Evaluating the Performance of Volunteers in Mapping Invasive Plants in Public Conservation Lands
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Citizen science programs are touted as useful tools for engaging the public in science and for collecting important data for scientists and resource managers. To accomplish the latter, it must be shown that data collected by volunteers is sufficiently accurate and reliable. We engaged 119 volunteers over three years to map and estimate abundance of invasive plants in New York and New Jersey parklands. We tested their accuracy via collected pressed samples and by subsampling their transect points. We also compared the performances of volunteers and botanical experts. Our results support the notion that volunteer participation can enhance the data generated by scientists alone. We found that the quality of data collected might be affected by the environment in which the data are collected. We suggest that giving consideration to how people learn can not only help to achieve educational goals but can also help to produce more data to be used in scientific study.
KeywordsCitizen science Invasive plants Training Volunteers Parklands Monitoring program
Funding was made possible through the USDA CSREES NRI # 05-2221 and all work was conducted in accordance to Institutional Review Board policy. We thank Ed Goodell and the people of the NY–NJ Trail Conference. Additionally, we thank Kristen Ross, David Mellor, and Edwin McGowan. We give a special thanks to our numerous volunteers.
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