Positive Impacts of Citizen Science for Conservation

Citizen science creates a multitude of positive impacts for conservation. By empowering citizens to participate in collecting and analysing data and contributing towards scientific research, everyday Australians are able to meaningfully contribute towards conservation of species and habitats.

Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) has been empowering people to take action for nature since 1982, and we acknowledge the importance of citizen science for conservation as part of our mission.

Citizen science helps in monitoring important data about the health of our natural environment, from species population numbers, to changes in habitats and changes in the health of ecosystems.

This data that’s collected by citizens, helps scientists to better understand what’s happening to biodiversity and ecosystems, and make more informed conservation management decisions.

Thanks to advances in technology, citizens are now able to easily collect real-time data and communicate their data findings through apps, websites and other methods.

As more people get involved in collecting data for conservation, they help scientists access more accurate results and are also able to make vast amounts of data collection more affordable.

Below we explore how citizen science can be used for  conservation, some leading examples of citizen science in Australia, and how to get involved in collecting conservation data for science.

 

How citizen science can be used for conservation

Around the world, citizen scientists are helping to collect data about biodiversity and ecosystems, to help with conservation.

The data that’s collected by citizen scientists can be used to get insights into trends in an area, such as how much pollution there is in a particular river, and what types of pollution are found there.

Data can also be used to assess environmental change over time, such as how many bird species have been spotted in an area over a defined time to see if there are declining or increasing population trends.

Scientists require a lot of data to make more informed decisions to manage habitats and biodiversity, and having thousands of people volunteering their time to collect data for science can help to make data more accurate and to speed up the process of collecting data.

Data collection through citizen science can also be used to inform policies and regulations, and to manage species more effectively. For example, if data shows that a threatened species is in rapid decline, this data could be used to assign the species to an endangered species listing, to help accelerate conservation work to prevent the species from going extinct in the wild.

Citizen scientists are involved in monitoring species populations in specific areas and habitats, in restoring habitat through planting native vegetation and through clearing invasive alien species or monitoring water quality.

Examples of citizen science for conservation in Australia

There are many impactful examples of citizen science for conservation projects around the world. At Conservation Volunteers Australia, we acknowledge the importance of citizen science for conservation and have been involved in many citizen science projects over the past 40 years.

This includes empowering our volunteers to use apps and take part in initiatives to record wildlife sightings and pollution along waterways and beaches.

Below are some of these citizen science initiatives we’ve been involved in:

The CVA App 📲

Our CVA App provides access to a community of nature stewards. It can be used to get information on creating your own Nature Blocks and to participate in our SeaToSource Plastic Waste Challenge. The CVA App also enables users to browse and register for on-the-ground conservation volunteering events across Australia.

The citizen science data that’s collected through the CVA App is helping us to assess levels of plastic waste and to track positive action for nature.

SeaToSource Plastic Waste Challenge 🗑

Our SeaToSource Plastic Waste Challenge aims to create awareness about how much plastic waste there is and how everyday Australians can take action to reduce the consumption of plastics and help to keep Australia’s waterways and ocean plastic-free.

By enabling people to conduct an at-home audit of plastic waste, participants will be helping us collect vital citizen-science data which will help provide insights on plastic consumption and how it can be minimised.

This important data can also be used to motivate and inspire a more sustainable future that’s plastic-free.

 

Our CVA App provides access to a community of nature stewards. It can be used to get information on creating your own Nature Blocks and to participate in our SeaToSource Plastic Waste Challenge. The CVA App also enables users to browse and register for on-the-ground conservation volunteering events across Australia.

The citizen science data that’s collected through the CVA App is helping us to assess levels of plastic waste and to track positive action for nature.

DigiVol Wildlife Spotter platform 🐨

DigiVol is a digital volunteer platform that was developed by the Australian Museum in collaboration with the Atlas of Living Australia. It enables volunteers to help collect data to better understand, manage and conserve biodiversity.

At CVA, we partner with organisations like DigiVol to make citizen science data available for conservation. For example, our Eastern Barred Bandicoot Recovery Expedition involved ongoing, real time monitoring of fauna, including our bandicoots, in our study area to inform management plans.

Many of our other conservation projects also involve collection of citizen science data, such as our Seed of Change program, and Urban Shade Forests program.

iNaturalist 🌱

iNaturalist is a digital, crowdsourced species identification system and biodiversity data recording system that collects citizen science data to inform conservation.

At CVA our volunteers have used iNaturalist to take part in various Bioblitz events including the Backyard Great Southern BioBlitz, Sydney Great Southern BioBlitz, and Adelaide Great Southern BioBlitz.

BioBlitz events focus on finding and identifying as many species as possible in a specific area over a short period of time.

TurtleSAT app 🐢

To help save the Southwestern snake-necked turtle which are found within wetlands across Western Australia’s southwest, citizen-science data is critical to help understand how many turtles are left in the wild and whether their population numbers are increasing or decreasing.

In the past we’ve teamed up with researchers to help empower the community to record turtle nest sightings and observations using the TurtleSAT app and created a team of ‘Turtle Trackers’ at Forrestdale Lake.

LitterStopper App 🗑

Collecting data on pollution found in waterways, beaches and the ocean in Australia helps to better understand how much waste and pollution there is, what type of waste there is, and where the waste is coming from. This can then help scientists understand how to minimise waste and where to focus their efforts in preventing pollution.

The LitterStopper App, created by Beach Patrol, allows users to record waste sightings across Australia. CVA volunteers have used this app extensively in our SeaToSource program, where over 10,600 volunteers collected 380,000 pieces of waste debris from flowing into the Great Barrier Reef and Great Southern Reef.

City Nature Challenge and Bioblitz activities 🌳

At CVA we’ve been involved in creating involvement in the City Nature Challenge across Australia. These city events helped people participate in Bioblitz activities in their local areas to help nature through citizen science data collection.

How to get involved in collecting conservation data for science

Do you want to be part of a community of citizen scientists and Nature Stewards across Australia? You can help us collect data on trees, threatened species, plastic pollution, habitat change and more.

To get involved, download our CVA App and get access to a range of resources and opportunities to volunteer for conservation, and to take action for nature through citizen science. This includes creating a Nature Block at your home, and taking part in our newly launched SeaToSource Plastic Waste Challenge.

You can also sign up on our website to a range of conservation volunteering events across the country, many of which involve aspects of citizen science. As a citizen scientist volunteer with CVA, you get to join us in some of the most unique locations and to make a positive and meaningful impact for the environment.

Download the CVA App and get started now!