Citizen Science is for the Birds
29 Aug 2015
Did you know that sharing your bird sightings contributes invaluably to science, and that doing so makes you a citizen scientist? For decades, bird enthusiasts across Australia and around the world have enjoyed keeping track what birds they’ve seen on excursions. Before internet and mobile devices, many naturalists, including Charles Darwin, contributed observations to museums and universities for researchers to study. These nature enthusiasts of the past would likely be considered citizen scientists today. In our time, we can all share our observations with each other to facilitate finding that “must-see” bird, as well as to easily and substantially contribute to science.
As an eBird contributor and bona fide citizen scientist, you may be interested in knowing that the Australian Academy of Science supported the first Australian Citizen Science Conference in July 2015 in Canberra. The focus of the conference was on “Maximising the Capacity of Citizen Science for Science and Society.” A roaring success, Australia’s Chief Scientist Ian Chubb set the energetic tone of the conference with the announcement of the Occasional Paper: Building Australia Through Citizen Science.
Birds were very well represented throughout the conference. Rick Bonney from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, for example, gave a very informative and entertaining history of his citizen science career with the lab. BirdLife Australia representatives discussed their citizen science initiatives and how avian observations help them understand changes in populations from where species are found. I presented a poster and co-led a workshop on my current research which aims to understand how citizen scientists can help search for the Eastern Bristlebird from acoustic recordings. The Gang-Gang Survey Project was also well represented at this Canberra conference. As a birder, myself, I couldn’t leave Canberra without spotting my first Gang-gang Cockatoo.
Key themes of the conference included improving design, impact, outcomes, and evaluation of citizen science, as well as collection, validation, analysis, management, and sharing of citizen science data. The conference highlighted the diversity of important citizen science projects already contributing to science in Australia, whether making astronomy observation from your home computer or recording observations of nature while outdoors (e.g. water quality monitoring or plant and animal observations). As a part of the conference the Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA) also held their first Annual General Meeting, became incorporated, and elected their first management committee.
Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you would like to know more about citizen science, the ACSA, or my acoustics research.
Australian Citizen Science Association (ACSA)
Management Committee Member
Visit ACSA website: http://www.citizenscience.org.au/
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This article originally appeared on Eremaea eBird. Used with permission.