Citizen Science and Biodiversity: Thoughts From a Meeting With the European Citizen Science Association
Sharing ideas to increase collection and sharing of invasive species data
It would be nice to have easy access to data on invasive species to protect vulnerable habitats, prevent their spread and inform policy. In a perfect world we could have clean, unbiased datasets that have been collected using globally agreed standards and by completely unbiased observers. Yet, as everyone knows, this will never be the cases with wildlife observations. So we need to make do with the resources we have and try to extract as much meaning from the data we have.
This latest Alien-CSI meeting examined the challenges of promoting and using data collected by volunteer observers, but also celebrated the amazing work they do for conservation and invasive species monitoring. Narrow focus projects on ladybirds and stag-beetles were mentioned, in addition to broader projects, such as LIFE-ARTEMIS.
During the workshop we were specifically looking at barriers to the flow of data from volunteers and at ways to communicate the issues of invasive species through data visualization. Also, we discussed ways to encourage more data collection and how these data can be shared more quickly.
Biases in the data are a well known problem. These biases are many, including bias toward particular areas, habitats, times of day and types of organism. Participants were so familiar with these biases that we considered ways that we could embrace our biases, by designing surveys on charismatic organisms that live in habitats that people like to visit.
There is much still to be done in these working group, however a number of themes have already emerged to be worked on in future meetings and short-term scientific missions. It is a pleasure to be working with this group of engaged researchers from all of Europe and I look forward to our next meeting.
We are very grateful to our host in Zargreb, Sven Jelaska whose seamless organization made it easy to concentrate on the work of the project.
We are announcing, Green Pioneers, a project funded by the Flemish Government. This is a citizen science project on invasive plant species in Flanders (Belgium).
It is a two year project with three main goals:
- Create awareness on invasive species, how can invasions be avoided and how can the negative impacts be diminished?
- Improve communication between citizens and scientists on biodiversity and invasive plants.
- Augment the quality and quantity of data on invasive species in Flanders.
We will focus on three different groups:
- Young Pioneers: High school students, by developing tools for STEM education.
- Online Pioneers: Online volunteers who help us with the transcription of label information of herbarium specimens on https://doedat.be/.
- Visiteers: Working age people who voluntary help us for one day in the collection, part fun, part science, part communication on invasive species.
We hope that the project can work with Alien-CSI to spread our message further and help other counties communicate on invasive alien species.