Publication
Biological Conservation
Date
August 2016
Title

Leveraging the power of place in citizen science for effective conservation decision making

Abstract

Many citizen science projects are place-based - built on in-person participation and motivated by local conservation. When done thoughtfully, this approach to citizen science can transform humans and their environment. Despite such possibilities, many projects struggle to meet decision-maker needs, generate useful data to inform decisions, and improve social-ecological resilience. Here, we define leveraging the ‘power of place’ in citizen science, and posit that doing this improves conservation decision making, increases participation, and improves community resilience. First, we explore ‘place’ and identify five place dimensions: social-ecological, narrative and name-based, knowledge-based, emotional and affective, and performative. We then thematically analyze 134 case studies drawn from CitSci.org (n = 39), The Stewardship Network New England (TSN-NE; n = 39), and Earthwatch (n = 56) regarding: (1) use of place dimensions in materials (as one indication of leveraging the power of place), (2) intent for use of data in decision-making, and (3) evidence of such use. We find that 89% of projects intend for data to be used, 46% demonstrate no evidence of use, and 54% provide some evidence of use. Moreover, projects used in decision making leverage more (t =−4.8, df =117;p b 0.001) place dimensions (x=3.0;s =1.4) than those not used in decision making (x=1.8;s =1.2). Further, a Principal Components Analysis identifies three related components (aesthetic, narrative and name-based, and social-ecological). Given these findings, we present a framework for leveraging place in citizen science projects and platforms, and recommend approaches to better impart intended outcomes. We discuss place in citizen science related to relevance, participation, resilience, and scalability and conclude that effective decision making as a means towards more resilient and sustainable communities can be strengthened by leveraging the power of place in citizen science.

Citation

Newman, G., Chandler, M., Clyde, M., McGreavy, M., Haklay, M., Ballard, H., Gray, S., Scarpino, R., Hauptfeld, R., Mellor, D., and Gallo, J. 2016. Leveraging the power of citizen science in effective conservation decision making. Biological Conservation.

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