with ETH Zurich and the University of Geneva in a call for universally binding guidelines and principles for citizen science.

There are laypeople counting birds, characterizing galaxies, identifying invasive plants, and taking measurements of their own bodies. The help they provide to professional scientists is increasingly making them an irreplaceable part of established research at universities, and in the wake of the digital revolution this form of citizen science and participation looks to become even more important in the years to come.

This was the consensus of the hundred or so people who attended the international conference on Standards and Recommendations for Citizen Science at UZH this week.

Source: Research tapping the power of citizen science

The community protocol meeting for the Ashaninka Land Monitoring Project happened on September 5, in Apiwtxa village, with the participation of the community, of the anthropologist Carolina Comandulli representing the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group, and of the partner organization Comissão Pró-Índio do Acre (CPI-AC).

In the morning, the anthropologist presented to everyone what had been done since January 2015, including the free, prior, and informed consent with the community, the iterative construction of the monitoring application and the training given to the monitors in using the application and in transferring data to the computer and visualizing it. Soon after there was a group dynamic in which the community responded to two questions: “How can the project be improved?” and “What are the risks of collecting this information and how can we avoid or mitigate them?”. The monitors requested that we continue the training both in the use of the application and in the data transfer. As to the risks, some suggestions were to protect the identity of the monitors, to not confront the invaders, and to organise an educational activity for the schools in the surrounding areas to raise awareness about the prohibition of hunting, fishing and logging in indigenous lands.

Source: Building Community Protocols with the Ashaninka from Apiwtxa

Mapping for Change, the social enterprise that I co-founded, has been assisting community groups to run air quality studies for the past 5 years. During this period we have worked in 30 communities across London, carrying out studies with different tools – from collecting leaves, to examining lichens, to using diffusion tubes. We have also followed the development of low-costs sensors – for example, through participation in the AirProbe challenge EveryAware project or hosting a discussion about the early stages of the Air Quality Egg.

We found out that of the simple tools that are available to anyone, and that require little training, NO2 diffusion tubes are very effective. We’ve seen them used as a good sign of the level of pollution, especially from traffic. They sense pollution from diesel vehicles.

We also found that reliable equipment that can measure particulate matter known as PM2.5 (very small dust considered harmful) and other pollutants is expensive – as high as £5000 and more. Unfortunately, low-cost equipment cannot give accurate information that can be used in making a case for action.

Now, after developing the methodology for working with different groups and supporting local efforts, we are launching a crowdfunding campaign to support a large scale data collection campaign using diffusion tubes, with an aim to go beyond and create an equipment library that can be used by communities – free of charge apart from disposable parts (filters) and delivery – that can be shared across London and beyond.

Source: New Citizen Science for air quality campaign

In the previous post, I described the creation of the Zooniverse Project Success Matrix from Cox et al. (2015). In essence, we examined 17 (well, 18, but more on that below) Zooniverse projects, and for each of them combined 12 quantitative measures of performance into one plot of Public Engagement versus Contribution to Science:

Public engagement vs Contribution to science : the success matrix
Public Engagement vs Contribution to Science for 17 Zooniverse projects. The size (area) of each point is proportional to the total number of classifications received by the project. Each axis of this plot combines 6 different quantitative project measures.

The aim of this post is to answer the questions: What does it mean? And what doesn’t it mean?

Discussion of Results

The obvious implication of this plot and of the paper in general is that projects that do well in both public engagement and contribution to science should be considered “successful” citizen science projects. There’s still room to argue over which is more important, but I personally assert that you need both in order to justify having asked the public to help with your research. As a project team member (I’m on the Galaxy Zoo science team), I feel very strongly that I have a responsibility both to use the contributions of my project’s volunteers to advance scientific research and to participate in open, two-way communication with those volunteers. And as a volunteer (I’ve classified on all the projects in this study), those are the 2 key things that I personally appreciate.

It’s apparent just from looking at the success matrix that one can have some success at contributing to science even without doing much public engagement, but it’s also clear that every project that successfully engages the public also does very well at research outputs. So if you ignore your volunteers while you write up your classification-based results, you may still produce science, though that’s not guaranteed. On the other hand, engaging with your volunteers will probably result in more classifications and better/more science.

Source: Measuring Success in Citizen Science Projects, Part 2: Results | Zooniverse.

“I appreciate your evidence-based approach.” I said recently, in a heated discussion about washing nappies, “But while the NHS recommends using non-bio detergents on baby clothes, you aren’t likely to convince the whole country to change its view.” “Yeah,” said a colleague, “getting the NHS to change their views on anything is like trying to get a baby to sleep on demand.”

“Change has to start somewhere,” replied our conversation partner.

I run a citizen science project for parents who use reusable nappies. Our aim is to question received wisdom on the topic and look for actual evidence. Believe it or not, there are a lot of persistent myths about the best way to wash cloth nappies. And a lot of contradictory advice.

One thing that almost everyone agrees on though is that you should wash your nappies in non-biological detergent. “Why is that?” some of our volunteers kept asking. We asked experts, and they told us that biological detergents wash better. And nappies are the dirtiest thing you will probably ever wash. We kept asking, and it all kept coming back to the fact that the NHS recommends using non-bio on baby items, and nappy libraries and manufacturers want to align with that advice.

“Why, though?” some of our volunteers carried on asking.

Source: The nappy science gang who took on the NHS


Understanding the influence of landscape change on animal populations is critical to inform biodiversity conservation efforts. A particularly important goal is to understand how urban density affects the persistence of animal populations through time, and how these impacts can be mediated by habitat provision; but data on this question are limited for some taxa. Here, we use data from a citizen science monitoring program to investigate the effect of urbanization on patterns of frog species richness and occurrence over 13 years. Sites surrounded by a high proportion of bare ground (a proxy for urbanization) had consistently lower frog occurrence, but we found no evidence that declines were restricted to urban areas. Instead, several frog species showed declines in rural wetlands with low-quality habitat. Our analysis shows that urban wetlands had low but stable species richness; but also that population trajectories are strongly influenced by vegetation provision in both the riparian zone and the wider landscape. Future increases in the extent of urban environments in our study area are likely to negatively impact populations of several frog species. However, existing urban areas are unlikely to lose further frog species in the medium term. We recommend that landscape planning and management focus on the conservation and restoration of rural wetlands to arrest current declines, and the revegetation of urban wetlands to facilitate the re-expansion of urban-sensitive species.

Source: Citizen Science Program Shows Urban Areas Have Lower Occurrence of Frog Species, but Not Accelerated Declines

A starling murmuration is an amazing sight.

At their largest you can get millions of birds wheeling about the sky just as the sun starts setting.

But it’s a phenomenon we know surprisingly little about.

Last year I reported on work by the University of Gloucestershire and The Royal Society of Biology to change all that with a citizen science murmuration survey. Twelve months on it’s time to report back and to launch phase two of this exciting research we can all help with.

Starling murmurations can occur anywhere and that’s the problem scientists face if they want to study them. They end up going to sites where they know murmurations will occur, like Brighton pier.

The upshot is we have a few well studied sites, but we can’t be sure if the starlings there are typical.

Source: Mysteries of murmuration revealed thanks to you