Topic: 'citizen science' discoveries

Does anyone have any good examples of 'citizen science' or 'wider public' type surveys having produced unexpected discoveries, or contributed something new to research (as opposed to providing data to support what was already known or believed)?

I can think of plenty of cases where non-specialist people (especially photographers) have found rare species, and further examples of that would be welcome, but I'm particularly looking for things that are more unexpected, or have had a particular impact on research or conservation.

I'm seeking this information for some talks and workshops I'm running on biological recording in the coming months, but perhaps it would be good to make any examples available on the NFBR website for future reference as well?

Thanks,
Martin

Martin Harvey

Re: 'citizen science' discoveries

Not sure, it depends partly if you class surveys like BMS, BBS, WeBS etc. as citizen science. I'd say probably not - in my mind the border between unpaid specialist and citizen scientist is fuzzy but real but possibly understood differently in this country than others with our larger "volunteer army" prepared to do surveys for nowt??  There are of course plenty of uses of biological records collected by unpaid recorders that produce new discoveries and which underpin the research of many scientists. I couldn't have spent several years as a student statistical ecologist without WeBS counters doing the hard work of going out and counting and to whom I shall always be indebted.

RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch is indisputably citizen science and has produced useful info regarding garden bird populations.

There is this:
http://www.buglife.org.uk/News/Long-los … in+Britain
but I'm pretty sure you are already aware of it and of course again it was a specialist who made the discovery and the fact that it was at a citizen scientist event is largely incidental.

The Marsham record is always a nice example...
http://www.ceh.ac.uk/news/Briefings/Phe … b2008.html

In the news this week - grass snakes in Scotland - native??
http://www.deadlinenews.co.uk/2012/02/0 … -scotland/
http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/envi … 1328411185

Teresa Frost
WeBS National Organiser, BTO. NFBR Council Member.
ex-ALERC/CBDC/KMBRC

Re: 'citizen science' discoveries

kitenet wrote:

Does anyone have any good examples of 'citizen science' or 'wider public' type surveys having produced unexpected discoveries, or contributed something new to research (as opposed to providing data to support what was already known or believed)?

Athous campyloides (new to VC54, North Lincolnshire) was found during a BioBlitz at the Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust headqurters. I can also think a few examples where "non-specialists" have turned up some very interesting things (mainly beetles...) through e.g. photography (Cryptocephalus sexpunctatus, Clitostethus arcuatus) whilst doing their "rounds".

Is that the sort of thing your after?

Charlie Barnes
Information Officer
Greater Lincolnshire Nature Partnership

4 (edited by Darwyn Sumner 11-02-2012 09:14:48)

Re: 'citizen science' discoveries

How about Industrial Melanism or Darwin's theories?
Try Samuel Smiles' "The Life of a Scotch Naturalist" (http://www.archive.org/stream/lifeofsco … 1/mode/2up) and Lynn Barber's "The Heyday of Natural History" or peruse the publications of any Natural History Society (NHM have an online database of these which they are planning to update) like the AES or the big Lancashire and Yorkshire societies.
I'm not sure Aristotle was paid for his classification work, perhaps you could go back as far as 384-322 BC
We have a long tradition of natural science carried out by non-professionals in the UK.
There's an interesting US perspective in a talk by Chris Thompson of the Smithsonian Institute written up in Dipterist Forum's Bulletin #69 p19 (on DF website)

Darwyn Sumner