Citizen Science is a broad term encompassing many different types of environmental monitoring and observation projects that are conducted by non-governmental organizations and individuals, often in partnership with research institutions and government agencies. Citizen science is the process whereby citizens are involved in science as researchers (Kruger and Shannon 2000). This can also be referred to as voluntary biological monitoring (particularly in Britain) when the focus is on collecting data about species and habitats, although this is distinct from much of the community-based monitoring (CBM) in North America, which can also focus monitoring efforts on ecosystem functions and environmental quality.
Benefits of citizen science approaches in the context of landscape stewardship include increasing environmental democracy, scientific literacy, social capital, citizen inclusion in local issues, benefits to government, and benefits to ecosystems being monitored. Democratization of the environment is a relatively new concept based on making environmental science and expertise more accessible to the public, while also making scientists more aware of local knowledge and expertise (Carolan 2006). CBM can help to democratize science through the sharing of information between scientists and nonscientists. This ties in with the growing move to pursue “public ecology” research; where conservation biology research includes more multidisciplinary topics with the purpose of influencing legislation (Robertson and Hull 2001). Some authors (e.g., Carr 2004) go so far as to state that it is “inappropriate to leave (environmental) science solely to institutions and that community science is necessary” (p. 842). CBM also plays an important educational role in communities. By participating actively in scientific projects, community members increase their scientific literacy. This can take the form of augmenting knowledge of scientific processes or by an increased understanding of their role in the local environment. This “environmental education” can be fostered through volunteer CBM activities; or in a more traditional sense where students from local schools are included in CBM to complement their studies (Nali and Lorenzini 2007). It has been suggested that public support for conservation can be increased by building social capital. Social capital has been measured by enhanced levels of trust, harmony, and cooperation in communities practicing CBM (Sultana and Abeyasekera 2008). Social capital seems to be increased by CBM through activities that lead to volunteer engagement, agency connection, leadership building, problem-solving, and identification of resources.
Professor, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Saint Mary’s University, Halifax, NS Canada
This blog contribution is part of a series on the science and practice of landscape stewardship and will be further elaborated in the course of a book chapter.
We are looking for real-world cases of good practices that exemplify the principles of landscape stewardship and that serve as a model to inspire implementation in other landscapes. Please share examples or thoughts by adding a comment!
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