Important role of citizen science in monitoring UK biodiversity

26 November 2012

Citizen science is the involvement of volunteers in science projects, from monitoring the trees in your garden to counting bugs. More than 200 projects have been reviewed and their important role highlighted in a report this month, which has also produced a practical guide to setting such projects up.

Scientists from the Natural History Museum and the NERC Centre for Ecology and Hydrology produced the report. They were commissioned by the UK Environmental Observation Framework (UK-EOF) to find out more about citizen science and environmental monitoring and to learn lessons from past citizen science projects.

The review concludes that citizen science has a vital role to play in scientific research and education, and could help meet some of the challenging demands of environmental monitoring in the UK.

As well as finding most citizen science projects to be a very cost-effective way of collecting environmental data, they also found that the quality of this data is often excellent.

The first app from the Natural History Museum is for the OPAL Bugs Count survey

The first app from the Natural History Museum is for the OPAL Bugs Count survey

Recent developments such as smartphone apps and online recording, for example in the OPAL Bugs Count survey led by the Museum, are revolutionising citizen science.

The new practical Guide to Citizen Science shows how to plan, carry out, and evaluate a citizen science project to study biodiversity and the environment in the UK. The guide's lead author John Tweddle, from the Angela Marmont Centre for UK Biodiversity at the Museum, said, 'Volunteer participation in the observation of nature and wider environmental monitoring has a long and illustrious history, especially in Britain.

'It’s a fun and rewarding pastime that plays a huge role in improving our scientific understanding. Our guide aims to support anyone with an interest in developing their own citizen science project - and new communication technologies, like mobile phone apps and environmental sensors, mean that it has never been easier to get involved.'

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