Citizen Scientists

Environmental Scientists use Citizen Science to Monitor Wildlife Road Crossings

Scientists from the University of Montana and the University of Calgary reported in 2007 on their use of local citizens to monitor and record observations of wildlife crossings of Highway 3 in southwestern Alberta, Canada. The data is being used to better understand wildlife movement in the area and how a planned highway improvement project might impact the environment.

This is a wonderfully useful approach for data collection in order to provide a potentially more broader look at a long-term natural pattern. What is particularly interesting about this report, however, is that is does address what will ultimately be the most critical issue for citizen science programs to overcome: how to guarantee that data collected from unregulated and potentially biased and subjective observers can be filtered into a set of data that can be considered scientific.

Citizen science data may never be considered as “real science” unless biases and unintentional errors can be monitored or filtered out. As long as the data collection sets are sufficiently large, then statistical analysis against a known, accurate sub-set of data can be used. Of course, once statistics is brought into the picture, then some generalizations are typically required, which can lessen the viability of the data.

I do believe that this is “legitimacy issue” is fundamental, and must be addressed by program leaders in the crowdsourcing citizen science projects.

“Evaluation of a Citizen-Science Highway Wildlife Monitoring Program” :: In Proceedings of the 2007 International Conference on Ecology and Transportation :: May 20, 2007 :: [ READ ABSTRACT ]

High-tech Amateur Research Investigates Fish DNA in NYC

This summer, two recent graduates of Trinity School in Manhattan conducted an impressive research program of amateur science that might send food critics and restaurateurs rolling through the streets of New York City.

And, if you happened to click on the school’s link above you will notice that we’re talking about high school students!

Using a recently developed technique called DNA bar coding, a species can be identified by looking at a single gene without the need to sequence the entire genome. So, Kate Stoeckle and Louisa Strauss went out into the city and ate a lot of sushi and preserved a bit of each sample to send off to a lab for testing. At the University of Guelph in Ontario, a graduate student who works in the “Fish Bar Code of Life” project completed the genetic analysis and compared the results to the thousands of fish species already identified in their database.

Read more about how the two young citizen scientists became interested in sushi ID’ing and what they discovered…
“Fish Tale Has DNA Hook: Students Find Bad Labels” :: The New York Times :: August 21, 2008 :: [ READ ]

Bar code of Life Database [ VISIT ]

Successful Audubon Society Chapter in Forsyth County

The local Audubon Society of Forsyth County in North Carolina has been successfully active since 1973, and if you live in the area you should consider joining the chapter. With citizen science programs and surveys sponsored throughout the year, the chapter also holds monthly “public bird walks,” which would be a wonderful opportunity for enthusiasts to learn more about the natural habitats in the county.

They also take part in the National Audubon Society’s Important Bird Area with their “adoptions” of Hanging Rock and New River State Parks.

“Audubon chapter is dedicated to helping birds” :: Winston-Salem Journal :: August 19, 2008 :: [ READ FEATURE ARTICLE ]

Learn more about the chapter…
[ VISIT the Audubon Society of Forsyth County ]

New Plants Discovered by Amateur Scientist

Two new wildflower plant species of the phlox family (more) have been discovered in the Lime Ridge Open Space at the foot of Mt. Diablo in central California. The two species are named Lime Ridge Navarretia (Navarretia gowenii) and Lime Ridge Woollystar (Eriastrum sp. nov.).


The discoverer of the plants is amateur botanist, David Gowen, who is a testament to the reality that we still have much to learn about our world–and we often don’t have to look much further than our back yard.

The media release from the Save Mount Diablo organization is a thorough review of the entire discovery process and is an exciting reminder of what real contributions citizen scientists provide.

“Two New Species Discovered in Lime Ridge Open Space” :: Media Release from Save Mount Diablo :: June 12, 2008 :: [ READ SUMMARY ] :: [ READ THE MEDIA RELEASE ]

Also featured by the Society of Amateur Scientists

“Amateur Scientist David Gowen Discovers Two New Plant Species” :: SAS The Citizen Scientist Newsletter :: July 4, 208 :: [ READ ]

Citizen Science Public Reports

DPRI wants to know about your amateur research activities! As more people see what exciting and interesting things citizen scientist do, then more will be inspired to join in developing a deeper appreciation for our universe.

Please post brief reports of your work–from small-scale backyard discoveries with your family to nation-wide collaborations–as COMMENTS below and inspire the next generation of citizen scientists!

Last updated October 26, 2021