Excerpt: For the third consecutive year, Defenders of Wildlife has teamed up with wildlife biologists from the Bitterroot National Forest to monitor multiple species of mesocarnivores (medium sized meat eaters like lynx, fishers, martens, and wolverines) in the Bitterroot Mountains of western Montana. Known as the Wolverine Watchers program, our small army of volunteers has run 23 monitoring stations during the winter field season. These 130 citizen scientists, including many diehards on their third year of participation, have been gathering data from motion cameras and genetic samples from hair snares on these elusive forest dwellers.

This project harnesses the collective interest of agencies, conservation organizations and local volunteers to learn more about these rare species and their habitat to inform management decisions and contribute toward recovery. Recent significant decreases in Forest Service funding makes wildlife monitoring even more challenging. Our goal is to provide valuable data to Bitterroot National Forest officials and to other researchers, managers and conservationists. This as a prime example of citizen science contributing valuable and cost-effective data and has proven the use of citizen science in mesocarnivore monitoring is possible and appropriate.

Source: Wolverines Aren’t Just Fictional Characters – Defenders of Wildlife Blog

Abstract: As a model of communication and engagement, citizen science has the potential to promote individual and collective climate change action. This article systematically reviewed literature that jointly addressed climate change and nature-based citizen science and identified 23 reported learning outcomes. Overall, evidence related to learning outcomes was limited across reviewed studies, but documentation of outcomes that are directly relevant to collective climate action was particularly scarce. Findings suggest more research examining citizen science from a collective climate action perspective is needed. To support future research efforts, results link the 23 revealed learning outcomes to two potential evaluation frameworks.

Source: A Role for Nature-Based Citizen Science in Promoting Individual and Collective Climate Change Action? A Systematic Review of Learning Outcomes

Abstract: Citizen science is often assumed to increase public science engagement; however, little is known about who is likely to volunteer and the implications for greater societal impact. This study segments 1,145 potential volunteers into six groups according to their current engagement in science (EiS). Results show groups with high levels of EiS are significantly more interested in volunteering and more likely to participate in various research roles than those with lower EiS scores. While citizen science benefits some in science and society, its use as a strategy to bring about positive shifts in public science engagement needs to be reconsidered.

Source: Citizen Science as a Means for Increasing Public Engagement in Science

Abstract: Species distribution models relate the geographic occurrence pattern of a species to environmental features and are used for a variety of scientific and management purposes. One source of data for building species distribution models is citizen science, in which volunteers report locations where they observed (or did not observe) sets of species. Since volunteers have variable levels of expertise, citizen science data may contain both false positives and false negatives in the location labels (present vs. absent) they provide, but many common modeling approaches for this task do not address these sources of noise explicitly. In this paper, we propose to formulate the species distribution modeling task as a classification problem with class-conditional noise. Our approach builds on other applications of class-conditional noise modeling to crowdsourced data, but we focus on leveraging features of the noise processes that are distinct from the class features. We describe the conditions under which the parameters of our proposed model are identifiable and apply it to simulated data and data from the eBird citizen science project.

Source: Species Distribution Modeling of Citizen Science Data as a Classification Problem with Class-conditional Noise

Editor’s Choice: Biological observations require patience. Biological conservation calls for urgency. When citizen science works in concert with national policy, it allows us to coordinate slow and rapid paced efforts. This is necessary to gain traction on challenging issues. For specific actions you can take to help the rusty patched bumble bee, read the species fact sheet. — AWA —

Excerpt: This week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed the rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis) as endangered. The bee had already attracted attention as the focus of an award-winning short film, and the announcement of its listing caught the attention of even more people. For one thing, the rusty patched bumble bee is the first bee ever added to the endangered species list since it was initiated in 1973. With the decline of pollinators receiving widespread attention from the public, it’s no surprise that many were interested to hear about the federal protection of this little bee. Of even more interest to many of our readers is the connection between the rusty patched bumble bee and citizen science.

When the USFWS determines whether a species will be listed as endangered, they do so by creating a comprehensive species status assessment, a lengthy scientific document that analyzes all the available data on the species in question, conservation threats, and overall likelihood that the species will go extinct. The species status assessment for the rusty patched bumble bee was able to use high quality citizen science data from projects like Bumble Bee Watch, and these monitoring efforts were some of the few factors the assessment found to be acting in favor of the bee. That means that you can help the rusty patched bumble bee recover by collecting citizen science data!

Photo Credit: Rusty patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis). Photo courtesy U.S. Geological Survey via Flickr.

Source: Endangered Bumble Bee Gets Help From Citizen Scientists

Abstract: Currently, observations of an agricultural land system (ALS) largely depend on remotely-sensed images, focusing on its biophysical features. While social surveys capture the socioeconomic features, the information was inadequately integrated with the biophysical features of an ALS and the applications are limited due to the issues of cost and efficiency to carry out such detailed and comparable social surveys at a large spatial coverage. In this paper, we introduce a smartphone-based app, called eFarm: a crowdsourcing and human sensing tool to collect the geotagged ALS information at the land parcel level, based on the high resolution remotely-sensed images. We illustrate its main functionalities, including map visualization, data management, and data sensing. Results of the trial test suggest the system works well. We believe the tool is able to acquire the human–land integrated information which is broadly-covered and timely-updated, thus presenting great potential for improving sensing, mapping, and modeling of ALS studies.

Source: eFarm: A Tool for Better Observing Agricultural Land Systems

Abstract: From 2013 to 2015, citizen scientist volunteers in Toronto, Canada were trained to collect and analyze water quality in urban stormwater ponds. This volunteer sampling was part of the research program, FreshWater Watch (FWW), which aimed to standardize urban water sampling efforts from around the globe. We held training sessions for new volunteers twice yearly and trained a total of 111 volunteers. Over the course of project, ~ 30% of volunteers participated by collecting water quality data after the training session with 124 individual sampling events at 29 unique locations in Toronto, Canada. A few highly engaged volunteers were most active, with 50% of the samples collected by 5% of trainees. Stormwater ponds generally have poor water quality demonstrated by elevated phosphate concentrations (~ 30 μg/L), nitrate (~ 427 μg/L), and turbidity relative to Canadian water quality standards. Compared to other urban waterbodies in the global program, nutrient concentrations in Toronto’s urban stormwater ponds were lower, while turbidity was not markedly different. Toronto FWW (FWW-TO) data was comparable to that measured by standard lab analyses and matched results from previous studies of stormwater ponds in Toronto. Combining observational and chemical data acquired by citizen scientists, macrophyte dominated ponds had lower phosphate concentrations while phytoplankton dominated ponds had lower nitrate concentrations, which indicates a potentially important and unstudied role of internal biogeochemical processes on pond nutrient dynamics. This experience in the FWW demonstrates the capabilities and constraints of citizen science when applied to water quality sampling. While analytical limits on in-field analyses produce higher uncertainty in water quality measurements of individual sites, rapid data collection is possible but depends on the motivation and engagement of the group of volunteers. Ongoing efforts in citizen science will thus need to address sampling effort and analytical limits to fully realize the potential value of engaging citizen scientists in water quality sampling.

Source: Monitoring water quality in Toronto’s urban stormwater ponds: Assessing participation rates and data quality of water sampling by citizen scientists in the FreshWater Watch

The intent of this project is just wonderful and one of the most intriguing uses of citizen science I have seen. The authors combine the need to collect water quality data with the need to motivate patients who require rehabilitation with a lot of repetitive motion. While the study is somewhat contrived, the results show real promise – make your rehabilitation efforts count even more by contributing to environmental monitoring! — LFF —

Abstract: Citizen science enables volunteers to contribute to scientific projects, where massive data collection and analysis are often required. Volunteers participate in citizen science activities online from their homes or in the field and are motivated by both intrinsic and extrinsic factors. Here, we investigated the possibility of integrating citizen science tasks within physical exercises envisaged as part of a potential rehabilitation therapy session. The citizen science activity entailed environmental mapping of a polluted body of water using a miniature instrumented boat, which was remotely controlled by the participants through their physical gesture tracked by a low-cost markerless motion capture system. Our findings demonstrate that the natural user interface offers an engaging and effective means for performing environmental monitoring tasks. At the same time, the citizen science activity increases the commitment of the participants, leading to a better motion performance, quantified through an array of objective indices. The study constitutes a first and necessary step toward rehabilitative treatments of the upper limb through citizen science and low-cost markerless optical systems.

Image Credit: Palermo et al., 2017. Schematic of experimental setup appears as Fig. 1 in article.

Source: A natural user interface to integrate citizen science and physical exercise

Excerpt: A dozen MIT students and community members clamber into a van on a bright morning in late January. There’s palpable excitement as the van drives down Main Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and crosses onto Portland Street. The chilly weather and light snow does nothing to dampen the group’s spirits. They’re on a hunt — for gas leaks, quiet but potent accelerators of climate change.

A passerby can easily smell a major gas leak; gas producers add a chemical called mercaptan, which smells like rotting eggs, as a safety measure. But our noses are crude instruments, says Audrey Schulman, the president of the Massachusetts nonprofit Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEET). That’s why the day’s activity — dubbed a gas leak safari — which trains citizens to be scientists who can wield data collection tools, is so valuable.

Source: Climate science takes to the streets

Abstract: Global changes to fish distributions are expected to continue in coming decades with predicted increases in ocean temperatures and the frequency of extreme climatic events. In the eastern Indian Ocean during the 2010/11 summer, sea surface temperatures 4–5 °C above average and an unseasonal, anomalously strong, Leeuwin Current (LC) triggered a “marine heatwave” along the west coast of Australia, with elevated water temperatures persisting for a further two years. Peak LC flows in summer/autumn transported pelagic early life history stages of summer-spawning coastal tropical fishes southwards. This study examined whether the heatwave enabled the arrival, persistence and reproduction of such species in waters ≥ ∼32°S using a range of available data sets. Juveniles of the tropical Chaetodon assarius, Trachinotus botla, T. baillonii, Polydactylus plebeius, Psammoperca waigiensis and Siganus sp. recruited into nearshore waters at ≥ ~32°S in 2011. Polydactylus plebeius survived until the summer of 2012/13. Trachinotus spp., P. waigiensis and Siganus sp. survived over consecutive winters, with Siganus sp. establishing a self-recruiting, breeding population two years later. A return to more typical summer water temperatures by 2013/14 was associated with an apparent recruitment failure of Siganus sp. This is a rare example of a tropical vagrant surviving to breed in temperate regions. Confirmation of range extension beyond existing limits of this and other tropical species will be primarily dependent on either continuous or intermittent recruitment from this recently established southern breeding population. Commercial fisheries catch and effort data were of limited use in this study because they were not designed to record small catches of unusual and/or non-target species. In contrast, fisheries-independent recruitment surveys recorded tropical juveniles and validated amateur observations provided important information on unusual species. The study confirmed the emerging contribution of ‘citizen scientists’ working with researchers to document climate related impacts in the marine environment.

Source: Potential influence of a marine heatwave on range extensions of tropical fishes in the eastern Indian Ocean—Invaluable contributions from amateur observers