I have never seen such a colourful bunch of scientists as those who attended this years Citizen Science Conference in Adelaide. It was fantastic!
I sat and listened to stories of all different kinds of citizen science projects – from global projects on migratory species to tiny local projects based in small rural regions. The CitSciOz18 conference went for three days from February 7th to 9th. There were visiting scientists from interstate and overseas and everyone had something to share – some new perspective to add to our collective conversations.
Some of the highlights for me were:
- “Where are the Millennials?” by Margot Law & Ellie Downing.
These ladies were high energy and rocked their interactive workshop about how to engage more millennials (and how they really aren’t that scary). They explained that when it comes to citizen science – you just have to give a bit of thought to what drives them (e.g. wanting to do good, a strong engagement with causes, activities that interest them AND represent values, or projects which consider issues such as: basic human rights, education, the environment, gender equality, financial matters/employment or climate change).
- From Peter Brenton we heard all about the Atlas of Living Australia and BioCollect.
BioCollect is an impressive data collection and support platform particularly suited to field data capture for citizen science projects and it’s free for public use! If you’re hunting for the right support platform for your project (instead of going to all the cost and effort of building your own like I did) then I strongly recommend BioCollect. Later, Peter also spoke about the value of data beyond the life of your project, and what options there are for storage and enabling of external data use.
- Cass Davis spoke about the project RiverScan and ‘How Citizen Science is helping us improve native fish populations’.
Riverscan is a Victorian based citizen science project monitoring creek and river conditions. Besides the amazing project impacts, what I was really taken with was the attention to detail put into the engagement of their citizen scientists and their results reports. We were shown a map of the monitored rivers with all the data collection points given a simple colour coded score for the 3 separate indicators (green, yellow or orange). They also had different levels of accreditation/achievement given to their volunteers – bandannas in different prints and colours to symbolise how long you had been collecting data. Very clever.
Read on for some great citizen science project tips from the great Kylie Andrews, and to watch the presentation I gave ( I promise it’s a good slideshow 😉 ).
- My final favourite presentation was by Kylie Andrews – the citizen science projects producer from ABC Science. Example projects: Wildlife Spotter; Galaxy Explorer
She spoke from experience about how best to set up your projects up – simply and with a great call-to-action for the public. Kylie has worked to support and promote a number of popular and successful projects and gave some strong suggestions:
- All of the projects she supports show current participation success rates, e.g. x number of survey responses or x number of images analysed. This works as instant feedback and a good indication of project progress. Each of her supported projects also give people the chance to “win something”.
- The scientific outcomes of the project must be valid, achievable, useful and understandable. Kylie recommended putting this call right up the top of your website – “Help us do x, so we can solve/discover/fix y“. As a direct result of this suggestion I updated the Edible Gardens call-to-action to say, “Do you grow food? Get involved to help the Discovery Circle better understand how and why people grow food in urban areas.” It’s much stronger than what I had.
- Know your audience and their skills.
- Build ways to encourage participation into your project design right from the beginning, e.g. up-to-date logs, prizes, classroom/class options.
- Provide clear, quick feedback – how long the data collection will take, how long the analysis will take, how long before they hear about any findings, reports or publications.
- Don’t build the expectation of participants receiving project wide results into the project – your participants will probably be long gone by the time you finish everything!
On the Thursday it was time for my own presentation on results from the Edible Gardens project. I spent a week crafting the most colourful, engaging slideshow I have ever made – because if you can’t have a bit of fun presenting to citizen scientists (people who are not at all adverse to the idea of colour, pictures and cool engagement strategies), then when can you have fun?!
One of my Supervisors, Dr Philip Roetman, was in the crowd and he filmed this for me. I spoke for 12 minutes and enjoyed every second of it. If you want to skip ahead, at 6:20 I describe the difficulty of measuring the water use of home food gardens, and at 8:52 I present some total results from our garden data collection phase.
It was amazing to get to share the design and what we’ve learnt from the Edible Gardens project with other scientists in the field. Afterwards my brain was buzzing with all sorts of ideas for collaborations for future research and lessons I’d learnt and ideas I’d heard that I thought I could try out.
It was the best conference and I can’t wait for the next one.
For more information on CitiSciOz18 visit the website: https://www.citizenscience.org.au/2018/03/07/discover-relive-citscioz18-magic/
And if you’d like to see some of the other conference presentations for yourself, visit the Australia Citizen Science Association YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCEtzSdrExLMkQiF6bDfQ6GQ/featured