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Citizen Science: Innovations & Trends in digital communication tools

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Trends in digital communication are supporting the advancement of the citizen science field.

Here are some examples of projects these are using these tools used at various phases of the citizen science project lifecycle – from collecting data to engaging volunteers. We’re increasingly also seeing tools that work across multiple phases.

If you already are running a citizen science project, or looking to start a new one, I hope this will spark some ideas about how you can leverage these tools.

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Double-crested Cormorant, many roosting (Salton Sea, Feb.)

Is there room for compassion in conservation?

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Is it ok to kill thousands of cormorants to save endangered salmon? In many conservation initiatives, the welfare of individual animals tends to be ignored on utilitarian grounds.  But do conservation practice and concern for animal welfare really need to be so polarised? Not according to proponents of the “compassionate conservation” movement, who call for empathy for individual animals to be factored into decision-making processes.

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Art for Conservation

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Turtle, made by Ellarose Savage in 2012 from ghost nets. Acquired 2013 - E095503.    Photographer:Rebecca FisherRights:© Australian Museum - See more at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/image/Turtle-4/#sthash.fGZZGBI0.dpuf

Turtle, made by Ellarose Savage in 2012 from ghost nets. Acquired 2013 – E095503.
Photographer:Rebecca FisherRights:© Australian Museum
– See more at: http://australianmuseum.net.au/image/Turtle-4/#sthash.fGZZGBI0.dpuf

Communicating cold, dry facts doesn’t encourage people to care more about the environment. But art can – by engaging our hearts instead of our minds.  Art is increasingly being used as a tool to raise awareness of conservation issues. This blog features three projects that meld art with powerful conservation messages.

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Citizen Science: Tech Trends and Best Practice

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World Parks Congress 2014 Citizen Science Best Practice

World Parks Congress 2014 Citizen Science Best Practice

Citizen science is currently booming, thanks advances in low cost communication technology including online and smart phone data collection, sensors, GIS and social media. Whilst citizen science projects present a number of challenges,  many can be overcome through good project design that follows a best practice-framework.

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Fun with citizen science: The Aussie Backyard Bird Count

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Tree Martin (Petrochelidon nigricans),  by Aviceda http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Aviceda , Available on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons 3.0 license

Tree Martin (Petrochelidon nigricans), by Aviceda http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Aviceda , Available on Wikimedia Commons under a Creative Commons 3.0 license

The inaugural Aussie Backyard Bird Count was a lot of fun, and illustrates the power of citizen science to increase public engagement and build knowledge. The data gathered should also provide a baseline for urban and suburban bird population trends. Despite  these benefits, the bird count also illustrates some of the challenges faced by citizen science initiatives.

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Changes in the landscape during the soil and water conservation project in Changting County in 2000 (Left) and 2008 (Right; Cao et al. 2009).

A win-win approach to restoring ecosystems and reducing poverty

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A case study from China, recently published in the journal Ecology and Society,  illustrates the need to consider the needs of local residents in  ecological restoration initiatives. In Changting County, a win-win outcome resulted from a combination of stakeholder engagement, education and training,  scientific research, and fiscal incentives.

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Silver Lining

WWF’s Living Planet Report: Finding Hope and Solutions

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For those who care about nature, the outlook from the 2014 WWF Living Planet report appears bleak. However, we can continue to learn from – and build on – the successes of protected areas, ecotourism and community management, the valuation of ecosystem services, and renewable energy sources. We must not lose hope.

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Banksia (Royal National Park)

Flora conservation in action: the Australian PlantBank

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Almost 1,200 species of Australian plants are threatened with extinction. Seed banks – such as the impressive new National PlantBank – are a vital component of strategies to safeguard the future of Australia’s unique flora. They can also play an important role in restoring natural ecosystems and conservation education programs.

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Puffin Parade. Photo by AI S, available from Flickr under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

Case study: Community education and seabird conservation in Quebec

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The success of the Marine Bird Conservation Project in Quebec’s Gulf of St Lawrence is a <strong>classic conservation success story.</strong> It demonstrates the effectiveness of integrating conservation education with local community needs and social norms. I think’s a great case study of an effective and culturally appropriate conservation initiative, and  provides practical tips that can be applied to other conservation communication and education projects.

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Young-Orangutan-Borneo

Four reasons why we should bother saving endangered species

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Why bother saving endangered species such as the orang-utan? Because 1) We need healthy and diverse ecosystems to survive, 2) Biodiversity enriches our lives, 3)  Biodiversity has immense economic value, and 4) Preventing extinctions is right thing to do.

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Birdwatchers in Central Park, by Daniel Schwen http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birdwatching.jpg

Citizen science can engage, inspire, and educate

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Citizen science is a powerful tool that can conservationists can use to nurture biophilia and encourage active public participation. Numerous studies have shown that well designed citizen science initiatives can increase ecological knowledge and foster pro-environmental attitudes and behaviours.

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'Pollution and power lines in northern China' by Adam Cohn,

Changing the culture of doom

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The culture of doom amongst conservationists reduces their ability to engage and mobilise the public. Success stories need to be told more often, and in a way that can inspire the public and provide hope for a more ecocentric future.

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