Environmental Management

, Volume 58, Issue 4, pp 606–618 | Cite as

Recruitment and Retention of Volunteers in a Citizen Science Network to Detect Invasive Species on Private Lands

  • David A. AndowEmail author
  • Eugene Borgida
  • Terrance M. Hurley
  • Allison L. Williams


Volunteer citizen monitoring is an increasingly important source of scientific data. We developed a volunteer program for early detection of new invasive species by private landowners on their own land. Early detection of an invasive species, however, subjects the landowner to the potentially costly risk of government intervention to control the invasive species. We hypothesized that an adult experiential learning module could increase recruitment and retention because private landowners could learn more about and understand the social benefits of early detection and more accurately gauge the level of personal risk. The experiential learning module emphasized group discussion and individual reflection of risks and benefits of volunteering and included interactions with experts and regulatory personnel. A population of woodland owners with >2 ha of managed oak woodland in central Minnesota were randomly assigned to recruitment treatments: (a) the experiential learning module or (b) a letter inviting their participation. The recruitment and retention rates and data quality were similar for the two methods. However, volunteers who experienced the learning module were more likely to recruit new volunteers than those who merely received an invitation letter. Thus the module may indirectly affect recruitment of new volunteers. The data collection was complex and required the volunteers to complete timely activities, yet the volunteers provided sufficiently high quality data that was useful to the organizers. Volunteers can collect complex data and are willing to assume personal risk to contribute to early detection of invasive species.


Citizen science Volunteer citizen monitoring Invasive species Early detection 



The authors thank Elise Rosengren, Lesley Tylczak, Ethan Barquest, Winston Oakley, Megan Trumper, Jamie White, Ham I. Lee, Rouchen Lu, Samantha Peterson, and Mary Van Liew for their assistance in supporting the volunteer network, and two anonymous reviewers for their detailed and insightful comments, which greatly improved this publication. This publication is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation, Decision Risk and Management Science program, under Grant Number SES-1060821. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


  1. Albanesi C, Cicognani E, Zani B (2007) Sense of community, civic engagement and social well-being in Italian adolescents. J Comm Appl Soc Psych 17:387–406. doi: 10.1002/casp.903 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bengston DN, Asah ST, Butler BJ (2011) The diverse values and motivations of family forest owners in the United States: an analysis of an open-ended question in the National Woodland Owner Survey. Small-Scale Forest 10.3:339–355CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bhattacharjee Y (2009) Citizen scientists supplement work of Cornell researchers. Science 308:1402–1403CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bodilis P, Louisy P, Draman M, Arceo HO, Francour P (2014) Can citizen science survey non indigenous fish species in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea? Environ Manage 53:172–180CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bonney R, Phillips TB, Ballard HL, Enck JW (2016) Can citizen science enhance public understanding of science? Pub Understand Sci 25:2–16. doi: 10.1177/0963662515607406 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Clary EG, Snyder M, Ridge RD, Copeland J, Stukas AA, Haugen J, Miene P (1998) Understanding and assessing the motivations of volunteers: a functional approach. J Pers Soc Psych 74:1516–1530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Cohn JP (2008) Citizen science: can volunteers do real research? Biosci 58(3):192–197CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Collaborative Stewardship Team (2000) Collaborative stewardship within the Forest Service: findings and recommendations from the National Collaborative Stewardship team. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Partnership Resource Center, Washington, DC, p 62. Accessed 1 Jun 2015Google Scholar
  9. Conrad CC, Hilchey KG (2011) A review of citizen science and community-based environmental monitoring: issues and opportunities. Environ Monit Assess 176:273–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Couvet D, Jiguet F, Julliard R, Levrel H, Teyssedre A (2008) Enhancing citizen contributions to biodiversity science and public policy. Interdiscip Sci Rev 33(1):95–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Crall AW, Newman GJ, Stohlgren TJ, Holfelder KA, Graham J, Waller DM (2011) Assessing citizen science data quality: an invasive species case study. Cons Lett 4:433–442CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Crall AW, Jordan R, Holfelder K, Newman GJ, Graham J, Waller DM (2013) The impacts of an invasive species citizen science training program on participant attitudes, behavior, and science literacy. Pub Understand Sci 22(6):745–764. doi: 10.1177/0963662511434894 Google Scholar
  13. Crimmins TM, Weltzin JF, Rosemartin AH, Surina EM, Marsh L, Denny EG (2014) Focused campaign increases activity among participants in Nature’s Notebook, a citizen science project. Nat Sci Educ 43:64–72. doi: 10.4195/nse2013.06.0019 Google Scholar
  14. Danielsen F, Jensen PM, Burgess ND, Altamirano R, Alviola PA, Andrianandrasana H, Brashares JS, Burton AC, Corpuz N, Enghoff M, Fjeldså J (2014) A multicountry assessment of tropical resource monitoring by local communities. BioScience 64:236–251. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biu001 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Delaney DG, Sperling CD, Adams CS, Leung B (2008) Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biol Inv 10:117–128. doi: 10.1007/s10530-007-9114-0 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Dickinson JL, Zuckerberg B, Bonter DN (2010) Citizen science as an ecological research tool: challenges and benefits. Annu Rev Ecol Evol Syst 41:149–172. doi: 10.1146/annurev-ecolsys-102209-144636 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. ENS (Environmental News Service) (2009) U.S. Birds Struggling to Survive Habitat Loss, Climate Change. March 19. 22 Feb 2016
  18. Follett R, Strezov V (2015) An analysis of citizen science based research: usage and publication patterns. PLoS One 10(11):e0143687. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0143687 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Forrester G, Baily P, Conetta D, Forrester L, Kintzing E, Jarecki L (2015) Comparing monitoring data collected by volunteers and professionals shows that citizen scientists can detect long-term change on coral reefs. J Nat Cons 24:1–9CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Gallo T, Waitt D (2011) Creating a successful citizen science model to detect and report invasive species. Biosci 61:459–465. doi: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.6.8 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Goldstein EA, Lawton C, Sheehy E, Butler F (2014) Locating species range frontiers: a cost and efficiency comparison of citizen science and hair-tube survey methods for use in tracking an invasive squirrel. Wildlife Res 41:64–75CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Haight RG, Kovacs KF, Liebhold AM, McCullough DG (2009) Economic assessment of potential emerald ash borer damage in U.S. communities. In: McManus KA, Gottschalk KW (eds) Proceedings 20th U.S. Department of Agriculture interagency research forum on invasive species 2009. Gen. Tech. Rep. NRS-P-51. Newtown Square, PA: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Northern Research Station, pp 32–33Google Scholar
  23. Hall J, Pretty J (2008) Then and now: Norfolk farmer’s changing relationships and linkages with government agencies during transformations in land management. J Farm Manage 13(6):393–418Google Scholar
  24. Hawthorne TL, Elmore V, Strong A, Bennett-Martin P, Finnie J, Parkman J, Harris T, Singh J, Edwards L, Reed J (2015) Mapping non-native invasive species and accessibility in an urban forest: a case study of participatory mapping and citizen science in Atlanta, Georgia. Appl Geog 56:187–198CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IAASTD (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology) (2008) Agriculture at a Crossroads. Volume IV: North America and Europe. Island Press, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Klandermans B (1997) The social psychology of protest. Blackwell, Oxford, UKGoogle Scholar
  27. Klassen W (1989) Eradication of introduced arthropod pests: theory and historical practice. Misc Publ Entomol Soc Amer 73:1–29Google Scholar
  28. Kremen C, Ullmann KS, Thorp RW (2011) Evaluating the quality of citizen-scientist data on pollinator communities. Cons Biol 25:607–617CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kudelka AB, Dates G (2003) An evaluation of citizen volunteer water quality monitoring in Minnesota. Rivers Council of Minnesota final report. p 56 . Accessed 22 Feb 2016
  30. Kullenberg C, Kasperowski D (2016) What Is citizen science? - A scientometric meta-analysis. PLoS One 11(1):e0147152. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0147152 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lee V (1994) Volunteer monitoring: a brief history. Volun Mon 6(1):8Google Scholar
  32. Lodge DM, Williams S, MacIsaac H, Hayes K, Leung B, Loope L, Reichard S, Mack RN, Moyle PB, Smith M, Andow DA, Carlton JT, McMichael A (2006) Biological invasions: recommendations for policy and management. Ecol Appl 16:2035–2054CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Meentemeyer RK, Dorning MA, Vogler JB, Schmidt D, Garbelotto M (2015) Citizen science helps predict risk of emerging infectious disease. Front Ecol Environ 13(4):189–194CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Niven DK, Butcher GS, Bancroft GT, Monahan WB, Langham G (2009) Birds and climate change: ecological disruption in motion. A briefing for policymakers and concerned citizens on Audobon’s analysis of North American bird movements in the face of global warming. Accessed 22 Feb 2016
  35. NRC (National Research Council, U.S.) (1996) Freshwater ecosystems: revitalizing educational programs in limnology. National Academies Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  36. NRC (National Research Council, U.S.) (2000) Ecological indicators for the nation. National Academies Press, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  37. Ohrel R, Register K (2006) Volunteer estuary monitoring: a methods manual, 2nd edn. The Ocean Conservancy and the USEPA, Washington, DCGoogle Scholar
  38. Omoto AM, Snyder M (2002) Considerations of community: the context and process of volunteerism. Amer Behav Sci 45:846–867. doi: 10.1177/0002764202045005007 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Omoto AM, Snyder M (2010) Influences of psychological sense of community on voluntary helping and prosocial action. In: Sturmer S, Snyder M (eds), The psychology of prosocial behavior: group processes, intergroup relations, and helping (223–244). Malden MA: Wiley-BlackwellGoogle Scholar
  40. OTA (Office of Technology Assessment) (1993) Harmful non-indigenous species in the United States. OTA-F-565, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C., p 391Google Scholar
  41. Pilz D, Ballard HL, Jones ET (2006) Broadening participation in biological monitoring: handbook for scientists and managers. General Technical Report PNW-GTR-680. Portland, OR, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station. p 131 Google Scholar
  42. Pimentel D, Lach L, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2000) Environmental and economic costs associated with non-indigenous species in the United States. BioSci 50(1):53–65CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pimentel D, Zuniga R, Morrison D (2005) Update on the environmental and economic costs associated with alien invasive species in the United States. Ecol Econ 52:273–288CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Powell MC, Colin M (2008) Meaningful citizen engagement in science and technology: what would it really take? Sci Comm 30:126CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ries L, Oberhauser K (2015) A citizen army for science: quantifying the contributions of citizen scientists to our understanding of monarch butterfly biology. BioSci 65(4):419–430. doi: 10.1093/biosci/biv011 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Rotman D, Hammock J, Preece J, Hansen D, Boston C, Bowser A, He Y (2014). Motivations affecting initial and long-term participation in citizen science projects in three countries. In iConference 2014 Proceedings, p 110–124. doi: 10.9776/14054
  47. Scyphers SB, Powers SP, Akins JL, Drymon JM, Martin CW, Schobernd ZH, Schofield PJ, Shipp RL, Switzer TS (2015) The role of citizens in detecting and responding to a rapid marine invasion. Cons Lett 8(4):242–250. doi: 10.1111/conl.12127 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sharov AA, Leonard D, Liebhold AM, Roberts EA, Dickerson W (2002) “Slow the Spread”: a national program to contain the gypsy moth. J Forest 100:30–35Google Scholar
  49. Sharov AA, Liebhold AM (1998) Model of slowing the spread of gypsy moth (Lepidoptera : Lymantriidae) with a barrier zone. Ecol Appl 8:1170–1179CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Silvertown J (2009) A new dawn for citizen science. Trends Ecol Evol 24(9):467–471. doi: 10.1016/j.tree.2009.03.017 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Simon B, Loewy M, Stürmer S, Weber U, Freytag P, Habig C, Kampmeier C, Spahlinger P (1998) Collective identification and social movement participation. J Pers Soc Psych 74:646. doi:  10.1037/0022-3514.74.3.646 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Singh NJ, Danell K, Edenius L, Ericsson G (2014) Tackling the motivation to monitor: success and sustainability of a participatory monitoring program. Ecol Soc 19(4):7. doi: 10.5751/ES-06665-190407 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Snyder M, Omoto AM (2007) Social action. Social psychology: a handbook of basic principles, 2nd edn., 940–961Google Scholar
  54. Snyder M, Omoto AM (2008) Volunteerism: social issues perspectives and social policy perspectives. Soc Issues Policy Rev 2:1–36CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Theobald EJ, Ettinger AK, Burgess HK, DeBey LB, Schmidt NR, Froehlich HE, Wagner C, HilleRisLambers J, Tewksbury J, Harsch MA, Parrish JK (2015) Global change and local solutions: tapping the unrealized potential of citizen science for biodiversity research. Biol Cons 181:236–244. doi: 10.1016/j.biocon.2014.10.021 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Tylczak L, Andow DA, Borgida E, Hurley TM, Williams A (2015) Design clarity in public outreach documents: a guidebook for a first detector volunteer network. J Exten 53(2):2TOT3. Google Scholar
  57. USDA-APHIS-CAPS (U.S. Department of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey) (2009) 2010 National Survey Guidelines, Appendix D, Analytic Heirarchy Process (AHP) Prioritized Pest List (from CPHST). WsOCyA Accessed 22 Feb 2016Google Scholar
  58. Van Den Berg HA, Dann SL, Dirkx JM (2009) Motivations of adults for non-formal conservation education and volunteerism: implications for programming. Appl Environ Educ Commun 8:6–17. doi: 10.1080/15330150902847328 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Venette RC, Davis EE, Albrecht AM (2007) Oak commodity survey guidelines. USDA Forest Service, St. Paul, MN, Northern Research StationGoogle Scholar
  60. Wilen JE (2007) Economics of spatial-dynamic processes. Amer J Agric Econ 89(5):1134–1144CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Williams A, Fisher E, Borgida E, Andow DA, Hurley T, Solarz S (2012) All for one and one for all: Motivations to volunteer in a community-based context, D258, p 182. 2012 Annual Meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology, San Diego.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of EntomologyUniversity of MinnesotaSt PaulUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of MinnesotaMinneapolisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Applied EconomicsUniversity of MinnesotaSt PaulUSA

Personalised recommendations