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Citizen science can improve conservation science, natural resource management, and environmental protection

TitleCitizen science can improve conservation science, natural resource management, and environmental protection
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2017
AuthorsMcKinley, DC, Miller-Rushing, AJ, Ballard, HL, Bonney, R, Brown, H, Evans, DM, French, RA, Phillips, TB, Ryan, SF, Shanley, LA, Shirk, JL, Stepenuck, KF, Weltzin, JF, Wiggins, A, Boyle, OD, Briggs, RD, Chapin, III, SF, Hewitt, DA, Preuss, PW, Soukup, MA
JournalBiological Conservation
Page range15-28
Date Published03/2017

Citizen science has advanced science for hundreds of years, contributed to many peer-reviewed articles, and in-
formed land management decisions and policies across the United States. Over the last 10 years, citizen science

has grown immensely in the United States and many other countries. Here, we show how citizen science is a

powerful tool for tackling many of the challenges faced in the field of conservation biology. We describe the

two interwoven paths by which citizen science can improve conservation efforts, natural resource management,

and environmental protection. The first path includes building scientific knowledge, while the other path in-
volves informing policy and encouraging public action. We explore how citizen science is currently used and de-
scribe the investments needed to create a citizen science program. We find that:

1. Citizen science already contributes substantially to many domains of science, including conservation, natural

resource, and environmental science. Citizen science informs natural resource management, environmental

protection, and policymaking and fosters public input and engagement.

2. Many types of projects can benefit from citizen science, but one must be careful to match the needs for science

and public involvement with the right type of citizen science project and the right method of public


3. Citizen science is a rigorous process of scientific discovery, indistinguishable from conventional science apart

from the participation of volunteers. When properly designed, carried out, and evaluated, citizen science can

provide sound science, efficiently generate high-quality data, and help solve problems.

Biological Conservation