[Taxacom] Citizen Science

John Grehan calabar.john at gmail.com
Fri Oct 24 08:33:03 CDT 2014


And the problem of geographic bias is not confined to 'citizen science'.
Years ago I was made aware of research collection records that had some
very intriguing distribution patterns - intriguing until one realized that
they often tracked where the roads were or places that had road access.
Perhaps the only rephrasing of the section quoted that I would have
suggested would be that the problems apply to any approach that lacks
appropriate protocols (whether a citizen scientist or any other type of
scientist [presumably a scientist who is not a citizen?]). But it always
easier to identify the limits of language after the fact.

John Grehan

On Fri, Oct 24, 2014 at 8:54 AM, JF Mate <aphodiinaemate at gmail.com> wrote:

> Continuing Stephen and  thread on Darren Ward and Citizen Science. I
> am attaching an excerpt of his abstract:
>
> Darren Ward (excerpt from abstract of the article):
>
> “Over the course of 1 year 25 members contributed 360 records from 186
> taxa, including the discovery of several introduced species new to New
> Zealand. There was a strong geographical bias to the records, with the
> majority being based around the major cities. Aculeates (stinging
> wasps) were significantly over-represented in the NatureWatch records.
> Only half (55 %) of taxa were identified to species level, with a
> further 28 % at genus level, and 17 % identified above genus level
> (family, order). Furthermore, the majority (65 %) of taxa were
> recorded only once, and only a few taxa were recorded [5 times (top
> records were ‘‘Ichneumonidae’’, ‘‘Hymenoptera’’, Anthidium manicatum,
> and Apis mellifera). It is probable that these same biases also exist
> for many other taxonomic groups in projects operated by citizen
> scientists lacking set protocols. Caution should be exercised on the
> subsequent use, compilation, and analysis of citizen science,
> especially without prior examination of records and potential biases.”
>
>
> (Stephen´s opinion crudely cut and pasted here) “I interpret this to
> have been a deliberate attempt to reinforce to the professional
> community the (false) idea that such "citizen science" projects aren't
> worth bothering with.”
>
>
> Seriously, what is the problem with what Mr Ward is saying? If you
> check any of the sites mentioned in Taxacom you will discover that
> what he is saying is true! This is not a criticism of nature lovers,
> it is a human condition: we love butterflies and colourful things and
> dislike small creepy-crawlies. Why would you expect different from the
> subset of nature macrophotographers?
>
> Jason
>
>
>
> On 24 October 2014 09:17, Alastair   Culham <a.culham at reading.ac.uk>
> wrote:
> > For the past year we've been running a citizen science project to survey
> powdery mildew species around the UK in a joint project with the Royal
> Horticultural Society -
> http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/crg/powdery-mildew-survey/
> >
> > This has resulted in a data set of around 200 samples in the trial year
> including 59 different PM species
> http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/whiteknightsbiodiversity/campus-species-lists/fungi/powdery-mildew-2014/.
> We are hoping for over 1000 samples next season.
> >
> > Samples are identified using a combination of morphological and
> molecular techniques by a research council funded PhD student and the
> results are emailed back to the sample providers as well as posted on our
> blogs.  Engaging the UK public in this scheme has allowed a more widespread
> sampling and allows the student doing the work to focus on lab work rather
> than chasing around the UK for samples.
> >
> > The challenge has been to keep the survey in people's minds so that we
> get samples sent on a regular basis throughout the long mildew season.
> This is a non-trivial job and requires a lot of forward planning.
> >
> > Ours is a small CS scheme compared with large scale monitoring of the UK
> flora by the BSBI which has a network of local (usually highly expert)
> regional recorders and a further network of taxonomic experts to back them
> up.  The common feature of effective CS schemes is that there is an ongoing
> investment in management of them and close monitoring of data quality.
> >
> > CS can be highly effective and can be a very cost effective way of
> gathering data if the scheme is run well.  All science risks a rubbish in,
> rubbish out scenario and CS is just as sensitive to this as any other
> science is.
> >
> > Alastair
> > ____________________________________________
> >
> > Dr Alastair Culham
> > Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics
> > Harborne Building, School of Biological Sciences
> > University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AS
> > U.K.
> >
> > Associate Professor of Botany
> > Curator, Reading University Herbarium (RNG)
> > ____________________________________________
> >
> > ________________________________________
> > From: Taxacom [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] on behalf of Stephen
> Thorpe [stephen_thorpe at yahoo.co.nz]
> > Sent: 23 October 2014 21:35
> > To: KenWalker; John Grehan
> > Cc: Taxacom
> > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
> >
> > Ken may be a little bit oversensitive, given that he probably has to
> constantly battle the indifference to (and sometimes obstruction of)
> citizen science, by entomologist colleagues. In my view, biodiversity
> recording sites like Project Noah, iSpot, iNaturalist, BowerBird,
> NatureWatch NZ, etc. are not actually all that useful *as initially
> conceived* (photos in the field of live organisms), but can evolve into
> something far more useful. I agree that there is not much point in
> thousands of records of monarch butterflies, and no little brown micro
> moths. For some idea of my vision for these biodiversity recording sites, I
> invite you to browse my own 2489 contributions to NatureWatch NZ, here:
> http://naturewatch.org.nz/observations/stho002
> >
> > Stephen
> >
> > --------------------------------------------
> > On Fri, 24/10/14, John Grehan <calabar.john at gmail.com> wrote:
> >
> >  Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia aldabrae
> >  To: "Walker, Ken" <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au>
> >  Cc: "Taxacom" <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> >  Received: Friday, 24 October, 2014, 2:51 AM
> >
> >  Ken,
> >
> >  Admittedly I only read postings in a fragmentary way and I
> >  know I sometimes
> >  miss items, but I am confused by your reference to Jason
> >  Mate saying the
> >  the efforts of citizen science can be dismissed as " are
> >  taking pictures of
> >  "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or yellow." What I read
> >  was that he said
> >  that "The decline in "natural history" amateurs is global
> >  and cannot be
> >  compensated by the explosion of macrophotography since they
> >  (mostly) are
> >  taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue or
> >  yellow." This made
> >  no reference to 'citizen science' and I did not see any
> >  implication of
> >  such. It was only a criticism of a particular mode of
> >  information gathering
> >  or sharing. I would be grateful therefore for how you made
> >  that link the
> >  way you did.
> >
> >  John Grehan
> >
> >  On Wed, Oct 22, 2014 at 9:04 PM, Walker, Ken <kwalker at museum.vic.gov.au
> >
> >  wrote:
> >
> >  > Hi Jason,
> >  >
> >  > I totally disagree with your assessment of citizen
> >  science being on the
> >  > decline and that the efforts of citizen science can be
> >  dismissed as " are
> >  > taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue
> >  or yellow."
> >  >
> >  > Here is Australia, we have a citizen science website
> >  called BowerBird
> >  > which is a socially interactive website somewhat like
> >  the northern
> >  > hemisphere equivalents of Project Noah, iNaturalist and
> >  iSpot.  For me, the
> >  > quality of a citizen science website is whether or not
> >  the data it
> >  > generates is on-shared with national or international
> >  biodiversity
> >  > databases.
> >  >
> >  > Let me give you one BowerBird example that came in this
> >  month.  A citizen
> >  > science person submitted an image of a
> >  ladybeetle.  He had tried to
> >  > identify it himself but could not place the
> >  species.  In Australia, we have
> >  > a wonderful CSIRO website displaying all known extant
> >  Australian ladybeetle
> >  > species.  The BowerBird image did not match any of
> >  the images on the
> >  > diagnostic website.  So, we sent the image to the
> >  BMNH ladybeetle expert
> >  > who came back with the statement "Back from the
> >  Dead".  The species
> >  > photographed was presumed to be extinct as it had not
> >  been seen or recorded
> >  > since 1940.  The story of this citizen science
> >  find was told in one of our
> >  > national newspapers:
> >  >
> http://www.theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/extinct-ladybird-back-from-the-dead-20141014-115u4j.html
> >  > (where you can see an image of the beetle).
> >  >
> >  > To me, the essence of science is to observe and ask
> >  questions.  What
> >  > better way is there than to have thousands of "natural
> >  history amateur
> >  > eyes" documenting spatial and temporal data for the
> >  Australian (swap
> >  > Australia for any other country) biota.  BowerBird
> >  has discovered new
> >  > species and helped to track invasive species.  The
> >  exotic carder bee
> >  > (Afranthidium (Immanthidium) repetitum) was first
> >  reported in Brisbane in
> >  > 2000.  By 2007, it had been recorded  south
> >  in Sydney but since the Sydney
> >  > records no further distribution extensions had been
> >  recorded.  Then in
> >  > February and March 2014, two amateurs noticed a
> >  "strange bee" in their
> >  > garden.  They photographed their strange bee and
> >  posted the images on
> >  > BowerBird with the question "Bee ID?".  We bee
> >  "experts" immediately
> >  > recognised it as the South African carder bee and the
> >  records came from
> >  > hundreds of kilometres north of Brisbane and hundreds
> >  south of Sydney - on
> >  > the state of Victoria's border.  Australia has
> >  many exotic "sleeper weeds"
> >  > but they remain in small numbers as they lack their
> >  effective pollinator.
> >  > The spread of any exotic pollinator needs to be
> >  monitored and watched for a
> >  > possible explosion of a sleeper weed. It was citizen
> >  science who alerted us
> >  > to this alarming spread.
> >  >
> >  > BowerBird "favourites" are often created by an "expert"
> >  mentoring "natural
> >  > history amateur eyes" .  One such case is the
> >  humble but extraordinary life
> >  > styled and bizarrely coloured flatworms.
> >  Australia has only one flatworm
> >  > expert located in north Queensland.  However, he
> >  has inspired many
> >  > BowerBird members from around Australia to roll back
> >  logs in search of
> >  > these flatworms.  The expert identifies each
> >  flatworm image posted to
> >  > BowerBird but he adds stories about how the scientific
> >  name was derived and
> >  > about the species behaviour.  There are now almost
> >  50 BowerBird members on
> >  > the Flatworm project who have image captured many of
> >  Australia's flatworm
> >  > species.  The expert has told me that for many
> >  species, the BowerBird
> >  > images were his first live images for many species - he
> >  usually sees them
> >  > as pickled individuals.  The expert has also
> >  requested and been able to get
> >  > these amateurs to collect and send him specimens for
> >  DNA analysis.  If you
> >  > have never seen a flatworm or want to read something
> >  about them, then I
> >  > recommend the flatworm project:
> >  > http://www.bowerbird.org.au/projects/1633/sightings
> >  >
> >  > Finally, the Australian GBIF node is ALA (Atlas of
> >  Living Australia).
> >  > BowerBird went live in May 2013 and there are automatic
> >  weekly data
> >  > (images. Identifications, spatrila/temporal etc)
> >  uploads to ALA.
> >  > Currently, there are almost 11,000 BowerBird records on
> >  ALA (to see the
> >  > spread of records from around Australia see:
> >  >
> http://biocache.ala.org.au/occurrences/search?q=data_resource_uid:dr893#tab_mapView
> >  > ).  This represents about a 60% identification
> >  success rate for images that
> >  > you describe as "pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller,
> >  red, blue or yellow."
> >  >
> >  > New species have been nominated, new distributions have
> >  been recorded, new
> >  > stories have been told about the Australian fauna, new
> >  friendships have
> >  > been made and these new "friends" now go out together
> >  on their own
> >  > photographic BioBlitzes and on-share their finds to
> >  BowerBird to ALA to
> >  > GBIF.  I'm happy with this deal !!
> >  >
> >  > I am sure these stories here can be repeated for
> >  Project Noah, iNaturalist
> >  > and iSpot.
> >  >
> >  > For me, citizen science is on the up not the
> >  decline.  Getting
> >  > "professional" scientists to engage with this "new"
> >  data source is the next
> >  > "challenge".
> >  >
> >  > Best  Ken
> >  >
> >  > -----Original Message-----
> >  > From: Taxacom [mailto:taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu]
> >  On Behalf Of JF
> >  > Mate
> >  > Sent: Thursday, 23 October 2014 2:14 AM
> >  > To: Taxacom
> >  > Subject: Re: [Taxacom] De-extinction & Rhachistia
> >  aldabrae
> >  >
> >  > Hi Bob,
> >  >
> >  > I agree the scale is altogether different but even in
> >  densely populated
> >  > areas in Australia even basic invertebrate biodiversity
> >  knowledge is
> >  > lacking. The decline in "natural history" amateurs is
> >  global and cannot be
> >  > compensated by the explosion of macrophotography since
> >  they (mostly) are
> >  > taking pictures of "bugs": bigger, smaller, red, blue
> >  or yellow. If you
> >  > don´t know what you are photographing then it is like
> >  it doesn´t exist. For
> >  > Europe (with some exceptions) the decline may not be as
> >  damaging. The fauna
> >  > is well known and there are plenty of guides and keys
> >  that digital
> >  > enthusiasts could use. The goal here has at least been
> >  partially achieved.
> >  > In Australia, other than butterflies and a couple of
> >  other popular groups
> >  > you are out of luck.
> >  >
> >  > Cristian. Spain is in a similar (albeit not as extreme)
> >  situation to
> >  > Australia. High biodiversity, incomplete knowledge but
> >  a declining body of
> >  > amateurs (and legislation that doesn´t help either).
> >  >
> >  > Best
> >  >
> >  > Jason
> >  >
> >  >
> >  >
> >  >
> >  >
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