Care-Based Citizen Science: Nurturing an Ethic of Care to Support the Preservation of Biodiversity

  • Renée LyonsEmail author
  • Cassie F. QuigleyEmail author
  • Michelle Cook
Part of the Environmental Discourses in Science Education book series (EDSE, volume 2)


As science educators we have the unique opportunity to raise student awareness of conservation issues and to nurture within them a commitment to act on behalf of the environment. Here we discuss a specific pedagogy for ecojustice, citizen science projects, and continue conversations about how such projects can be used to develop caring relationships between students and animal species. The purpose of this chapter is to advance understanding about how citizen science projects can be used for ecojustice, through projects we describe as “care-based citizen science.” We introduce Nel Noddings’ philosophy and explain how her ideas on an ethic of care more fully describe the caring relationships with animals and natural environments, which are necessary to support ecojustice. Our work adds to the current body of literature by providing (1) context for care-based work through citizen-science projects, (2) a description of care-based citizen science, (3) specific recommendations for nurturing an ethic of care, and (4) an explanation of how care-based citizen science projects depend on the four vital elements for teaching to support an ethic of care.


Citizen science Ecojustice Conservation Care-based scientific work Ethics 


  1. Alexander, A., & Russo, S. (2010). Let’s start in our own backyard: Children’s engagement with science through the natural environment. Teaching Science: The Journal of the Australian Science Teachers Association, 56, 47–54.Google Scholar
  2. Becker, M., Caminiti, S., Fiorella, D., Francis, L., Gravino, P., Haklay, M., et al. (2013). Awareness and learning in participatory noise sensing. PLoS ONE, 8, 1–12. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bonney, R., Ballard, H., Jordan, R., McCallie, E., Phillips, T., Shirk, J., & Wilderman, C. (2009). Public participation in scientific research: Defining the field and assessing it’s potential for informal science education. (A CAISE Inquiry Group Report). Washington DC: Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education.Google Scholar
  4. Bonter, D., & Cooper, C. (2012). Data validation in citizen science: A case study from project FeederWatch. The Ecological Society of America, 10, 305–307. doi:
  5. Bowers, C. A. (2001). Educating for eco-justice and community. Athens: University of Georgia Press.Google Scholar
  6. Bowers, C. A. (2002). Toward an eco-justice pedagogy. Environmental Education Research, 8, 21–34. doi:
  7. Britton, S., & Tippins, D. (2015). Teaching with citizen science--it’s more than just putting out fires. In EcoJustice, citizen science and youth activism (pp. 207–222). Switzerland: Springer International Publishing. doi:
  8. Care. (n.d.) In Cambridge dictionaries online. Retrieved February 4, 2016, from
  9. Chawla, L. (1999). Life paths into effective environmental action. The Journal of Environmental Education, 31, 15–26. doi:
  10. Chu, M., Leonard, P., & Stevenson, F. (2012). Growing the base for citizen science: recruiting and engaging participants. Citizen Science: Public Participation in Environmental Research, 69–81.Google Scholar
  11. Cohn, J. P. (2008). Citizen science: Can volunteers do real research? Bioscience, 58, 192–197. doi:
  12. Cooper, C. B., Dickinson, J., Phillips, T., & Bonney, R. (2007). Citizen science as a tool for conservation in residential ecosystems. Ecology & Society, 12, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Cronje, R., Rohlinger, S., Crall, A., & Newman, G. (2011). Does participation in citizen science improve scientific literacy? A study to compare assessment methods. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 10, 135–145. doi:
  14. Davies, B., & Harré, R. (1990). Positioning: The discursive production of selves. Journal for the Theory of Social Behaviour, 20, 43–63. doi:
  15. Delaney, D., Sperling, C., Adams, C., & Leung, B. (2008). Marine invasive species: Validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions, 10, 117–128. doi:
  16. Devictor, V., Whittaker, R. J., & Beltrame, C. (2010). Beyond scarcity: Citizen science programmes as useful tools for conservation biogeography. Diversity and Distributions, 16, 354–362. doi:
  17. Dickinson, J. L., Zuckerberg, B., & Bonter, D. N. (2010). Citizen science as an ecological research tool: Challenges and benefits. Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics, 41, 149–172. doi:
  18. Dickinson, J. L., Shirk, J., Bonter, D., Bonney, R., Crain, R. L., Martin, J.,... Purcell, K. (2012). The current state of citizen science as a tool for ecological research and public engagement. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10, 291–297. doi:
  19. Dohrenwend, P. (2012). Citizen science international pellet watch. Science Scope, 36(3), 50–53.Google Scholar
  20. Druschke, C. G., & Seltzer, C. E. (2012). Failures of engagement: Lessons learned from a citizen science pilot study. Applied Environmental Education & Communication, 11, 178–188. doi:
  21. Fee, J., & Trautmann, N. (2012). Connecting to your community through birds and citizen science. Science Scope, 36, 62–68.Google Scholar
  22. Fien, J. (1997). Learning to care: A focus for values in health and environmental education. Health Education Research, 12, 437–447. doi:
  23. Fien, J. (2003). Learning to care: Education and compassion. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 19, 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Gibbons, J. W., Scott, D. E., Ryan, T. J., Buhlmann, K. A., Tuberville, T. D., Metts, B. S., … Poppy, S. (2000). The global decline of reptiles, déjà vu amphibians. Bioscience, 50, 653–666. doi:[0653:TGDORD]2.0.CO;2
  25. Giddens, A. (1991). Modernity and self-identity: Self and society in the late modern age. Stanford: Stanford University Press.Google Scholar
  26. Goble, D., Scott, M., & Davis, F. (Eds.). (2006). The endangered species act at thirty: Vol. 1: Renewing the conservation promise. Washington, DC: Island Press.Google Scholar
  27. Goralnik, L., Millenbah, K. F., Nelson, M. P., & Thorp, L. (2012). An environmental pedagogy of care: Emotion, relationships, and experience in higher education ethics learning. Journal of Experiential Education, 35, 412–428. doi:
  28. Greaves, E., Stanisstreet, M., Boyes, E., & Williams, T. (1993). Children’s ideas about rainforests. Journal of Biological Education, 27, 189–194. doi:
  29. Havens, K., Vitt, P., & Masi, S. (2012). Citizen science on a local scale: The plants of concern program. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10, 321–323. doi:
  30. Holt, M. (2002). It’s time to start the slow school movement. Phi Delta Kappa, 84, 264–271. doi:
  31. Hungerford, H., Peyton, R. B., & Wilke, R. J. (1980). Goals for curriculum development in environmental education. The Journal of Environmental Education, 11, 42–47. doi:
  32. Jickling, B. (2003). Environmental education and environmental advocacy: Revisited. The Journal of Environmental Education, 34, 20–27. doi:
  33. Jickling, B., & Wals, A. E. (2008). Globalization and environmental education: Looking beyond sustainable development. Journal of Curriculum Studies,40, 1–21. doi:
  34. Johnson, E. A., & Mappin, M. J. (2005). Environmental education and advocacy: Changing perspectives of ecology and education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Karrow, D., & Fazio, X. (2010). Educating-within-place: Care, citizen science, and ecojustice. In D. Tippins, M. Mueller, M. van Eijck, & J. Adams (Eds.), Cultural studies and environmentalism: The confluence of EcoJustice, place-based (science) education, and indigeneous knowledge systems (pp. 193–214). New York: Springer International Publishing. doi:
  36. Kelly, T. R., Rideout, B. A., Grantham, J., Brandt, J., Burnett, L. J., Sorenson, K. J., et al. (2015). Two decades of cumulative impacts to survivorship of endangered California condors in California. Biological Conservation, 191, 391–399.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Kim, S., Robson, C., Zimmerman, T., Pierce, J., & Haber, E. M. (2011). Creek watch: Pairing usefulness and usability for successful citizen science. Paper presented at the Proceedings of the SIGCHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Vancouver, Canada, pp. 2125–2134.Google Scholar
  38. Kulnieks, A., Longboat, D., & Young, K. (2014). Engaging literacies through ecologically minded curriculum: Educating teachers about indigenous education through an ecojustice education framework. in education, 19. Retrieved from
  39. Lee, K., Kim, Y., Lee, J., Song, M., & Nam, S. (2008). Toxicity of firefly, luciola lateralis (coleoptera: Lampyridae) to commercially registered insecticides and fertilizers. Korean Journal of Applied Entomology, 47, 265–272. doi:
  40. Littledyke, M. (2008). Science education for environmental awareness: Approaches to integrating cognitive and affective domains. Environmental Education Research, 14, 1–17. doi:
  41. Lowenstein, E., Martusewicz, R., & Voelker, L. (2010). Developing teachers’ capacity for ecojustice education and community-based learning. Teacher Education Quarterly, 37, 99–118.Google Scholar
  42. Martin, P. (2007). Caring for the environment: Challenges from notions of caring. Australian Journal of Environmental Education, 23, 57–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. McCaffrey, R. E. (2005). Using citizen science in urban bird studies. Urban Habitats, 3, 70–86.Google Scholar
  44. Miller-Rushing, A. J., Primack, R., & Bonney, R. (2012). The history of public participation in ecological research. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 10, 285–290. doi:
  45. Mueller, M. P. (2009). Educational reflections on the “ecological crisis”: Ecojustice, environmentalism, and sustainability. Science & Education, 18, 1031–1056. doi:
  46. Mueller, M. P., & Pickering, J. (2010). Bee Hunt! Ecojustice in practice for Earth’s buzzing biodiversity. Science Activities, 47, 151–159. doi:
  47. Mueller, M. P., & Tippins, D. J. (2012). Citizen science, ecojustice, and science education: Rethinking an education from nowhere. In Second international handbook of science education (pp. 865–882). Netherlands: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Mueller, M. P., Tippins, D., & Bryan, L. (2012). The future of citizen science. Democracy and Education, 20, 1–12.Google Scholar
  49. Newfield, J. W. and McElyea, U.B. (1984) Affective outcomes, indoctrination and the use of case rhetoric in curriculum guides, Journal of Curriculum Studies, 16, 100–102. doi:
  50. Noddings, N. (1984). Caring: A feminist approach to ethics and education. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  51. Noddings, N. (1988). An ethic of caring and its implications for instructional arrangements. American Journal of Education, 96, 215–230. doi:
  52. Noddings, N. (1995). A morally defensible mission for schools in the 21st century. Phi Delta Kappa, 76, 365–368.Google Scholar
  53. Noddings, N. (2002). Educating moral people: A caring alternative to character education. Williston: Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  54. Noddings, N. (2006). Critical lessons: What our schools should teach. Cambridge, MA: Cambridge University Press. doi:
  55. Noddings, N. (2012). The language of care ethics. Knowledge Quest, 40(5), 52–56.Google Scholar
  56. Noddings, N. (2013). Caring: A relational approach to ethics and moral education. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  57. Norton, B. G. (Ed.). (1986). The preservation of species: The value of biological diversity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  58. Pachauri, R. K., & Reisinger, A. (2007). Contribution of working groups I, II and III to the fourth assessment report of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Paper presented at the IPCC, Geneva, Switzerland, p. 104.Google Scholar
  59. Palmer, J. A., & Suggate, J. (1996). Influences and experiences affecting the pro-environmental behaviour of educators. Environmental Education Research, 2, 109–121. doi:
  60. Patterson, B. (2012). Communities, cameras, and conservation. The Science Teacher, 79, 40.Google Scholar
  61. Peterson, A. L. (2009). Everyday ethics and social change: The education of desire. New York: Columbia University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Pizzi, F., Caroli, A. M., Landini, M., Galluccio, N., Mezzelani, A., & Milanesi, L. (2013). Conservation of endangered animals: From biotechnologies to digital preservation. Natural Science, 5, 1–11. doi:
  63. Quigley, C.F. & Lyons, R. (2015) The role of care in environmental education. In A. Bellochi, K. Cass, & C. F. Quigley (Eds.), Exploring emotions, aesthetics and wellbeing in science education research. Dordrecht: Springer.Google Scholar
  64. Seebacher, F., & Franklin, C. E. (2012). Determining environmental causes of biological effects: The need for a mechanistic physiological dimension in conservation biology. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London.Series B, Biological Sciences, 367, 1607–1614. doi:
  65. Sobel, D. (1996). Beyond ecophobia: Reclaiming the heart in nature education. Great Barrington: Orion Society.Google Scholar
  66. Sterba, J. (2001). Three challenges to ethics: Environmentalism, feminism, and multiculturalism. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  67. Summers, S. (2012). Turtle conservation and citizen science: A winning combination for your classroom-connect students to the natural world by studying the impact of invasive species in your neck of the woods. Science Scope, 36, 36.Google Scholar
  68. Thancharoen, A., Branham, M. A., & Lloyd, J. E. (2008). Building Twilight “Light Sensors” To Study the Effects of Light Pollution on Fireflies. The American Biology Teacher, 70, 6–12. doi:[6:BTLS]2.0.CO;2
  69. Thayer-Bacon, B. J. (2004). Personal and social relations in education. Counterpoints, 259, 165–179.Google Scholar
  70. Tobin, K., & Roth, W. M. (2005). Implementing coteaching and cogenerative dialoguing in urban science education. School Science and Mathematics,105, 313–322.doi:
  71. Trathan, P. N., García-Borboroglu, P., Boersma, D., Bost, C., Crawford, R. J., Crossin, G. T., … De La Puente, S. (2015). Pollution, habitat loss, fishing, and climate change as critical threats to penguins. Conservation Biology, 29, 31–41. doi:
  72. Trautmann, N., Fee, J., & Kahler, P. (2012). Investigating local bird species through citizen science. The Science Teacher, (December), 45–50.Google Scholar
  73. Turner, R. J. (2015). Teaching for ecojustice: Curriculum and lessons for secondary and college classrooms. New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  74. Venter, E., & Ferreira, J. G. (2014). A plea for environmental education that focuses on learning to care. The Journal of Human Ecology, 46, 33–38.Google Scholar
  75. Wandersee, J. H., & Schussler, E. E. (1999). Preventing plant blindness. The American Biology Teacher, 61, 82–86. doi:
  76. Wenger, E. (2003). Communities of practice: Learning, meaning, and identity. Journal of Mathematics Teacher Education, 6, 185–194. doi:
  77. Willem Postma, D., & Smeyers, P. (2012). Like a swallow, moving forward in circles: On the future dimension of environmental care and education. Journal of Moral Education, 41, 399–412. doi:
  78. Wing, S., Horton, R. A., Muhammad, N., Grant, G. R., Tajik, M., & Thu, K. (2008). Integrating epidemiology, education, and organizing for environmental justice: Community health effects of industrial hog operations. American Journal of Public Health, 98, 1390–1397. doi:

Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Clemson UniversityClemsonUSA
  2. 2.Eugene T. Moore School of EducationClemson UniversityClemsonUSA

Personalised recommendations