The term "citizen science" refers to research that is conducted by, or with significant help from, non-scientists. Citizen science has grown in popularity because it is a way for researchers to collect more data than would be possible through only the use of professional scientists, not to mention the fact that citizen scientists enjoy it!
While citizen science projects can produce large data sets that allow researchers to examine questions that would not be otherwise be possible, there are many questions that cannot be answered by citizen science because the data are lower quality than those collected by professionals. As a result, it is important to remember that citizen science is a wonderful supplement to professional research but not a replacement for it.
Although "citizen science" wasn't added to the Oxford English Dictionary until 2014, bird-focused citizen scientists have been active since the initial Audubon Christmas Bird Count in the year 1900 even if the term wouldn't be defined until more than a century later. Birders have also been especially active providing data for researchers since the 2002 launch of eBird.
There are many benefits to citizen science, especially in the world of birds and habitat. These include:
- New research that would not be possible without citizen scientists
- Greater public knowledge and engagement.
- An improved ability to manage local habitat.
- New local data to influence decision makers to include wildlife and conservation in their plans.
- Fostering a connection between people a nature, something that is ever growing weaker in our increasingly technology-driven world.
Below you will find a guide to some of the citizen science projects that Bird City Wisconsin recommends if you would like to make a difference in your community. For a more comprehensive list of the wide range of citizen science projects in Wisconsin and across the country, please visit Who's Who of Citizen-based Monitoring in Wisconsin (click "Subject" to view the projects split into broad categories, including birds).
Don't forget to look to see where your community's citizen science actions will get you credit in your Bird City Wisconsin application (see Category 4)!