Citizen Science, also known as crowd science or crowd-sourced science, is volunteer-based research where members of the public collect environmental data to help answer scientific questions. Programs are carefully designed so that participants use a consistent method to gather information over a specified time period. This ensures that the information collected is reliable, and allows comparisons to be made between data collected by different Citizen Scientists in different places.
Citizen Science projects are particularly useful in tracking emerging problems in areas that are rarely visited by formal monitoring programs. Data can be collected on the presence or absence of important species and threats along the GER corridor. Citizen Science is also a great way to attract a range of people to be actively involved in the community and conservation projects, from those with little prior knowledge of Australian wildlife to experienced amateur naturalists. It provides participants with the opportunity to develop a new interest or hobby, or to get involved in one of GER’s many projects or member groups.
GER’s Citizen Science programs are underpinned by a close relationship with the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), which is a key GER supporter. The Atlas collates and maps data on recorded sightings of Australian plants and animals. Community groups and members of the public can contribute their sightings of native species to the database, investigate the different plants and animals found in a particular area, or generate maps showing where a particular species has been recorded. A number of GER partners and projects use the ALA to support their projects. For example, Birdlife Australia uses this tool to collect observations of native birds as part of many projects.
The ALA has also developed a Citizen Science smartphone application, called BioTag, on behalf of the National Parks Association of NSW in partnership with GER. This application allows Citizen Scientists to participate in targeted surveys by recording sightings and answering observational questions on their phones, which are then uploaded automatically to the Atlas. This application was trialled, with great success, in the 2013 Great Koala Count.