Delaney et al. (2008) studied the effectiveness of compiling data on the presence of invasive Carcinus maenas and Hemigrapsus sanguineus crabs from common citizen observations on a massive scale. About 1,000 volunteers identified crab species and gender at 52 sites across 725 kilometers of seven coastal sates from New Jersey to Maine. They found that younger students in grade three and seven could differentiate crab species on 80% and 95% accuracy and above. Those seventh grade students could determine crab gender at above 80% accuracy, while two-year college students could it determine at above 95% accuracy. Thus, education played a major role in predicting the volunteers’ ability to correctly identify crab gender and species. Delaney et al. (2008) also explained other factors that could affect this identification on a large scale including the patience of volunteers, how fast the data can be relayed to scientists, and the issue of mass organization with limited funding.
I agree with a suggestion that Delaney et al. (2008) made of applying online mapping technology such as Google Earth to citizen science with invasive species. This will enable faster relaying of data to scientists, and help speed up the process of analyzing fast growing populations of invasive species. The use of citizen science helps scientists who do not have the resources, including time, to go out in an area perhaps spanning 725 kilometers and take measurements themselves. Of course, there is a trade off between speed and accuracy of results, the accuracy can be assessed with methods similar to those used by Delaney et al. (2008) It is important to note that this should only apply to the study of macroscopic invasive species. Study of microscopic species by common citizens would require more training, resources, and would also increase the margin of error. Therefore, allowing citizens to help map out macroscopic invasive species on a large scale would be beneficial to the scientific community.
Delaney, D.G., Sperling, C.D., Adams, C.S., Leung, B. 2008. Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10:117-128.
You bring up a good point. Citizen science is a good option for collecting large amounts of data on a budget, but there still are better alternatives out there such as remote sensing.