Environmental Management

, Volume 42, Issue 3, pp 470–479 | Cite as

Volunteer Macroinvertebrate Monitoring: Tensions Among Group Goals, Data Quality, and Outcomes

Article

Abstract

Volunteer monitoring of natural resources is promoted for its ability to increase public awareness, to provide valuable knowledge, and to encourage policy change that promotes ecosystem health. We used the case of volunteer macroinvertebrate monitoring (VMM) in streams to investigate whether the quality of data collected is correlated with data use and organizers’ perception of whether they have achieved these outcomes. We examined the relation between site and group characteristics, data quality, data use, and perceived outcomes (education, social capital, and policy change). We found that group size and the degree to which citizen groups perform tasks on their own (rather than aided by professionals) positively correlated with the quality of data collected. Group size and number of years monitoring positively influenced whether a group used their data. While one might expect that groups committed to collecting good-quality data would be more likely to use it, there was no relation between data quality and data use, and no relation between data quality and perceived outcomes. More data use was, however, correlated with a group’s feeling of connection to a network of engaged citizens and professionals. While VMM may hold promise for bringing citizens and scientists together to work on joint conservation agendas, our data illustrate that data quality does not correlate with a volunteer group’s desire to use their data to promote regulatory change. Therefore, we encourage scientists and citizens alike to recognize this potential disconnect and strive to be explicit about the role of data in conservation efforts.

Keywords

Volunteer monitoring Citizen science Macroinvertebrate monitoring Collaborative conservation Data quality Resource mobilization theory 

Notes

Acknowledgments

We thank all the volunteers and volunteer organizers who gave their time, both to complete the survey and to be interviewed. At the University of Minnesota we appreciate the financial support of the Conservation Biology Program, the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology and the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program. We are grateful for the efforts of undergraduate researcher Katherine Phillips and the thoughtful reviews of professionals in the field and Ph.D. committee members David Fulton, Bruce Vondracek, and Leonard Ferrington.

References

  1. Analytical Software (1999) Statistix, version 7. Analytical Software. Tallahassee, FLGoogle Scholar
  2. Barbour MT, Gerritsen J, Snyder BD, Stribling JB (1999) Rapid bioassessment protocols for use in streams and wadeable rivers: periphyton, benthic macroinvertebrates and fish, 2nd edn. EPA 841-B-99-002. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Office of Water, Washington, DC Google Scholar
  3. Cook RD, Weisberg S (1999) Applied regression including computing and graphics. John Wiley, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  4. Dillman DA (2000) Mail and Internet surveys: the tailored design method. John Wiley and Sons, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  5. Ehrenfeld D (1997) Conservation biology in the 21st century. In: Meffe GK, Carroll CR (eds) Principles of conservation biology. Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, pp 646–647Google Scholar
  6. Engel SR, Voshell J (2002) Volunteer biological monitoring: Can it accurately assess the ecological condition of streams? American Entomologist 48:164–177Google Scholar
  7. Firehock K, West J (1995) Brief history of volunteer biological water monitoring using macroinvertebrates. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 14:197–202CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fisher F (2002) Citizens, experts and the environment. Duke University Press, Durham, NCGoogle Scholar
  9. Fore L, Paulsen K, O’Laughlin K (2001) Assessing the performance of volunteers in monitoring streams. Freshwater Biology 46:109–123CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Jenkins JC (1983) Resource mobilization theory and the study of social movements. Annual Review of Sociology 9:527–553CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Karr JR, Chu EW (1999) Restoring life in running waters. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  12. Lathrop JE, Markowitz A (1995) Monitoring water resource quality using volunteers. In: Davis WS, Simon TP (eds) Biological assessment and criteria: tools for water resource planning and decision making. Lewis, Boca Baton, FL, pp 303–315Google Scholar
  13. Latteier C (2002) Linking citizens with scientists. How Illinois Ecowatch uses volunteers to collect ecological data. Conservation in Practice 2:31–34CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Martin J (1997) Adding stewardship to volunteer monitoring: using the data to involve the community. In: Proceedings of the 5th National Volunteer Monitoring Conference. EPA 841-R-97-007. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, p 45Google Scholar
  15. McCarthy JD, Wolfson M (1996) Resource mobilization by local social movement organizations: agency, strategy, and organization in the movement against drinking and driving. American Sociological Review 61:1070–1088CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. McCarthy JD, Zald MN (1977) Resource mobilization and social movements: a partial theory. American Journal of Sociology 82:1212–1241CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Nerbonne JF (2003) Volunteer macroinvertebrate monitoring as a tool for empowering citizen groups in the United States. Doctoral dissertation. Conservation Biology Program, University of Minnesota, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  18. Nerbonne JF, Nelson KC (2004) Volunteer macroinvertabrate monitoring in the United States: resource mobilization and comparative state structures. Society and Natural Resources 17:817–839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Nerbonne JF, Vondracek BC (2003) Volunteer macroinvertebrate monitoring: Assessing training needs through examining error and bias in untrained volunteers. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 22:152–163CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Norton B (2003) Searching for sustainability: interdisciplinary essays in the philosophy of conservation biology. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UKGoogle Scholar
  21. Ostrom E (2000) Social capital: a fad or fundamental concept? In: Dasgupta P, Serageblin I (eds) Social capital: a multifacited perspective. World Bank, Washington, DC, pp 172–214Google Scholar
  22. Penrose D, Call D (1995) Volunteer monitoring of benthic macroinvertebrates: Regulatory biologists’ perspective. Journal of the North American Benthological Society 14:203–209CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pretty J (2003) Social capital and the collective management of resources. Science 302:1912–1914CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Prysby M (2001) Temporal and geographical variation in monarch egg and larval densities (Danaus plexippus): an ecological application of citizen science. Master’s thesis. Ecology Program, University of Minnesota, MinneapolisGoogle Scholar
  25. Putnam RD, Goss KA (2002) Introduction. In: Putnam R (ed) Democracies in flux: the evolution of social capital in contemporary society. Oxford University Press, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  26. Sabatier PA, Focht W, Lubell M, Trachtenberg Z, Vedlitz A, Matlock M (2005) Collaborative approaches to watershed management. In: Sabatier PA, Focht W, Lubell M, Trachtenberg Z, Vedlitz A, Matlock M (eds) Swimming upstream: collaborative approaches to watershed management. MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, pp 3–22Google Scholar
  27. Salafsky N, Margoluis R, Redford KH, Robinson JG (2002) Improving the practice of conservation: a conceptual framework and research agenda for conservation science. Conservation Biology 16:1469–1479CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Savan B, Morgan A, Gore C (2003) Volunteer environmental monitoring and the role of universities: the case of citizens’ environmental watch. Environmental Management 31:561–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Schoen J (1997) Data presentation strategies. In: Proceedings of the 5th national volunteer monitoring conference. EPA 841-R-97-007.U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, pp 51–54Google Scholar
  30. Scholz J, Booth D (2001) Monitoring urban streams: strategies and protocols for humid-region lowland systems. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 71:143–164CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Schusler T, Decker D, Pfeffer M (2003) Social learning for collaborative natural resource management. Society and Natural Resources 15:309–326Google Scholar
  32. Stancioff E (2001) The Maine shore stewards program. In: Proceedings of the 6th national volunteer monitoring conference. EPA 841-R-01-001. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, pp 60–61Google Scholar
  33. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) (1996) The volunteer monitor’s guide to quality assurance project plans. EPA 841-B-96-003. U.S. EPA, Office of Wetlands, Oceans, and Watersheds, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  34. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) (1998) Introduction to the national directory of volunteer environmental monitoring programs, 5th ed. U.S. EPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  35. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) (2001) Proceedings of the 6th national volunteer monitoring conference: Moving into the mainstream. EPA 841-R-01-001. U.S. EPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation BiologyUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of Forest ResourcesUniversity of MinnesotaSt. PaulUSA

Personalised recommendations