Skip to main content

Advertisement

Log in

The role of citizen science in monitoring biodiversity in Ireland

International Journal of Biometeorology Aims and scope Submit manuscript

Abstract

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.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Institutional subscriptions

Fig. 1a,b
Fig. 2
Fig. 3

References

  • Beaubien EG, Hamann A (2011) Plant phenology networks of citizen scientists: recommendations from two decades of experience in Canada. Int J Biometeorol 55:833–841

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boland H, Crowe O (2012) Irish wetland bird survey: waterbird status and distribution 2001/02–2008/09. BirdWatch Ireland, Kilcoole, Co. Wicklow

  • Bonney R, Cooper CB, Dickinson J, Kelling S, Phillips T, Rosenberg KV, Shirk J (2009) Citizen science: a developing tool for expanding science knowledge and scientific literacy. BioScience 59:977–984

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bonter DN, Cooper CB (2012) Data validation in citizen science: a case study from Project FeederWatch. Front Ecol Environ 10(6):305–307

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Conrad CC, Hilchey KG (2011) A review of citizen science and community-based environmental monitoring: issues and opportunities. Environ Monit Assess 176:273–291

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Courter JR, Johnson RJ, Stuyck CA, Lang BA, Kaiser EW (2012) Weekend bias in Citizen Science data reporting: implications for phenology studies. Int J Biometeorol. doi:10.1007/s00484-121-0598-7

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowe O (2005) The Garden Bird Survey: monitoring birds of Irish gardens during winters between 1995/95 and 2003/04. Irish Birds 7:475–482

    Google Scholar 

  • Crowe O, Austin GE, Colhoun K, Cranswick P, Kershaw M, Musgrove AJ (2008) Estimates and trends of waterbird numbers wintering in Ireland, 1994/95-2003/04. Bird Study 55:66–77

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Crowe O, Coombes RH, Lysaght L, O’Brien C, Choudhury KR, Walsh AJ, Wilson HJ, O’Halloran J (2010) Population trends of widespread breeding birds in the Republic of Ireland 1998–2008. Bird Study 57:267–280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dickinson JL, Zuckerberg B, Bonter DN (2010) Citizen science as an ecological research tool: challenges and benefits. Annu Rev Ecol Evol S 41:149–172

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dickinson JL, Shirk J, Bonter D, Bonney D, Crain RL, Martin J, Phillips T, Purcell K (2012) The current state of citizen science as a tool for ecological research and public engagement. Front Ecol Environ 10(6):291–297

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Editorial N (2009) A public service. Nature 457:8

    Google Scholar 

  • Genet KS, Sargent LG (2003) Evaluation of methods and data quality from a volunteer-based amphibian call survey. Wildlife Soc Bull 31:703–714

    Google Scholar 

  • Gregory RD, van Strien A, Vořišek P, Gmelig Meyling AW, Noble DG, Foppen RPB, Gibbons DW (2005) Developing indicators for European birds. Philos Trans R Soc B 360:269–288

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hutchinson CD (1979) Ireland’s wetlands and their birds. Irish Wildbird Conservancy, Dublin

    Google Scholar 

  • Irish Pollinator Initiative (2012) Newsletter: (http://pollinators.biodiversityireland.ie/wp-content/uploads/Irish-Pollinator-Initiative-newsletter-2012.pdf)

  • Jordan RC, Ballard HL, Phillips TB (2012) Key issues and new approaches for evaluating citizen-science learning outcomes. Front Ecol Environ 10(6):307–309

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kruger LE, Shannon MA (2000) Getting to know ourselves and our places through participation in civic social assessment. Soc Nat Resour 13:461–478

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lepczyk CA, Boyle OD, Vargo TL, Gould P, Jordan R, Liebenberg L, Masi S, Mueller P, Prysby MD, Vaughan H (2009) Symposium 18: Citizen Science in Ecology: the Intersection of Research and Education. Bull Ecol Soc Am 90:308–317. doi:10.1890/0012-9623-90.3.308

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Losey KE, Perlman JE, Hoebeke ER (2007) Citizen scientist rediscovers rare nine-spotted lady beetle, Coccinella novemnotata in eastern North America. J Insect Conserv 11:415–417

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Menzel A, Sparks TH, Estrella N, Koch E, Aasa A, Ahas R, Alm-Kübler K, Bissolli P, Braslavská O, Briede A, Chmielewski FM, Crepinsek Z, Curnel Y, Dahl Å, Defila C, Donnelly A, Filella Y, Jatczak K, Måge F, Mestre A, Nordli Ø, Peñuelas J, Pirinen R, Remišová V, Scheifinger H, Striz M, Suskin A, van Vliet AJH, Wielgolaski FE, Zach S, Zust A (2006) European phenological response to climate change matches the warming pattern. Glob Change Biol 12:1–8

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Miller-Rushing A, Primack R, Bonney R (2012) The history of public participation in ecological research. Front Ecol Environ 10(6):285–290

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Newman G, Wiggins A, Crall A, Graham E, Newman S, Growston K (2012) The future of citizen science: emerging technologies and shifting paradigms. Front Ecol Environ 10(6):298–304

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roxby JL (2011) Motivations and barriers to volunteer participation with citizen science programs. Science Communication Honours Thesis, University of Western Australia

  • Schmeller DS, Henry Y-P, Julliard R, Gruber B, Clobert J, Dziock F, Lengyel S, Nowicki P, Déri E, Budrys E, Kull T, Tali K, Bauch B, Settele J, Van Swaay C, Kobler A, Babij V, Papastergiadou E, Henle K (2008) Advantages of volunteer-based biodiversity monitoring in Europe. Conserv Biol 232:307–316

    Google Scholar 

  • Schwartz MD, Betancourt JL, Weltzin JF (2012) From Caprio’s lilacs to the USA National Phenology Network. Front Ecol Environ 10(6):324–327

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sharrock JTR (1976) The atlas of breeding birds in Britain and Ireland. Poyser, Berkhamsted

    Google Scholar 

  • Silvertown J (2009) A new dawn for citizen science. Trends Ecol Evol 249:467–471

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sparks T, Huber K, Tryjanowski P (2008) Something for the weekend? Examining the bias in avian phenological recording. Int J Biometeorol 52:505–510

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sullivan BL, Wood CL, Iliff MJ, Bonney RE, Fink D, Kelling S (2009) eBird: A citizen-based observation network in the biological sciences. Biol Conserv 142:2282–2292

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wetlands International (2006) Waterbird population estimates, 4th edn. Wetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands

    Google Scholar 

  • Wolcott I, Ingwersen D, Weston MA, Tzaros C (2008) Sustainability of a long-term volunteer-based bird monitoring programme: recruitment, retention and attrition. Aust J Volunteering 13:48–53

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgements

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.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Alison Donnelly.

Appendix

Appendix

Table 3 List of scientific and common names of species cited in Table 1 and Figs. 1 and 3

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Donnelly, A., Crowe, O., Regan, E. et al. The role of citizen science in monitoring biodiversity in Ireland. Int J Biometeorol 58, 1237–1249 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-013-0717-0

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s00484-013-0717-0

Keywords

Navigation