We have posted before on the role of citizen science (and maybe even
indirectly when acknowledging Woody’s recent accomplishment). Today
in the NYTimes, and excellent article about the benefits of citizen science,
“Why I Count Glass Eels“.
UPDATE: Also today, a release from REEF about their recent study of the
role of citizen surveys on coral reefs. The release after the jump…
We are excited to share a new scientific paper published earlier this month in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution that reports marine fish surveys conducted by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) citizen scientists compare well with traditional scientific methods when it comes to monitoring species biodiversity. The findings of the research, conducted by Dr. Ben Holt from University of East Angila in the UK, give weight to the growing phenomenon of citizen science programs such as REEF’s Volunteer Survey Project. The field study compared methods used by REEF volunteer divers with those used by professional scientists to measure the variety of fish species in three Caribbean sites in the Turks and Caicos. The divers surveyed the sites using two methods – the ‘belt transect’, used in peer reviewed fish diversity studies, and the ‘roving diver technique’, used by REEF volunteers. Two teams of 12 divers made 144 separate underwater surveys across the sites over four weeks. While the traditional scientific survey revealed sightings of 106 different types of fish, the volunteer technique detected greater marine diversity with a total of 137 in the same waters. Dr Holt led the research in partnership with the Centre for Marine Resource Studies in the Caribbean and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark. He said: “The results of this study are important for the future of citizen science and the use of data collected by these programs. Very few, if any, scientific groups can collect data on the scale that volunteer groups can, so our proof that both methods return consistent results is very encouraging for citizen science in general. We’re living in a world that’s changing very significantly. Environmental changes are having a big impact on ecosystems around us so we need to harness new ways of measuring the effect. Our study demonstrates the quality of data collected using a volunteer method can match, and in some respects exceed, protocols used by professional scientists.” The full paper, entitled “Comparing Diversity Data Collected Using a Protocol Designed for Volunteers with Results from a Professional Alternative”, is available online at: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/2041-210X.12031/pdf