, Volume 12, Issue 4, pp 693–702 | Cite as

Citizen Science and Wildlife Disease Surveillance

  • Becki Lawson
  • Silviu O. Petrovan
  • Andrew A. Cunningham


Achieving effective wildlife disease surveillance is challenging. The incorporation of citizen science (CS) in wildlife health surveillance can be beneficial, particularly where resources are limited and cost-effectiveness is paramount. Reports of wildlife morbidity and mortality from the public facilitate large-scale surveillance, both in time and space, which would otherwise be financially infeasible, and raise awareness of incidents occurring on privately owned land. CS wildlife disease surveillance schemes benefit scientists, the participating public and wildlife alike. CS has been employed for targeted, scanning and syndromic surveillance of wildlife disease. Whilst opportunistic surveillance is most common, systematic observations enable the standardisation of observer effort and, combined with wildlife population monitoring schemes, can allow evaluation of disease impacts at the population level. Near-universal access to digital media has revolutionised reporting modalities and facilitated rapid and economical means of sharing feedback with participants. Here we review CS schemes for wildlife disease surveillance and highlight their scope, benefits, logistical considerations, financial implications and potential limitations. The need to adopt a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to wildlife health surveillance is increasingly recognised and the general public can make a significant contribution through CS.


Scanning Targeted Opportunistic Systematic Syndromic surveillance 



We thank Tim Hopkins (Institute of Zoology), Kirsi Peck (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), Kate Risely (British Trust for Ornithology) and Freya Smith (Animal Plant & Health Agency) for their constructive feedback on this manuscript. BL was awarded a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Travel Fellowship to study citizen science approaches to national wildlife health surveillance. AAC is part-funded by a Royal Society Wolfson Research Merit award. AAC and BL are recipients of funding from the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Strategic Evidence Fund (Contract WC 1027 & WC 1099). SOP is supported by a grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.


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Copyright information

© International Association for Ecology and Health 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Becki Lawson
    • 1
  • Silviu O. Petrovan
    • 2
  • Andrew A. Cunningham
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of ZoologyZoological Society of LondonLondonUK
  2. 2.FroglifePeterboroughUK

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