Volunteer bird watchers can take influence conservation efforts, study shows

December 7, 2012

A new scientific study by the University of Queensland and BirdLife Australia has shown that volunteer bird watchers have the opportunity to affect better policy to protect threatened birds and their habitats.

The study looked to understand the motivations of , and how they could maximise their influence by capturing data that will most assist scientists to measure changes to bird use of different systems and allow decision and policy makers to design better protective measures for threatened species.

The project's lead researcher, Ms Ayesha Tulloch from the School of Biological Sciences said volunteer bird watchers' preferences for certain species or habitats meant the data they collected was not always even in space or time. To have greater impact needed to modify their collection habits of bird surveys so they could be of most use to further .

"Aided by the internet, the popularity and scope of appears almost limitless, with more than 400 volunteer survey schemes around the world for birds alone, equating to an average of US $8 million per scheme in volunteer time investment," Ms Tulloch said.

"For citizens the motivation is to contribute to "real" science, public information and conservation. For scientists, citizen science offers a way to collect information that would otherwise not be affordable."

Local conservation, natural resource management groups and faced with limited funding for conservation can use volunteers in different ways, depending on what they want to achieve.

"Different volunteer types have different objectives. 'Site-faithful' volunteers want to measure changes over time so visit the same site repeatedly, usually close to home, whereas 'roaming' volunteers want to find rare and threatened birds so travel on average more than 200km each time to find them."

"If site-faithful volunteers can be encouraged to select one or more specific habitats within their preferred range to monitor trends over consecutive seasons and years, they might be the first to detect change or serendipitous events like the onset of disease, invasive organisms, or catastrophic environmental change," Ms Tulloch said.

"Roaming volunteers, who tend to be tourists, can view maps of data gaps. They have the chance of filling gaps and finding threatened and rare species, and they can benefit by being the first person to complete a survey in one of the many areas that remain unsampled."

Explore further: Global bird conservation effort lifts off

Related Stories

Scientists pour cold water on EU bird policy

February 27, 2008

New research from the University of Exeter in collaboration with the University of Texas at Austin published in the journal Science (22 February 2008) questions claims that EU conservation policy has been successful in protecting ...

Citizen science: Armies of volunteers aid research

May 8, 2011

(AP) -- Besides being a researcher in New York's Hudson River Estuary Program, environmental scientist Chris Bowser leads citizen projects that collect reams of data for other scientists.

Recommended for you

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(Phys.org)—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

How cells 'climb' to build fruit fly tracheas

November 25, 2015

Fruit fly windpipes are much more like human blood vessels than the entryway to human lungs. To create that intricate network, fly embryonic cells must sprout "fingers" and crawl into place. Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.