A study by Delaney et al. (2008) demonstrates that citizen scientists may be the solution to outdated and incomplete databases about invasive species. Because of the lack of funding and personnel, invasive species research has not been sufficient in providing necessary comprehensive and up-to-date data. The scientific community, however, has been reluctant in accepting the validity of data collected by citizen scientists. This study by Delaney et al (2008) sought to test how accurate and feasible a large-scale invasive species-monitoring network of citizen scientists could be.
Delaney et al. (2008) had groups of varying ages (3-78), education levels (pre-Kindergarten to Ph.D) and group sizes (1-10 people) collect data about invasive crabs on New England shorelines. Researchers then retested the data to determine the validity. The experiment showed that education level was the most important determinant in whether or not the data was consistently accurate. Although 2 years of university education was necessary to identify the gender of a crab to 95% accuracy, 7th graders could identify whether the crab was invasive with 95% accuracy.
Delaney et al. (2008) proved that citizen scientists, with sufficient training and education, could provide accurate enough data to be trusted in the scientific community. Although finding enough support to help citizen science flourish and sustain may stand in the way of citizen science, Delaney et al. (2008) demonstrated that there could be a partial solution to insufficient funds and personnel. Although limited to relatively simple research, citizen scientists could drastically help with things such as early detection of invasive species.
Delaney, David G, CD Sperling, CS Adams, and B Leung. 2008. Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10:117-128.
It’s really interesting that with just a bit of training, citizens can be such a powerful and effective way of gathering data. A study like this with just professional scientists would never be able to monitor the crab population.