From weather reporting to bird counting, the general public has been helping scientists for over a century to collect data and information about our natural world. These citizen scientists (or citizen naturalists) don’t need a degree and don’t need to be trained scientists – indeed, most of them would consider themselves nature enthusiasts who contribute to our understanding of wildlife and the environment by collaborating with professional scientists.
This type of crowd-sourcing has been instrumental in helping scientists to monitor and understand our changing climate. Technology has especially helped to facilitate this process in recent years; GPS units, phones, digital photography and the internet all make public participation in science faster, more accurate, and more widespread.
Citizen scientist volunteers also benefit greatly from their role in this exchange. They engage more with the wildlife, nature and our planet, which increases their scientific literacy and awareness of critical conservation issues.
To learn more about citizen science at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI), click the button below.
VWL and Citizen Science
Since 2009, Virginia Working Landscapes has worked with and trained dozens of citizen scientists to help conduct our Grassland Biodiversity Surveys. During the survey season, the citizen scientist volunteers visit our survey sites where they identify and count different plant, bird, and pollinator species; these data help us to understand how agricultural and land management practices effect biodiversity in grasslands across the region.
To learn about citizen science opportunities with VWL, click the button below.