International Journal of Biometeorology

, Volume 58, Issue 6, pp 1237–1249 | Cite as

The role of citizen science in monitoring biodiversity in Ireland

  • Alison Donnelly
  • Olivia Crowe
  • Eugenie Regan
  • Sinead Begley
  • Amelia Caffarra
Original Paper


Citizen science is proving to be an effective tool in tracking the rapid pace at which our environment is changing over large geographic areas. It is becoming increasingly popular, in places such as North America and some European countries, to engage members of the general public and school pupils in the collection of scientific data to support long-term environmental monitoring. Participants in such schemes are generally volunteers and are referred to as citizen scientists. The Christmas bird count in the US is one of the worlds longest running citizen science projects whereby volunteers have been collecting data on birds on a specific day since 1900. Similar volunteer networks in Ireland have been in existence since the 1960s and were established to monitor the number and diversity of birds throughout the country. More recently, initiatives such as Greenwave (2006) and Nature Watch (2009) invite school children and members of the general public respectively, to record phenology data from a range of common species of plant, insect and bird. In addition, the Irish butterfly and bumblebee monitoring schemes engage volunteers to record data on sightings of these species. The primary purpose of all of these networks is to collect data by which to monitor changes in wildlife development and diversity, and in the case of Greenwave to involve children in hands-on, inquiry-based science. Together these various networks help raise awareness of key environmental issues, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity, while at the same time promote development of scientific skills among the general population. In addition, they provide valuable scientific data by which to track environmental change. Here we examine the role of citizen science in monitoring biodiversity in Ireland and conclude that some of the data collected in these networks can be used to fulfil Ireland’s statutory obligations for nature conservation. In addition, a bee thought previously to be extinct has been rediscovered and a range expansion of a different bee has been confirmed. However, it also became apparent that some of the networks play more of an educational than a scientific role. Furthermore, we draw on experience from a range of citizen science projects to make recommendations on how best to establish new citizen science projects in Ireland and strengthen existing ones.


Citizen science Ireland Phenology Biodiversity Climate change 



The authors would like to thank all participants of the various citizen science projects. We also thank the reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions which helped improve this paper.


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Copyright information

© ISB 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alison Donnelly
    • 1
    • 2
  • Olivia Crowe
    • 3
  • Eugenie Regan
    • 4
  • Sinead Begley
    • 5
  • Amelia Caffarra
    • 6
  1. 1.Department of GeographyUniversity of Wisconsin-MilwaukeeMilwaukeeUSA
  2. 2.School of Natural SciencesTrinity College DublinDublinIreland
  3. 3.BirdWatch IrelandKilcooleIreland
  4. 4.National Biodiversity Data CentreWaterford Institute of Technology West CampusWaterfordIreland
  5. 5.Sinead Begley and AssociatesDublinIreland
  6. 6.Centre de Recherche de Climatologie, UMR BiogéosciencesUniversité de BourgogneDijonFrance

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