Par­tic­i­pa­tion ///

Canadian Wildlife - - BIGGER PICTURE -

As it turns out, there are cir­cum­stances where inat­u­ral­ist is used for more than just in­di­vid­ual en­tries. Specif­i­cally, one of the site’s fea­tures al­lows mem­bers to cre­ate projects to which mul­ti­ple par­tic­i­pants can log ob­ser­va­tions, col­lect ad­di­tional data not typ­i­cally doc­u­mented on the site and com­mu­ni­cate through posts and com­ments. It’s easy to imag­ine a school class or a nat­u­ral­ist club us­ing this fea­ture, but it turns out that even so­phis­ti­cated of­fi­cial record keep­ers see its po­ten­tial. A case in point is a project launched by On­tario’s Nat­u­ral Her­itage Informatio­n Cen­tre. It en­cour­ages in­di­vid­u­als to join so that their ob­ser­va­tions of provin­cially rare species can be con­sid­ered for in­cor­po­ra­tion into On­tario’s pro­vin­cial record.

“This project has be­come an im­por­tant data source for our cen­tre,” says Colin Jones. “Since we launched, over 500 par­tic­i­pants have con­trib­uted nearly 40,000 ob­ser­va­tions of 1,249 species.” Not only have th­ese records al­lowed the cen­tre to up­date its species con­ser­va­tion ranks and iden­tify lo­ca­tions im­por­tant to the con­ser­va­tion of rare species, Jones adds, but in some cases, they have led to species be­ing “re­moved from the list of provin­cially rare species be­cause of more data.”

The inat­u­ral­ist project op­tion has also proven to be a great tool for an­other prom­i­nent el­e­ment in cit­i­zen science’s ex­plo­sive growth: the so-called “bioblitz.” Bioblitzes are events in which par­tic­i­pants record as many species as pos­si­ble in a spe­cific area over a set pe­riod of time, and many use inat­u­ral­ist to post and or­ga­nize all the data col­lected. The term was first coined for an event held in 1996. As with much of cit­i­zen science, the num­ber and pop­u­lar­ity of bioblitzes held world­wide has surged since the early 2000s. A lot of bioblitzes to­day com­bine se­ri­ous sci­en­tific data gather­ing with a guided pub­lic com­po­nent to grow peo­ple’s aware­ness and in­ter­est in bio­di­ver­sity in and around their lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties.

“Th­ese are ex­er­cises where we’re both show­ing off the sci­en­tists and do­ing pub­lic en­gage­ment [while also] look­ing to learn some­thing through the data we col­lect,” says Dave Ire­land, a bi­ol­o­gist based in Dartmouth, N.S., who was a co-founder of the On­tario Bioblitz pro­gram in 2012 and a piv­otal part­ner in cre­at­ing the Cana­dian Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion’s na­tional Bioblitz Canada 150 se­ries in 2017. (con­tin­ued)

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