Citizen Science

Exploring the world with purpose: How Citizen Science offers conscious travel experiences.

From tourist to active contributor: Scientists struggle to reach the public while technology enables non-scientists to participate in data collection, leading to global Citizen Science projects.

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science is the process of non-scientist members of the general public submitting data to scientific studies. This is an easy and simple way for people to volunteer contributions to new scientific discoveries and breakthroughs and is an excellent way to enable large amounts of data to be collected. This is especially useful in conservation research, such as data on species sightings and distributions, as resources are often limited, restricting the amount of data scientists can collect. Having volunteer contributors provides additional data, involves people in the conservation process, and enables much more solid conclusions from the research.

Most citizen science projects use websites or apps where contributors can submit data, learn more about the research, and further educate themselves on the topic. These platforms are designed to make them simple to use, easy to understand, and a fun and engaging way to incorporate science into everyday life – and many of them are suitable for children to participate in too. However, some local projects still use traditional survey forms or have their systems, e.g. for monitoring animals.

Collect important data for science
Actively protect the environ­ment and animals
Become part of a global conser­va­tion community
Deepen your knowledge in new areas

Adventures to get you dreaming

Why is Citizen Science important?

Involving people in the scientific process is a core way to capture people’s interest in science, promote education around specific topics, and increase support for conservation and environmental research. Through citizen science projects, people can use their hobbies and interests to make real change and have a positive impact on communities, wildlife, and the environment. This helps raise awareness of conservation initiatives, gaining crucial support from local communities and facilitating discoveries.

With the added tool of technology, scientists can now recruit citizen scientists to help create vast, long-term datasets including thousands of people, providing data that could not be realistically gathered in any other way. This cuts costs, time, and effort, without losing any scientific value. Learning about the scientific process, and how data is used to draw conclusions and inform actions for conservation, can encourage people to connect more with the world around them and appreciate local wildlife and natural systems.


What kind of projects exist?

There are thousands of citizen science projects to choose from, covering all areas of environmentalism, wildlife conservation, and green living. A simple internet search can draw up a huge list of projects, guaranteed to include your area of interest, no matter how specific. You can contribute from the comfort of your own home or local area, through using an app or website, but if you want to get more involved, there are also plentiful on-site projects and experiences at a global scale.

Digital Citizen Science projects

For example for the avid bird watcher, eBird is a great tool to record species sightings, locate hotspots for specific birds, and explore the huge selection of information provided by other birdwatchers. Data from eBird has been built up over 20 years, creating a vast resource for studies and enabling trends over time to be easily identified over large areas. This has contributed to many important studies and plays a vital role in conservation.

Mammalweb is a similar platform, designed to record the distribution of mammals. As many mammals are nocturnal and only active at night, the most common data collection method is to use camera trapping. Users can submit sightings from their camera traps and video footage, and use the site’s visual comparisons to classify the species they have seen and add it to the database. This data has been used to support published papers, and presented at both national and international conferences regarding mammalian ecology, playing a role in our understanding of how best to protect these animals.

Another Example: Nature’s Calendar focuses on seasonality data – users can submit sightings of buds on trees, flowers blooming, and other seasonal signals from their local ecosystems and wild places. This helps scientists to understand annual changes in the timings of the seasons, which are strongly connected to climate, weather, animal migrations, and wildlife survival rates – all of which are impacted heavily by climate change.


On-site Citizen Science projects

For those who want a more immersive, hands-on, and educational experience, joining an on-site citizen science project can be an excellent way to gain new skills and contribute to meaningful conservation efforts. Many projects focus on direct wildlife conservation actions, such as wildlife rehabilitation, population monitoring, and habitat restoration, and can range from two to twelve weeks.

A popular project theme is sea turtle conservation. These projects are easy for non-scientists to engage with, as they are often land-based, and located in popular tourist destinations such as Greece, Costa Rica, Mexico, Thailand, Indonesia, and South Africa. Volunteers can contribute to beach cleaning, turtle nest monitoring, care of baby turtles in nurseries, and release into the wild. Many projects offer accommodation and meals in exchange for a head fee, which goes towards supporting the conservation efforts. These programs also include plenty of free time, allowing you to enjoy the rich culture and wildlife of the country such as visiting the temples and elephant shelters in Thailand or experiencing safaris and sunrise hikes in South Africa.


For environmentally-conscious plant-lovers, many projects focused on reforestation operate across the globe, from the boreal forests of northern Europe to tropical mangroves in Madagascar. Here, volunteers can get stuck into active tree planting and habitat restoration, which can have immediate impacts on local environments and communities, as well as contribute to carbon sequestration. Tree planting can be physically laborious, and so the help of fit and enthusiastic volunteers is essential for the success of these programs.

Many research expeditions are run annually across the world, supported by volunteers who live and work as part of the research team for a short period. Research can involve plant community identification, mammal population monitoring, and recording rare bird sightings.

Everyone can contribute to Citizen Science Projects

Overall, there is a citizen science project out there to suit every hobby and interest, whether that be from the comfort of your garden or on a remote island in the tropics. The chance to deepen your scientific understanding and contribute to real, vital conservation efforts and collection of crucial data is at your fingertips - all you have to do is choose the right project for you.

There is something to suit all experience levels and budgets, so get stuck in and see what you can do to participate in making our planet a healthier, more biodiverse place.

- written by Sophie Coxon


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