Citizen science is a growing phenomenon across the world and is gaining traction in Australia, particularly in the coastal and marine environment. The term ‘citizen science’ encompasses a variety of aspects of volunteering in scientific research, and is generally also known by the terms ‘community-based monitoring’, ‘community science’ and ‘volunteer monitoring’. The basic concept among these terms, however, is the same: ‘non-experts’ are directly involved in scientific discovery, generally by way of collecting scientific information.
Citizen science is nothing new (see a recent article on the Conversation here). Prior to the last century, amateurs were heavily involved in the process of scientific enquiry and their contributions to the field are vast. Charles Darwin and Benjamin Franklin were citizen scientists, and Linnaeus relied on volunteers to help further his work.
There are many documented gains, to both the volunteers themselves and to agencies responsible for managing the environment, for citizen science. There is quite a bit of research on the social benefits to using volunteers in scientific projects, and there is growing evidence that demonstrates the benefits of using volunteers to provide data for environmental management and policy making in Australia.
Carla Sbrocchi, a postgraduate research student at the University of Technology Sydney, has compiled a preliminary list of groups who are actively involved in one aspect of citizen science, coastal and marine monitoring. Documenting these programs augments opportunities for engagement by researchers and natural resource managers to increase uptake of the data the programs provide: a win-win for everyone involved.
If you have experiences to share with Carla on either the provision of data by coastal and marine citizen scientists, or the uses of this data, feel free to contribute! Contact Carla.firstname.lastname@example.org
For some preliminary results from Carla's citizen science survey (as of April 2013) see here.