Many Hands, New Knowledge: The Value of Citizen Science
At this Earthwatch lecture, our scientists showed how technology and volunteers are the way forward for environmental conservation in a world that needs citizen science more than ever.
Scientists from Earthwatch showed how modern technology and dedicated volunteers are the way forward for environmental conservation in a world that needs “people power” more than ever.
The lecture was hosted by BBC TV presenter and Earthwatch ambassador Paul Rose, whose new series “Britain’s Secret Seas” began airing on Sunday, May 8, 2011, on BBC 2.
Earthwatch Executive Vice President Nigel Winser said, “This year we celebrate our 40th anniversary - 40 years of pioneering citizen science. At Earthwatch we believe that engaging all areas of society in the tough environmental challenges that we face is the future. Protecting our planet for future generations is a huge and complex task. This is why motivating a worldwide task force of people dedicated to protecting our planet is crucial.”
Paul Rose added, “I’ve experienced firsthand the degradation of some of the most beautiful and species-rich environments on our planet. We do not have the luxury of time to safeguard these precious resources for future generations. By involving many thousands of people from all over the world in hands-on data collection, Earthwatch is able to massively accelerate the rate at which we are able to gather the information we need to make bold and informed conservation decisions.”
Paul Rose, Dr. William Megill and Dr. Chris Newman on citizen science and its environmental importance
At the lecture, marine scientist Dr. William Megill of the University of Bath talked about the contribution that Earthwatch volunteers have made to his research on gray whales and turtles in the North Pacific for the past 10 years. Dr. Megill showed how technology has developed from 35-millimeter film cameras and hours of darkroom work, to modern and accurate global positioning systems that allow precise data to be obtained remotely. His research is also experimenting with the development of new submersible robots.
Dr. Megill explained how Earthwatch volunteers are crucial to generating high-quality data and conservation success: “Without the many pairs of hands that volunteers are able to provide to assist researchers, the delicate instrumentation which we rely on would just be flotsam collecting barnacles on the ocean.”
Earthwatch scientist Dr. Chris Newman from the University of Oxford presented the results of the research he is doing, together with Dr. Christina Buesching, on the impact of climate change on the mammal populations of Nova Scotia. These landmark papers highlight how, with the right training, volunteers from all walks of life can make a significant contribution to the study of ecosystems and climate change. According to Buesching and Newman’s analyses, people from diverse backgrounds, including company employees, teachers, and teams of teenage students, can all make valuable contributions to conservation research, while at the same time personally benefitting from the volunteer experience.