Building local citizen science networks

This post was co-authored with Bindi Vanzella, Regional Landcare Facilitator for Riverina.

Citizen science is a great way for non-scientists to contribute valuable information to scientific knowledge. It’s a new term – people have been doing citizen science for centuries under different names. But it’s all the same valuable contribution.

Citizen science isn’t about volunteers doing all the hard work for scientists. Yes, the origins of this recent term are in academia. But many citizen science programs are based foremost on engagement and education, with data collection as a secondary aim.

And engagement and education tend to work best when they are based locally or regionally. Many species have local or regional ranges, and the social and cultural connection of a species can change across larger geographic scales.

Regional Landcare Facilitator for the Riverina region Bindi Vanzella will tell you that interest in registering discoveries ‘officially’ is growing among the general community. In the past, many a scruffy note pad was filled with observations but information seldom forwarded onto scientists to reference for research. The accessibility of new technologies through apps and websites has given citizen scientists a new platform to record their findings and pass on data to the people who can use this information. With this comes personal satisfaction that their efforts in recording information is valued and can meaningfully contribute to science.

In locations that are highly modified by agriculture yet still ecologically diverse, like the Riverina and Murray regions, the value of recording flora, fauna and fungi finds is enormous. Citizen scientists are instrumental to help identify what is present, but also how the landscape is changing over time through activities such as local landcare, land clearing and interactions between agriculture and biodiversity conservation

Anyone can be a citizen scientist. Because of increasing interest in her local region, Bindi collated the following list to help inform current and future citizen scientists as to where they can register their finds. Interestingly, some of the listed sites actually started from a citizen science base, such as Canberra Nature Mapper. The list is ideal for citizens in the Riverina region, but many of these sites are open to citizen scientists in other parts of NSW, or across Australia.

  1. Atlas of Living Australia Contains more than 50 million occurrence records, aggregated from a wide range of data providers: museums, herbaria, community groups, projects, government departments, individuals and universities. It also allows you to retrieve lists of species recorded in an areas, and view details of the species such as distribution, scientific name, common name and images.
  2. NSW BioNet or The Atlas of NSW Wildlife (the Atlas) is the Office of Environment and Heritage’s (OEH’s) database of flora and fauna records. If you want to submit records electronically, you can fill in the Atlas spreadsheet. To upload your spreadsheet, you can register for a login to the Atlas
  3. Birdlife data Originally developed in 2005, the Birdata website has provided an online platform for volunteers and researchers to enter bird survey information data and gain feedback about their surveys
  4. Aussie Backyard Bird Count Annual survey just finished for the year. Simply record the birds you see for 20mins
  5. Bowerbird Gather the images, videos and sounds of Australian nature in BowerBird. Whether you are a specialist, citizen scientist, grey nomad or aspiring student, BowerBird will let you share your discoveries.
  6. Bio Collect Developed by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) in collaboration with over 100 organisations which are actively involved in field data capture. It has been developed to support the needs of scientists, ecologists, citizen scientists and natural resource managers in the field-collection and management of biodiversity, ecological and natural resource management (NRM) data. The tool is hosted by the ALA and is free for public use.
  7. Hollows as Homes this project works with the community and land managers to assess tree hollow availability, as hollows are an important but limited resource for wildlife in urban and agricultural areas.
  8. The NSW Bird Atlassers The NSWBA database contains in excess of 6 million records – this information has been extracted from Atlas sheets submitted by members, plus data from other bird watching group or details extracted from the literature, these sightings date back to 1770.
  9. TurtleSAT Map the location of freshwater turtles in waterways and wetlands across the country.
  10. Streamwatch / Waterbug survey is a long running citizen science water quality monitoring program
  11. The Wild Pollinator Count gives you an opportunity to contribute to wild pollinator insect conservation in Australia. We invite you to count wild pollinators in your local environment and help us build a database on wild pollinator activity.
  12. Questagame a mobile game that gets players outdoors to discover and help preserve life on this planet. Started in Canberra a couple of years ago and now international
  13. ANSTO Feather Map Researchers from the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation and the University of New South Wales will analyse feathers using nuclear techniques to track the movement of waterbirds, creating the first ever Feather Map of Australia.
  14. Canberra Nature Map Based in the ACT but worth a look just to see how it works.
  15. Feral Scan map feral animal sightings in your local area. Now hosting over 50,000 community records. Fox, rabbit, wild dog, wild cat, feral pig, cane toad, mouse, feral goat, feral fish, starling, mynah bird, & coming soon deer
  16. Fungi Map contribute to the National Australian Fungimap Database – an important and unique collection of information about Australia’s fungi – and facilitating research by professionals and citizen scientists alike.
  17. Wildlife Spotter is the online citizen science project for National Science Week 2016. This is to help scientists spot wildlife caught on their monitoring cameras rather than you uploading information.
  18. RedMap if you happen to be on the coast. Redmap (Range Extension Database & Mapping project) invites the Australian community to spot, log and map marine species that are uncommon in Australia, or along particular parts of our coast.
Murray River at Euston, NSW.


© Bindi Vanzella & Manu Saunders 2016

3 thoughts on “Building local citizen science networks

  1. Tony November 8, 2016 / 8:11 AM

    The fact is, we need more citizen scientists now more than ever as well. We need to connect our everyday activities to seeing them as an action of conservation through citizen science. Often deemed a rather trivial, an event such as feeding the birds or walking the dog could and should be viewed as doing one’s bit for conservation when listing what we see, eevn if only one plant, one bird or several birds. List your sightings and send them off to your online recording site of choice. Make your records count towards the bigger picture!

    Best Wishes

    Tony Powell and naturestimeline

    Liked by 1 person

    • Manu Saunders November 8, 2016 / 4:45 PM

      Thanks Tony. Agree, every observation is part of a bigger ecological picture. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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