Navigation Links
Climate change science aided by huge but 'invisible' efforts of amateurs

Ithaca, N.Y. Hundreds of thousands of volunteer data collectors are due for some thanks from scientists, according to a new paper that reveals the role of citizen science in studies of birds and climate change. Data collected by amateurs underpins up to 77 percent of the studies in this field, but that fact is largely invisible by the time the research appears in journals, according to a study published today in the open-access journal PLOS ONE:

"Our paper is a chance to say thank you to the many people who are citizen scientists," said lead author Caren Cooper, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. "These people are part of the process of creating new knowledgeand whether it's counting birds or butterflies, gazelles or galaxies, they should know that their observations really make a difference in professional science."

Birds make excellent subjects for citizen-science projectsthe term for studies that depend on members of the public for data gathering. That's in part because the great popularity of bird watching offers a ready pool of skilled observers. Some well-known North American projects are the Christmas Bird Count, eBird, and the Great Backyard Bird Count, as well as activities such as bird-banding stations and breeding bird atlases. But citizen science is not limited to birdshundreds of other projects cover bugs, trees, flowers, mammals, and microbes, as well as topics like water quality, air pollution, and astronomy.

Citizen science provides scientists with continent- or globe-spanning observations, often over periods so long that they outlast the careers of individual researchers. (The Christmas Bird Count has been running continuously since 1900.) For many types of data, there's simply no other way to collect it at such a scale than with volunteers.

So how well does that dependence on volunteers come through in scientific papers? As a springboard for their study, Cooper and her colleagues analyzed the bibliography of a recent review on the effects of climate change on migratory birds. For each of the 173 primary studies cited in the review, Cooper and her colleagues tracked down the sources of data used.

Neither the review itself nor any of the cited papers used the term "citizen science"a term coined in 1995and only 37 papers used the word "volunteer." Yet between 24 percent and 77 percent of the papers supporting each claim drew primarily on volunteer data. Citizen science proved especially important for documenting the patterns and consequences of climate change, such as population declines and changes in migration timing.

Cooper says that it's not as if scientists are downplaying the role of citizen sciencein some cases, scientists use large data repositories and may be unaware that citizen science was involved. In the majority of cases, scientists simply don't use a standardized term to refer to citizen science. The result is that the product of all that volunteer effort is invisible in the literature, despite having played an integral part in analyses.

"I'd like to see this information coming full circle. In the world today we tend to have notions about expertise, and that only professionals have it," Cooper said, noting that this idea can keep people from feeling they have anything to contribute to the scientific process. "But people who have been doing a hobby for years have tons of expertise, and they can make a very real contribution."

"It would be so cool for people to start to identify with the term citizen science, instead of thinking 'I'm a bird watcher,' or 'I measure water quality,'" Cooper said. "People might realize they have a lot of kindred spirits out there."


Contact: Pat Leonard
Cornell University

Related biology news :

1. Changing global diets is vital to reducing climate change
2. Museum specimens, modern cities show how an insect pest will respond to climate change
3. Viruses take down massive algal blooms, with big implications for climate
4. Waterloo makes public most complete Antarctic map for climate research
5. Climate change will threaten fish by drying out Southwest US streams, study predicts
6. The double threat of climate and land use change enhances risks to biodiversity
7. Oregon team to study impacts of climate change on pesky forest insect
8. No one-size-fits-all approach in a changing climate, changing land
9. Butterflies evolutionary responses to warmer temperatures may compromise their ability to adapt to future climate change
10. New analysis links tree height to climate
11. EARTH Magazine: La Brea climate adaptation as different as cats and dogs
Post Your Comments:
(Date:11/19/2015)... , Nov. 19, 2015  Based on its in-depth ... Sullivan recognizes BIO-key with the 2015 Global Frost & ... Frost & Sullivan presents this award to the company ... to the needs of the market it serves. The ... meets and expands on customer base demands, the overall ...
(Date:11/18/2015)... 2015 --> ... market report titled  Gesture Recognition Market - Global Industry ... 2021. According to the report, the global gesture recognition market was valued ... reach US$29.1 bn by 2021, at a CAGR of ... America dominated the global gesture recognition market ...
(Date:11/17/2015)... 2015  Vigilant Solutions announces today that Mr. ... Directors. --> --> ... the partnership at TPG Capital, one of the largest ... Billion in revenue.  He founded and led TPG,s Operating ... companies, from 1997 to 2013.  In his first role, ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... 24, 2015 Cepheid (NASDAQ: CPHD ) ... the following conference, and invited investors to participate via ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern ...      Tuesday, December 1, 2015 at 11.00 a.m. Eastern ... New York, NY      Tuesday, December 1, ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... metabolism. But unless it is bound to proteins, copper is also toxic to ... researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) will conduct a systematic study of copper ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... Global, Inc., a worldwide provider of clinical research services headquartered in ... company has set a new quarterly earnings record in Q3 of ... for Q3 of 2014 to Q3 of 2015.   ... with the establishment of an Asia-Pacific office ... Kingdom and Mexico , with the ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... The Academy ... Special Interest Group (SIG), MultiGP, also known as Multirotor Grand Prix, to represent the ... last few years. Many AMA members have embraced this type of racing and several ...
Breaking Biology Technology: