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) 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 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

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Cecile Diaz on 10-11-2010

Delaney et al. (2007) argues for the usefulness of citizen science in invasive ecology. 1000 citizen scientists or volunteers participated in this study where distribution data of two invasive crabs, C. maenas and H. sanguineus, was collected in seven coastal US states. The volunteers were divided into 190 groups of 1-10 people and each group was assigned a 30 x 30 m plot. In each quadrat, the citizen scientists (aged 3 to 78 years) were charged with identifying an invasive crab from a native crab, identifying the gender, and determining the width of the crab’s carapace. The crabs were then placed in buckets that corresponded to the species, which were later verified by professional researchers.

The results yield by Delaney et al (2007) suggest that citizen scientists with proper training are certainly capable of helping ecologists and scientists with distribution data concerning invasive species. The study suggests that education and age as variables are near identical, so education plays a major role in which volunteers are capable of helping professional scientists. The older the volunteer, or the more advanced in education s/he is, the most accurate the results yielded were by the volunteer. Accuracy of some variables like differentiation between species was as high as 95% in 7th graders.

Delaney et al. (2007) discussed potential issues of the volunteers that might negatively influence the data collected on site. For example, the endurance of a volunteer’s patience may cause faulty or inaccurate data. Delaney et al (2007) noted that in some cases, the width of a crab’s carapace was inaccurately recorded (or simply not recorded at all) because the volunteers found this particular task too difficult or time-consuming. Such instances causes the data collected by citizen scientists to be discarded or deemed useless, and is ultimately a waste of time and resources. Cases where a volunteer finds the task too difficult and thus ignores it are reasons why certain scientists believe citizen science is not applicable to the professional world because of potentially faulty data or inaccurately-recorded data on the volunteer’s part. Delaney et al. (2007) counters these arguments and supports citizen science’s place in professional studies by insisting on the usefulness of the volunteers because it saves time and financial resources as well as provides free personnel. Of course, Delaney et al. (2007) stresses the importance of a volunteer’s proper training, which can be as painless as an hour-long info session that was used in this study. I think that through this study, Delaney et al (2007) presents a strong case supporting citizen science. The results suggest that a large group of informed volunteers who work together can successfully collect enough records that could definitely be useful to scientists looking to detect the spread of an invasive species.

References:

Delaney, D. G., C. D. Sperling, C. S. Adams and B. Leung. 2007. Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10: 117-128.

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Drew Van Orden on 10-11-2010

Recently, citizen science has been more and more important in doing what is difficult for scientists to do. Especially with invasive species that cover large areas, a large group of organized citizens have a better chance of monitoring their populations better than even the most efficient scientists. In the article “Marine Invasive Species: Validation of Citizen Science and Implications for Natural Monitoring Networks”, Delaney et al. (2008) explains why citizen science is becoming os important. After volunteers interested in becoming citizen scientists are taught simple things like how to tell the gender of a crab, they are ready to accurately collect data about the species in the field. Although a scientist may be more accurate in determining factors such as gender, the manpower citizen science makes it much more valuable in some cases.

Delaney et al. concluded that in order to create large databases full of information, citizen science is a key tool. If more scienctists studying invasive species would utilize volunteer scientists, a more accurate picture of the magnitude of some species populations could be discovered and there would be a better possibility of restoring native ecosystems.

Delaney, D.G., C.D. Sperling, C.S. Adams, and B. Leung. 2006. Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10: 117-128

Nov
10
Filed Under (SW11) by Max Castillo on 10-11-2010

Delaney et al. (2008) had a combination of two very interesting objectives when conducting their study on the East Coast of the US. One objective called for the mapping, identification, and counting of two species of crab in various states. The other was to test the validity of citizen science. First off, the species of crab were studied using civilian volunteers. These volunteers grossly varied in age and would go out onto the beaches to collect and determine if the crab was native or invasive. They would also record the gender, location, and size of their crab. The measurements recorded by the citizens were then matched up to those of the scientists to determine how proficient they are in said task. Delaney et al. (2008) found that even 3rd grade students could correctly identify the crab with about 80% proficiency. This number was even higher for 7th graders, at 95%.

Delaney’s study helps answer a very important question in the realm of scientific research: how trustworthy and accurate are citizens when it comes to gathering scientific data? Europe has been using citizen science for years, but the question stems from US scientists still being skeptical about the abilities of an everyday person. However, using citizens can have boundless benefits for the scientific community, as citizens are free, numerous, willing to volunteer, etc. Delaney does note though that a large network to manage all these citizens would be required. Delaney says another slight disadvantage to using average people is that some of them got bored, and thus fail to record some of the data.

It is apparent from Delaney’s work that citizens are more than capable for carrying out basic research gathering, even down to a 7th grade level. Such a tool is readily available almost constantly, and it is odd to see that the US’s scientific community has not yet embraced it as Europe has. However, it is understandable that some of the problems Delaney mentions could impede their rapid integration into hard science, such as the need for a large network and the boredom issue.

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
09
Filed Under (SW11) by Katie Ferguson on 09-11-2010

The study conducted by Delaney et al. (2008) used citizen scientists to collect and identify two species of invasive crabs, Carcinus maenas and Hemigrapsus sanguineus, along the east coast, and at the same time studied the effectiveness of these citizens’ abilities to correctly identify the crab species. The need to monitor for the presence and spread of marine invasive species, or any invasive species for that matter, is great because early detection allows for rapid action to be taken against the invader. This has been proven to be the most cost-effective way of dealing with an exotic species.

In this particular study, citizen scientists were counting and identifying two species of invasive crabs. It was found that a higher level of education increased the accuracy of identification, though even third-grade students were able to make correct identifications with about 80% accuracy. It was more difficult for citizens of all education levels to correctly identify the gender of the crabs. The crabs were found to be present in all the sites from northern New Jersey to Maine with differing percentages of each type of crab at each site. H. sanguineus was found to more common at lower latitudes while C. maenas dominated at higher latitudes.

Delany et al. (2008) notes that the use of citizen scientists and volunteer-based monitoring has been used by many programs in Europe, but is not yet common in the United States. Citizen science has great value, both to the citizens who
can have a worthwhile educational experience, and to the scientists conducting the study who have a vast pool of free labor. Delaney et al. (2008) discussed the feasibility of establishing a large, national network that could be accessed by citizen scientists and used to collect data on a number of species across a wide range of locations. Most of the factors standing in the way of this are technological, though increased availability of global mapping systems such as Google Earth could make it possible. They also found that it helps to have supervision for citizen scientists which can help increase the accuracy of their observations and identifications.

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
09
Filed Under (SW11) by Manuela Mejia on 09-11-2010

Delaney et al. (2008) studied the use of citizen scientists in a project that identified crab species, Carcinus maenas, Hemigrapsus sanguineus and several native species, and determined their gender in intertidal zones ranging from New Jersey to Maine. Acquiring such large amounts of data is typically difficult for scientists because of monetary and personnel limitations, and it leaves massive holes in the crucial information needed to study invasive species.

However, citizen science provides a solution to this issue; Delaney et al. (2008) claim that the scientists gain personnel to collect data from volunteers and the volunteers get exposure to unique hands-on experiences. A common criticism of citizen science is the difficulty of validating data collected by volunteers. Delaney et al. (2008) show that the data collected in their study was mostly accurate, particularly as level of education increased (80% of seventh graders and 95% of second year college students could identify crab gender). Perfection is not needed for such a broad range study, and with more training, citizen scientists could get the job done much more efficiently than scientists alone.

The power of volunteers is needed, and although there are some potential issues like their level of patience, the benefits of citizen science far outweigh the costs and risks.

Delaney, David G., C.D. Sperling, C.S. Adams, and B. Leung. 2008. Marine invasive species: validation of citizen science and implications for national monitoring networks. Biological Invasions 10: 117-128.