Nov
10

The coasts of North America are constantly bombarded with marine invasive species. The lack of adequate monitoring today, which arises due to resource limitations (funding and personnel), decreases the chances for early detection, a time when eradication is still an option. A potential solution to updating incomplete databases on invasive species is volunteer-based monitoring, or citizen science. Citizen science has been shown to be useful in producing a wealth of information but its validity in the scientific community is questioned.

Delaney et al. inquired into the validity of citizen science through a study involving approximately 1000 volunteers of  ranged ages and situated on the coast’s intertidal zones from New Jersey to Maine. The volunteers, after given the necessary information and tools to identify invasive (Carcinus maenas and Hemigrapsus sanguineus) and native crabs, their gender, and their dimensions, were assigned areas to monitor and assessed based on their data collecting accuracy. The study found that though accuracy is correlated with education, even young volunteers are capable of producing data with a high degree of accuracy; seventh graders can identify species with over 95% accuracy.  The study also pointed out potential difficulties based on what was was observed during the study.  Patience faltered for some citizen scientists’ because some of the tasks were found to be difficult or tedious. Also, merging different databases to create a centralized standard may be difficult. Lastly, sustaining a large scale monitoring network requires funding for training and coordination.

While the results of this study are promising for citizen science, I believe that the hurdles mentioned in the discussion are much more important than the authors make them out to be. Volunteers want to know that what they are doing is correctly done and worthwhile, hence the patience problems, so coordination monitoring networks need to be well thought out and include crystallized standards.

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.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11, Uncategorized) by Brianca King on 10-11-2010

Comprehensive databases of large geographical areas are essential for assessments, testing scientific hypotheses, and validating predictive models. Currently, most databases are incomplete and not up-to-date. Increased monitoring has the potential to increase the chance for the early detection of aquatic invaders and offers a good chance for eradication. Intense monitoring rarely occurs because because of the lack of funding and human resources. Volunteer-based monitoring could possibly solve this problem. Citizen science  can help to contribute to collection of data used to amass large databases on aquatic invaders. A great example of this is the National Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Counts, which has been collecting data on the distribution, range expansions, and other patterns of North American birds. This program demonstrates the capabilities of citizen science initiatives. The scientific community is reluctant to accept citizen science because the validity of of using it in research has not been assessed. Acceptance by the scientific community would increase biological understanding, help with the lack of human resources, and the lack of funding for research.

The purpose of the study done by  D.G. Delaney et al(2008) was to “assess the abilities of citizen scientists to complete data about the status and composition of the coastal biota(D.G. Delaney et al 2008).” The variables predicted to have an affect on accuracy were age, education, group size, and size of the crab. Their hypothesis was that citizen science can be accurate if certain eligibility requirements are met by the citizen scientist. The citizen scientist collected data on Carcinus maenas and Hemigrapsus sanguineus. Areas were marked off for the citizen scientist to collect crabs and data on the crabs. The volunteers recorded the species, gender, and carapace width for each crab. The crabs were collected in buckets according to species and gender. The participants were given magnifying glasses, buckets, rulers, and guides to increase accuracy in identification. The study found that education was a significant factor in the accuracy of a volunteer but crab size and volunteer group size were not significant.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Bryan Lockwood on 10-11-2010

For my literature review topic, I chose to study the effectiveness of UV radiation treatment in comparison to other ballast water treatment methods. In the experiment, the crew of the ship could act as citizen scientists. Before the ballast water is even discharged, some of the ship’s crewmen could test the water before and after the UV treatment has been applied. This would cut the time it would take for scientists to perform the tests at a port, and it would even open up new opportunities in the study, such as allowing the use of UV treatment in combination with the process of ballast exchange. It would be impractical to carry a scientist on board every ship, so there would be no way to test the water gathered from a foreign port before it was released and replaced by sea water.

As for the other methods of treatment, such as biocides, the amateur scientists can record the effect that the chemicals have on the body of water they are applied to. Tests can be taken to determine the chemical content of the water, which would be an important factor in the experiment. Also, citizen scientists could collect the fish before and after the chemical treatment of a certain section of water. The health, size, lifespan and many other factors may be altered by the biocides, so these studies will be conducted to see if the alterations exist, and if they do, to what extent will they affect the native species.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Michael Di Nunzio on 10-11-2010

Michael Di Nunzio

11/10/2010

In “Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks”, Delaney et al. attempt to assess the capacity for citizen science to produce accurate data. The authors first express the pressing concerns posed by invasive marine species and their rapid proliferation. Monitoring the movements of these organisms is key to ecological preservation efforts, yet maintaining a sufficiently robust database of species location and prevalence is extremely costly and time-consuming. To reduce the excessive need for funding and personnel, Delaney et al. propose that citizen science data meeting quality control criteria be used to expand the knowledge database. Ideally this will increase both public knowledge and the amount of information available to researchers.

In their study, Delaney et al. opted to focus on Carcinus maenas and Hemigrapsus sanguineus, invasive crabs known for their ability to spread quickly. Several quadrats were randomly established during low tide and the crabs being considered were carefully collected. After this 190 groups of individuals varying in age and education level were asked to determine the species, gender, and carapace width of crabs in their particular sample. Statistical analysis was subsequently applied to the results and correlations between the characteristics of an individual and his or her accuracy were drawn. A positive correlation was found between education and ability to distinguish crab species, and the same was observed for age. Determination of crab gender proved more difficult across all groups, but no effect was observed as a result of group size or crab size on ability to distinguish species or gender. Data from individuals meeting requirements corresponding to 95% accuracy were then used to depict the distributions and relative densities of the invaders over the sampling range.

Delaney et al. endorse the use of citizen science, yet stress the need for a universal means of compiling data if this technique is to be viable. They suggest that this be accomplished through the use of some kind of easily accessible computer database, preferably linked with some kind of mapping program. On a final note the authors state a need for additional research that uses different sampling methods and sampling intensity to determine optimal resource allocation and probability of false-negatives.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Sean Dickey on 10-11-2010

In Delaney et. al (2008), the authors presented an initiative to expand the responsibilities of data collection and species conservation into the hands of everyday citizens. This project consisted of 1000 volunteers that assessed the populations of invasive and native crabs in seven eastern coastal states of the US. Volunteers were asked to record the species and gender of the crabs. It was found that third and seventh grade students had significant ability to identify the species of a crab, but further education was often necessary for a volunteer to successfully identify its gender.

The problem with citizen science is that many scientists won’t accept it as a useful practice since all data collected must be validated. Currently, there is no system to effectively do so. This experiment essentially fixed this issue by allowing users to submit info to a database and establish eligibility criteria for citizen scientists. However, a few issues arise as funding is limited for monitoring of the data and universal training and cooperation.

In my opinion, citizen science, although flawed, could be useful for implementation in the data collection on invasive species. By enlisting the help of hundreds, even thousands of somewhat educated people, most of the inaccuracies of the data are accounted for ( as evident by the 95% accuracy of identifying gender by university educated people (Delaney et. al 2008)).  However, further research should be conducted on whether or not this amount of motivated citizen scientists would be willing to conduct the same surveys on other lesser-known invasive species.

Delaney, D.G., Sperling, C.D., Adams, C.S., Leung,B. “Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks” Biological Invasions (2008) 10: 117-28

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Josh McGrath on 10-11-2010

Citizen Science is an ever-growing tool in the field of invasive species. Delaney et al. (2008) used help from citizen scientists to identify two species of crabs along the Atlantic coast of the US. the team of 1,00 volunteers ranged from ages three to seventy-three separated into groups. The education of the scientists involved ranged from Pre-kindergarten to a few with Ph.D.’s. They received an hour long training session on crabs , a book on exotic species, and tools all designed to increase the accuracy of the groups that ranged in size from one to ten people.

They collected data from over 50 sites from New Jersey to Maine. After collecting all of their data from the citizen scientists and checking the accuracy of the volunteers, Delaney et al.(2008) used their results to assess the accuracy of the citizen scientists. What they found was that education level had a clear affect on the accuracy of data. Seventh grade students’ data was higher than that of third grade students, while those who had two years of college education had as good or better results than anyone else. It would seem from Delaney et al.(2008) that citizen science, though it may be shunned in the science world as a whole, can be a useful and effective tool to acquire data.

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

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Russell Buescher on 10-11-2010

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.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Cole Arora on 10-11-2010

Silvertown (2010) defines a citizen scientist as a “volunteer who collects and/or processes data as part of a scientific enquiry,” yet experience prompts the notion that this is a half-truth.  Delaney et al. (2008) puts forth the reason: there have been many scientific surveys completed by citizen scientists, but with a dearth of projects that test an explicit hypothesis.  In essence, the participation of citizen scientists does not meet the level of rigor necessary to produce results acceptable by a peer-reviewer, due to the errors that may occur and the uncertainty that comes with uncontrolled sampling procedures.  Moreover, like the sphere of politics, only the highly motivated would volunteer as citizen scientists, as is the case for any cause – thus, invasion biology receives a set of inspired helpers, but those helpers constitute only a sliver of the potential volunteering population.  The gap in technology and lab experience further stratifies the population of citizens that would volunteer their services.  That said, projects that involve updating previous data on the status of species, or that seek to collect large volumes of field data over a large geographical area, can only succeed with citizen scientists at the forefront.  These volunteers allow more samples to be taken over a larger range, thereby increasing the accuracy of results and the validity of models (Delaney et al. 2008).

In regard to the cane toad, the subject of my literature review, the applicability of citizen science is debatable, though there are definite areas where large amounts of observant volunteers would be beneficial.  Firstly, citizen scientists could assist in reducing the impact of cane toads.  Specifically, volunteers could become involved in high-value site protection, or island protection of species; conversely, they could focus on preserving particular conservation areas.

Secondly, citizen science could be instrumental in researching solutions to the cane toad dilemma.  While participation in research on genetic control is impractical due to a knowledge and technological gap, short-term control mechanisms could be developed.  These include improving trapping success, and the installation of barriers and inhibitors.  Additionally, in terms of proposed chemical control, due to the continental scale of the problem, citizen scientists, if correctly instructed, could administer alarm pheromone to water bodies with established cane toad populations – these pheromones would reduce the size of toads at metamorphosis and generally increase mortality rates.

Thirdly, while the cane toad invasion front can by no means be halted (at least at present), citizen scientists could use their large numbers to work to reduce the spread of the cane toad.  One option is to develop a type of community control, incorporating different strategies for the wet and dry seasons.  This community effort could also be directed to the elimination of southern and western pockets of toads – those transient populations comprised of the forerunners of the invasion front.  Along the same lines, the community umbrella could be involved in mapping and data management, both of which are important in policy-making and in directing scientists to the most pressing research sites.

Finally, citizen scientists knowledgeable on the cane toad invasion could work to increase public education and awareness.  Potential methods for doing so include the distribution of school education packages, quarantine education, fundraising, and review.

In my opinion, citizen scientists would be most useful in mapping the progression of the cane toad invasion front and working to ‘slow down’ said front while the national government and scientists find a ‘biological solution’ to the invasion.  The main obstacle to this outcome progressing to fruition is the need for quality assurance and validation of the initiatives of citizen scientists in order for the scientific community to accept the collected data.

References

Silvertown, J.  2010.  A new dawn for citizen science.  Trends in Ecology and Evolution 24(9): 467-470.

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.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Kyle Rand on 10-11-2010

Citizen science is become an increasingly useful tool in combating the spread of aquatic invasive species.  Delaney et al. (2008) explored the ability of citizen scientists in identifying two species of invasive crabs, Carcinus maenas and Hemigrapsus sanguineus, in 52 sampling sites across the Atlantic coast, each measuring 30 meters by 30 meters.  Around 1000 citizen scientists, varying from 3 to 78 years old and with education levels differing from pre-Kindergarden to PhD., were used to collect crabs from the sampling sites, and record various facts about the crabs, including gender, species, and carapace width.  They were then instructed to place the crabs into different buckets based on the information the scientists gathered, and scientists assessed the accuracy of the citizen scientists separation of the crabs in the buckets.

The results of the study showed showed that educational levels played a very large role in the citizen scientist’s accuracy in data collection.  For example, when told to separate the native crab species from the invasive crab species, third-graders were only 80% accurate, while seventh-graders were 95% accurate.  Similarly, there was a sizeable distinction in ability to determine the gender of the crabs, with seventh-graders being 80% accurate, and citizen scientists with at least two years of university education being 95% accurate.

The study of Delaney et al. (2008) showed results that highly support the reliability of citizen scientists.  Although there were some issues, such as some volunteers failing to record all size measurements, there was high success in the accuracy of distinguishing between native and invasive species, as well as gender.  The fact that some scientists found taking size measurements too confusing shows that a little training could go a long way in improving the reliability of citizen scientists.  Delaney et al. (2008) recognizes that improving an already accurate source of data collection could be largely beneficial, as successful management of invasive species is dependent on a steady income of reliable data.  If citizen scientists can provide relatively easy access to this data, the management of these invasive species will become much more possible.

Reference:

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.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Haley Ishimatsu on 10-11-2010

In Delaney et. al (2008), the authors set out to asses the presence of invasive and native crabs along the US Atlantic coast. Instead of using a team to professional ecologists, the authors recruited around 1,000 volunteers. Theses citizens ranged from age three to age 73 and their education level ranged from pre-kindergarten to Ph.D. Before the volunteers began searching for crabs, they were given an hour long training session, tools, and a book on exotic species to increase the accuracy of the citizen scientists. The 1,000 helpers were separated into groups of one to 10 people and were dispersed to 52 sites along the east coast of the US from New Jersey to Maine. After the citizen scientists were finished sampling their assigned site, Delaney et al. (2008) checked the accuracy of the volunteers and recorded the data.

After collecting the data from all of the volunteers and sites, Delaney et al. (2008) found that education level had a large affect on the accuracy of the citizen scientists. Third graders had and 80% accuracy rate in determining which crabs were native and and which were invasive while seventh graders had a 95% accuracy rate. However, when it came to determine the gender of the crab, the seventh graders acquired an 80% accuracy. Those who had to years of university education achieved an accuracy of over 95% in discerning the gender of the crabs.  These results show that although many researchers shy away from citizen science, it can be a very helpful tool to gather much needed information.

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