Category: Blogs

#CitSci2019, Raleigh, NC USA!

By Michelle Neil (ACSA Secretary and social media moderator)

We come together at this conference to learn and work together for positive, productive outcomes.”

Every year ACSA sends a member of the Management Committee to a sister citizen science association conference somewhere in the world. This year I was the lucky one, so earlier this month I set off to attend the Citizen Science Association’s #CitSci2019 Conference in Raleigh, North Carolina USA.

Flying into Raleigh NC. Population 464,000. Pic: Michelle Neil

After more than 30 hours of travel I flew into Raleigh at 4am on Tuesday the 12th of March, grabbed an UBER and headed to the hotel.

The first day of the conference dawned cold and fine. I headed across the road to the Raleigh Convention Centre to help with the expected 800+ registrations!

I was very impressed by CSA’s organization of this event. At #CitSciOz18 we had 3 concurrent sessions running at any one time. However at #CitSci2019, CSA had up to 7 sessions running concurrently! This made me very busy trying to figure out which sessions I had already pre-booked and which ones I had already nominated to go to. I would have loved to go on the excursions but I wasn’t sure what I would miss out on that day.  Thank goodness for the conference app!

Raleigh Convention Centre. Pic: Michelle Neil

The theme for the conference was “Growing Our Family Tree”.  There were 4 main sub-themes intertwined throughout the conference. The themes were Equity (not equality), Education, Environmental Justice and Applied Ecology.  These themes were very well represented by the keynote speakers each morning and the Environmental Justice Panel on the Friday night.

This is what 800+ delegates looks like! Pic: Michelle Neil


Of the 4 keynote speakers I was particularly impressed with Dr Max Liboiron from Memorial University and Director of CLEAR, the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research, which is an explicitly feminist and anticolonial laboratory that studies marine microplastics in Newfoundland, Canada.

Dr Liboiron spoke about the difference between equity and equality, the power relations within citizen science, humbleness and paying her citizen scientists. I thoroughly recommend you read her speech as she has transcribed it here.

She neatly summed it up in the end with the words “Let’s use citizen science as an opportunity to be more equitable, more humble, more diverse.”

I was so impressed with Dr Libiron’s speech I even tweeted to #CitSciOz18 keynote speaker Dr Emilie Ens (We Study Country, Macquaire Uni) and e-introduced these two amazing citizen science researchers. I found their methods of citizen science very interesting and thought that they should at least be aware of one another.


Education, particularly STEM, is a subject very dear to my heart so it was fantastic to hear Marine Biologist-turned-science teacher Rachael Polmanteer and three of her students from River Bend Middle School in Raleigh talk about how citizen science had been incorporated into their classroom and how much they now like to go to science class and what they want to do in science in the future.

Rachael, in conjunction with citizen science practitioners, is literally writing the book on how to incorporate citizen science into classrooms with their local curriculum.  This means that students (and teachers) can do more hands-on science with citizen science plus further the field of scientific knowledge. I would love to see more of this work in the open access journal “Citizen Science: Theory and Practice”. Perhaps there should be a student edition?

I was very impressed with both Rachael’s and her students’ talks.  It’s not easy standing up in front of so many people to talk!I gave them each a little clip on koala as a keepsake, I think they were a hit, don’t you?

Environmental JusticeSource: (29.03.19)

Did you know that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the USA have developed an “Air Sensor Toolbox”?  The EPA site “provides information for citizen scientists and others on how to select and use low-cost, portable air sensor technology and understand results from monitoring activities. The information can help the public learn more about air quality in their communities.” Enviromental Justice (EJ) is really just starting out here in AUstralia but in the USA it is in full swing and has been for many years. The EJ panel brought together citizen scientists and practitioners in a compelling arguement for equity.

I attended one of the Air Quality Workshops presented by the EPA USA where we talked about what sort of air monitoring we would need in different situations and also about which commercially available sensors were the best fit for each situation. Then we got to go out and put the sensors to the test! My personal favourite was the AirBeam air pollution monitor which wifi’d to an Android tablet. I did find out that it wasnt available on iphone or ipads as yet.

Trying out the AirBeam air pollution monitor. Pic: Michelle Neil

Environmental Justice (EJ) is really just starting out here in Australia but in the USA it is in full swing and has been for many years. The EJ panel brought together citizen scientists and practitioners in a compelling arguement for equity.

The panel was live streamed and I recommend you watch the entire program on the CSA YouTube site here. It will be very interesting to see how Australia develops in citizen science in this sector. Should we be proactive and have an Environmental Justice working group? Food for thought…


Applied Ecology

Have you ever wondered if sour dough bread is the same in USA as it is in Australia? Or what are the microbes in your belly button?  Rob Dunn from North Carolina State University spoke about the smaller things in life – ants and microbes and what they can tell us about our environment and how it is shaping us!

Rob’s team of citizen science practitioners run all sorts of cool projects. In fact you can ask to do the Sour Dough Project here in Australia through the SciStarter website. In fact there is even a project to make beer from the yeast wild bees pick up!


On the Friday night we had all heard the news about the terrible Christchurch Mosque Shooting. It was a tough day for our Kiwi friends in our ACSA contingent and also those of us who have family and friends “across the ditch” in New Zealand. The Environmental Justice panel Chair Dr Sacoby Wilson asked everyone to pay their respects and stand for a moment of silence for the victims of gun violence.


Everyone stood before bowing their heads for the moment of silence to pay their respects to the victims in NZ of gun violence. Pic: Michelle Neil

Podcast with SciStarter

One of my highlights was chatting with and recording a podcast with SciStarter’s Caroline Knickerson and finally getting to meet the founder of SciStarter, Darlene Cavalier with whom I have been tweeting and interacting back and forth on Facebook with for ages.  I even got to sit in on a few workshops with Darlene and the SciStarter crew including the all-important Citizen Science Day working group. Citizen Science Day falls on the 13th of April this year.

Caroline and I after taping the podcast. I loved the badges! She loved the koala!

Finally got a moment to say hello to the amazing Darlene and pose for a #CitSciSelfie!

Citizen Science Day

So how do you run Citizen Science Day if you’re the moderator of the Australian Citizen Science Association’s social media platforms?

The answer is to encourage everyone to go to the Citizen Science Day website and sign up to do the Stall Catchers Megathon to help scientists find a cure for Alzheimers!

If you are running a Bioblitz or any other citizen science day event please let us know via email so that we may help you promote it on our ACSA channels.

The CitSciDay organisers covered most of the globe! Pic: Michelle Neil

City Nature Challenge

While at CitSci2019 I also wanted to find out more about the City Nature Challenge that is run every year in the last weekend of April using the iNaturalist app. I was too late to sign up this year as an organiser but I have put my name down for next year to get some people together and Bioblitz my hometown in SE Qld.

Team to beat: Boston, USA!

Boston USA organisers. Pic: Michelle Neil
One of my absolute favourite symposia was led by our own International Liasion Officer, Jessie Oliver as a fireside-style chat. With a truly stellar line up Jessie and her team talked tech design with around 30 audience participants. This was great because this style got everyone involved. In fact I was quite hard pressed to keep up with the minutes! You can check out the blog I co-wrote with Muki Haklay here. Collaborative note taking! Yay!

Jessie and I were also invited to attend a working group for the emerging Iberamericano (South American) Citizen Science Association and share our memories and ‘dos and donuts’ of setting up a citizen science association from scratch. I was amazed at just how much we had done, when Jessie and I started putting it all down on paper. Redricap (as it is known) has the added problem of language barrier. Portuguese, Spanish and English are the three main languages of South America. I suggested that Twitter and Facebook, with their translation abilities, would be ideal platforms to start on. I am looking forward to seeing how this develops!

On the final day of the conference I got up in front of everyone and asked 7 important words “Who would like to go to Australia?”

And the whole room leapt to their feet!

So I extended the invitation to come along to our ACSA #CitSciOz20 conference in SE Qld next year.

I wonder how many will come along?

I also announced the creation of a new conference which a few of us had been discussing last year in April – the first ever Citizen Science Twitter Conference to be held later this year.  @CitSciTC  is currently seeking moderators so if you are interested please contact the twitter account.

In closing, I would like to thank ACSA and CSA for supporting me to go to #CitSci2019. It was a fantastic experience working with amazing people. The work we have done in various symposia and workshops continues to this day as I am now contributing to Jessie’s HCI Group, Dr Andrea Wiggin’s Risk and Responsibility Group and the Iberoamericana (South American Citizen Science Association) formation working groups document.
Now to try and catch up on my sleep!
The stayers going out for dinner on the last night…. we didn’t want the week to end!

Organising a Citizen Science Road Map for Sustainable Development

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (#SDGs) until recently have not been something most of us have been aware of in relation to citizen science – but there’s increasing focus on these goals as they set the aspirations of sustainability; environmentally, economically and socially. The 17 global goals are designed to set a sustainable development agenda to transform our world by 2030. Local, state, and federal government personnel are now incorporating the SDGs into domestic policy, planning and reporting, so there is a real need for co-ordination, but also to define a role for citizen science to be embedded and integrated into this process.

Several groups are exploring how members of the general public and non-traditional data can contribute to achieving these incredibly ambitious aims, with a number of targets prescribed under each goal with associated indicators to measure success over time.  The non-traditional data includes not only citizen science data but also crowdsourced data like open street map and from partnerships such as citsci global and WeObserve. These groups are looking at the value of this non-traditional data for SDG reporting, and investigating methods and metrics for indicators where non-traditional data could best fit.The International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) held a workshop in Laxenburg, Austria, just outside Vienna, over 3 days (3-5 October 2018) to brainstorm and flesh out ideas on how to demonstrate how citizen science and other non-traditional ways of collecting data could advance the SDGs. It seemed as though the IIASA meeting was a reunion of old friends and colleagues, but for me, this was a completely new experience. Attending provided me the opportunity to get clarity and knowledge not only from the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), and reporting agencies such as the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), but also from highly experienced and passionate advocates of citizen science.

IIASA workshop attendees (photo credit: @JessieLOliver)

Some attendees gave 5-minutes speed talks to give an overview of their work, and Australia was well represented. Jessie Oliver gave a national perspective on alignment of SDGs and #CitSci, Libby Hepburn presented as Chair of the ECSA Policy SDG Task and Finish group on how the group can advance SDGs with citizen science globally, and I gave an overview on CSIRO’s current work on citizen science and SDG’s as well as the proposed mechanism for using citizen science data in reporting on SDGs.

Jessie, Libby and Janet presenting (photo credits: @mhaklay and @JessieLOliver)

Many governments have tasked their statistical organisations to analyse how their country will meet the goals and targets, but to also develop a reporting structure for respective SDG targets and associated indicators. Many of the statistical groups are unaware of non-traditional data sources, and certainly citizen science organisations are having to think how their data can be integrated into the SDG reporting. For example, the European consortium, WeObserve, of which IIASA is one of the 7 partners, seeks to address this issue by tackling three key challenges that Citizens Observatories (COs) face: awareness, acceptability, and sustainability. WeObserve organisers have launched their first three communities of practice related to citizen observatories and the forth community of practice will relate to SDGs and Citizen Observatories, which is set to be launched in November 2018. These community of practices will be very useful for ACSA to support implementation, demonstrate the added value, and promote uptake of non-traditional data particularly in relation to SDGs.

The IIASA workshop really consolidated ideas coming from people involved non-traditional data collection, such as through citizen science projects or advocacy, and/or with invaluable experience with SDGs. The exchanged experiences and new ideas will now be used to develop a roadmap to inform our regions and better advocate for non-traditional data, such as from citizen science, to be incorporated into the SDG evaluation process!

The outcomes of the IIASA workshop were presented at the high-level global Eye on Earth Symposium in Dubai from October 22 – 24th. Webinar links to these sessions are here:

Martin Brocklehurst in Australia: Citizen Science advocacy and insights at a global level

By Libby Hepburn

Martin Brocklehurst’s instructions to me were to fill his visit with as many important and influential people as possible, who might help develop citizen science in Australia – so I did. The result has been an amazing journey with global and local insights into a multitude of citizen science initiatives and a hugely positive and energised response from people across the country. It’s a great time for citizen science!

Martin Brocklehurst is one of the Founders of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), Chair of the ECSA Policy working group, instigator of the Global Mosquito Alert Consortium (GMAC) and has played a key part in the formation of the Citizen Science Global Partnership (CSGP).

His illustrious career has included high level government appointments in the Environment Agency (England & Wales) and with major oil companies (BP & Chevron). He is also a sought-after speaker and consultant internationally on the Circular Economy and was adviser to the UK House of Commons Environment Audit Committee enquiry “Growing the Circular Economy – Ending the throwaway society” July 2014[1].

Martin’s three-week itinerary from Brisbane to Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney included public seminars and meetings with those already working with citizen science and those who can find value through citizen science in Australian policy making.

He offered presentations targeted to his different audiences, describing the uptake of citizen science as a normal element of government agency strategy in both the USA and Europe. He described the latest challenge from the United Nations that citizen science has a very significant role to play in helping to achieve the Agenda 2030 through the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The citizen science community is young yet and finding its own way in the world through our Associations – with Europe, the USA, and Australia leading.  But citizen science communities in other areas of the world are now emerging and the Citizen Science Global Partnership has been formed to act as an interface with global institutions.

Martin spoke of the amazing advances of technology that are allowing us to think of citizen science projects on huge scales across nations and across the world. Good projects begun in one country suddenly being taken up in others without any promotion except through social media and word of mouth – unexpected results of open science and open technologies. He also talked about air quality citizen science in Antwerp (Curieuze Neuzen Vlaanderen) [2] where 10K passive diffusion tubes were made for participants to purchase and use in the survey, where 20K+ people wanted to take part and where pop concert events were used to share the results to communities.

The UK OPAL[3] Citizen Science for Everyone project, originally led by Dr Linda Davies is one of Martin’s inspirations, and it remains a beacon of good practice and large-scale engagement and impact today 10 years on.

So many great stories Martin shared of the amazing power and potential of citizen science across the 17 SDGs.  Yet a common theme emerged of agencies still seeing difficulties in using citizen science derived data in reporting progress towards the SDGs. For them it’s not “business as usual” and although the UN and organisations like the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO) are recognising that non-traditional data sources are essential if the SDGs are to be achieved, at present there is a credibility gap that needs to be addressed by citizen science. Citizen Science methods still remain to be incorporated into the recognised methods to gather data for reporting against the SDGs.  Opportunities exist to support Tier 3 Indicators where “no internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested”.[4]

During our tour, we met experts from universities, the Mosquito Conference in Brisbane, Queensland University of Technology, CSIRO, Monash Sustainable Dev.Inst., Melbourne Water, Vic. Waterwatch, the Commissioner for Environmental Sustainability Vic., Geoscience Australia and the Australian Museum.  And all admitted there are issues around data acceptability, whether real or imagined, but were all working to explore ways to work with community on meaningful research, whether around health, environment, water or pollution, and ensure data quality.

We were very pleased to see that in Australia there are a number of organisations who are at the leading edge of best practice in their work and reporting, and who are all convinced of the power of citizen science to deliver data and strategic objectives.

One of the keystone principles of citizen science is open data and usually open methodologies and Martin illuminated the possibilities of large-scale, global projects where data can be collected at a high level of granularity, yet also aggregated, analysed and presented in ways that will be acceptable to national government agencies and global organisations such as the UN and WMO.

The SDGs are rapidly becoming a common overarching framework for sane development strategies worldwide and are being adopted by many organisations at all sorts of scales. Martin’s visit was brought to a wide audience through the good offices of the United Nations Association Australia (UNAA) and the Royal Society, who hosted the majority of the public events in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney. They are convinced of citizen science’s value and importance, particularly towards the SDGs which are their main focus. The mixed audiences at these events – which included members from both the Queensland ACSA Chapter and the Victorian ACSA Chapter – were very receptive to what were evidently new ideas and examples and possibilities, and the post seminar discussions were lively and constructive. The UNAA sees a partnership with ACSA as being a mutually beneficial relationship for the future and have already suggested we might present to the Prime Minister and Cabinet Group through their auspices.

We were also fortunate to have discussions with the Australian Government Office of the Chief Scientist and senior officials in the Australian Government Department of Industry, Innovation & Science, the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the Office of the Queensland Chief Scientist.  Further positive meetings with the Australian Academy of Science, Inspiring Australia and the National Science and Technology Centre indicated that more people are recognising there is a bright future for citizen science in Australia.

Suggestions have been made that ACSA should consider developing a decadal plan to accelerate citizen science in Australia, it is in a good position to support Australia’s “soft diplomacy” and that the timing is right for a government department’s community of practice to explore the role of citizen science in supporting the development and implementation of Government Policy in Australia. This reflected the feeling at a meeting organised by Stephanie von Gavel at CSIRO, where a number of different government agency representatives were able to discuss a range of issues around citizen science, policy and how Australia reports against the SDG indicators.

The largest public event was organised by Stephanie at CSIRO where over 50 people attended and more joined the seminar by video link. The presentation is now available here[5].

Our estimate is that Martin has met with or presented to over 250 people from more organisations than we can count, at both State and National level, at 21 meetings over the three weeks of his visit.

This has been a unique opportunity to press the case for development of an institutional framework for citizen science within the policy development and implementation responsibilities of the Federal and State Governments of Australia.

Martin was able to show case the route map used in the US[6]  – through the Executive Office of the President and the Crowd Sourcing and Citizen Science Act of 2016[7] .  He also gave examples from the European Union where the work of the Knowledge Exchange Network established across the various Departments of the EU resulted in the adoption of recommendations contained in a paper “Citizen Science in EU Policies – Policy Brief 15th March 2018.  Subsequent briefing papers are already impacting the allocation of EU  Research Funds[8] and the way EU Policies are being implemented by National Governments.  The European Heads of the Environment Agencies now have an active working group on Citizen Science that is exploring how to put in place an EU wide Citizen Science Project to tackle air pollution in European Cities.  This group and the Heads of Environmental Protection Authorities Australia and New Zealand (HEPA) clearly have common interests in how citizen science can support their work.

The challenge now is to build on the interest and energy that exists and find Australian mechanisms to embed citizen science as a routine part of Government Policy development and implementation across Australia.

Thank you to the following supporters for help making Martin’s visit possible: 

Libby Hepburn
Chair – Atlas of Life in the Coastal Wilderness, ACSA Founding Member and Chair – global SDG and Citizen Science Maximisation group
September 25th 2018










Building the BrushTurkey app

Matthew Hall won the “Spotteron Competition” at #CitSciOz18, and his Brushturkey app is now live

  • Matthew Hall, PhD Candidate, Integrative Ecology Lab, The University of Sydney

I’d like to start this post by saying how incredibly grateful I am to the Australian Citizen Science Association for this opportunity to engage with the citizen science community, as well as to Spotteron for the fantastic work they did in building this app. Working with Spotteron to design and roll out the BrushTurkey app has been a unique and rewarding experience for me. Throughout the process I have been impressed by Spotteron’s expertise and the potential for citizen science to contribute to the broader scientific understanding of my study species and Australian wildlife in general.

Matthew and a tagged brush-turkey

When I started my PhD, researching the spread of Brush-turkeys into the Sydney suburbs, I certainly did not expect that citizen science would play such a large role in my project. Amidst a flurry of grant application writing the ACSA Spotteron competition caught my eye. I decided, almost on a whim, that I would apply. I thought about how citizen science could best suit my project. What could I do if I had eyes all over Australia ready to gather data for me? I realised that researching Brush-turkeys in suburbia was a perfect fit for a citizen science project. Brush-turkeys have been causing a stir in Sydney and Brisbane precisely because they interact so closely with people. They’re digging in their gardens, building mounds in local parks, and roosting in and around peoples’ homes. What a fantastic opportunity to understand how wildlife adapts to city life by having citizen scientists around to observe every Brush-turkey movement and behaviour as it happens! What a great way to bring people and nature together by giving people a chance to learn about a native species right at their doorstep! So, I sent in my application, hoped for the best and got on with my research.

I was stunned to find out my project idea had won the competition. Excited by the opportunity it wasn’t long before I was in contact with Philipp from Spotteron. One Skype call later and the wheels were in motion. Working with Spotteron to design the app was an interesting experience for me. As an ecology PhD student, I knew how to catch Brush-turkeys and design experiments to learn about their behaviour. I knew next to nothing about how to engage with the broader community at large. Philipp’s expertise was invaluable here. Spotteron have experience in designing apps that people want to use, and balance detail with ease of function.

I would throw out ideas about what kind of data to collect, or what aspects of Brush-turkey behaviour would be interesting to report, and Philipp would have a suggestion for how it should fit in the app – was it a text box or a button, a single option or a multi-select field? I sometimes found myself the middle man between my supervisors from partner institutions (The University of Sydney, The Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, and The Taronga Conservation Society), who all had ideas and questions about the app, and Spotteron. But the end product satisfied all our needs and exceed our expectations.

It has been really inspiring and exciting to see the response to the app. Within three days of the launch date the number of reports on the app already outstripped the number of Brush-turkeys I had personally tagged in the whole first year of my PhD. It really goes to show the potential of citizen science and including the general pubic in the process of data gathering. I can’t wait to see what we can learn about how this unique Australian species adapts to a changed world with this app. I’d encourage anyone who is interested to download the BrushTurkey app and start uploading sightings today.

Matthew and his collaborators from Taronga Zoo and the Royal Botanic Gardens

Links + Info:

Smartphone Apps:

* Interactive Map (Web-App)

You can also read the Spotteron Blog Post about the app here.


“Are we citizen scientists ‘firing in synchrony’?”

Scholarship winner Alan Stenhouse found the diverse range of local and international presentations at #CitSciOz18 interesting, enriching and inspiring. 

  • Alan Stenhouse, PhD candidate, Centre for Applied Conservation Science, University of Adelaide

From February 7-9 2018, I attended the Australian Citizen Science Conference that was held in my current home town of Adelaide, Australia. Thanks to the Australian Citizen Science Association’s (ACSA) generosity I managed to win a scholarship that covered my registration fee – much appreciated!

We started the conference with some workshops – I attended “New Visions in Citizen Science and Public Policy in Australia”. Some of the highlights of this for me were Libby Hepburn telling us of the United Nation’s goal to get one billion Citizen Scientists in the world by 2020! Then Jo White, from the New South Wales Office of Environment and Heritage, provided good guidance on what to aim for when thinking about changing policies using Citizen Science (CitSci). Lea Shanley from the US South Big Data Hub provided some examples from the US, such as how they got the government to explicitly support CitSci and created a federal CitSci toolkit.

Amy Kaminski from NASA described CitSci as a tool for scientific research and societal benefit at NASA and gave examples like AuroraSaurus – which needs people in the Southern Hemisphere to take part! Amy also mentioned some relevant points for me such as: lack of expertise to review CitSci projects in review panels; data quality concerns; the science community’s lack of experience with CitSci. Of particular note was her advice to use the terms “augment + enhance” scientific research to allay fears of the “replacement” of scientists. A great idea! She also mentioned that the next Earth Observation budget will include a CitSci component.

Next up was the official conference opening with a fascinating welcome to country from Kaurna Elder Uncle Lewis O’Brien who reminded us of the breadth, depth and importance of indigenous knowledge. This was followed by a keynote from Alan Finkel, Australia’s Chief Scientist. He told us about Ferdinand von Mueller who came to South Australia in 1847 and started perhaps the first Australia-wide CitSci project from the 1850s onwards. He was a botanist and convinced interested citizens (primarily women) around Australia to collect plants, store them appropriately and then send them to him.

My talk was scheduled as the last of the first day in the #EmpowerWithData stream and I think it went ok – at least I had some good feedback and comments on Twitter. Afterwards all the speakers in our stream stood up the front and had a good discussion with the audience for 30 minutes which was very worthwhile.

Some other highlights for me from all the presentations were:

  • Andrew Robinson from QuestaGame introducing BioCoin – as a virtual currency for use in QuestaGame and other environmental projects. It will be fascinating to see how that develops over time.

  • Hearing what Emilie Ens and her team have been doing up in the Ngukurr NT area was very informative. She outlined starting off 10 years ago with fencing off Billabongs (“the local supermarket” and culturally significant). Then added cross-cultural biodiversity surveys in 2012, and brought in new technology to record data. Empowering young people through conservation – make it fun, get them involved with mobile technology and other fun stuff – and thereby raising the level of education . Finally, supporting intergenerational knowledge transfer and maintaining endangered languages and cultures. Awesome work and still with a lot of opportunities remaining!
  • Seeing Amy Sterling presenting EyeWire – a CitSci gamified application for mapping neurons in the brain. Previously taking a neuroscientist approximately 1000 hours to map one neuron, with some AI involved a Citizen Scientist can now map one neuron in 50 hours (though maybe I’m oversimplifying this?). Looks like a great application with a vibrant community (demonstrated live and chatted with other participants back in the US) – there are about 250 thousand players in approximately 150 countries!

There were, of course, loads of great projects from around Australia, but best of all was meeting and talking to the people involved in all these projects both at the conference and afterwards (did I mention the social events?). It was interesting, enriching, and inspiring! Many thanks to all the participants and especially the organizing committee. I’m looking forward to the next conference!


“The conference was definitely a springboard for me”

Masters student Hayley Bridgwood found knowledge, inspiration and useful case studies at CitSciOz18

  • Hayley Bridgwood from University College Dublin, Ireland

Well what a fabulous few days at the CitSciOz 2018 Conference!

As an MSc (Environmental Sustainability) candidate through University College Dublin I have been pursuing various areas of academic interest including ecology and genetics as they relate to conservation – all with the view to ultimately work with landholders and support them in sustainable agricultural practices. The conference has given me a much greater appreciation of the value of aggregated data and the roles that landholders might play in being part of the first line of research.

I came to the Conference with a very novice understanding of citizen science and online crowdsourcing.  And I left with a very full head and loads of useful case studies and fascinating stories of science in action – from small-scale community projects to large scale, evidently very-well funded and technologically advanced ventures. A particular highlight for me was the study of acoustic patterns of local birds, which can be analysed and taught to captive bred individuals to facilitate their reintroduction. Fascinating!

Since returning home, I have already shared a good number of case studies with the Masters candidates I work alongside at The University of Melbourne, and actively sought out examples of citizen science projects they might introduce and engage with in their own classrooms.

The conference was definitely a springboard for me to further pursue my passion for science communication and education. It was absolutely inspiring to be able to engage in so many interesting and high-quality conversations with the conference speakers and delegates. Thank you to all contributors for making it such a memorable event.

“Citizen Science engagement and the great electronic age!”

The wide spread use of smart phone applications in Citizen Science projects stood out for Seamus Doherty at #CitSciOz18.

  • Seamus Doherty, Biomedical Honour’s student, the University of South Australia

I was one of the many fortunate people to attend this year’s Australian Citizen Science Association conference.

Up until just last year, I had never really heard of the concept of citizen science, never mind the great association that would eventually help fund my attendance to Australia’s official citizen science event in my very own city! It’s funny though. You see in the past, I was part of many citizen science projects without even knowing it. It had always been a passion of mine to help researchers in different fields (namely environmental, biology and cosmology science to name just a few of my favourite fields) to sort through and interpret mass amounts of data via online organisations, such as Zooniverse, just for the sheer joy it gave me to be helping real researchers make new and exciting discoveries. And here I am today, developing a citizen science mosquito surveillance programme of my own in an effort to help control arboviruses in South Australia as part of my honour’s thesis.

Attending what was one of my first ever conference events, I had a really great time pacing my way through and absorbing all sorts of information from all sorts of people. Roaming through the various workshops and talks focusing on citizen science projects being run all over the world, it was amazing meeting new people in a variety of different fields and discussing their subjective thoughts and perspectives on different ideas and projects. But with my time at the event, I noted that there were several talks that jumped out at me as not only brilliant in their thinking, but also on how I could personally alter my own project using their experiences.

A great example was given by Andrew Tokmakoff, who discussed the use of gamification for his smartphone application Wild Orchid Watch to make gathering data more fun and engaging for participants. Adding level and ranking systems, and the ability to unlock more content the more a participant contributed could allow people to be more engaged, competing with friends and allowing them to have fun whilst gathering data. Another great example of using gamification was Andrew Robinson’s talk on his QuestGame smartphone application that incorporated a similar design. I found this to be an extremely smart way to engage and sustain participants over a long period of time and is a design feature that I would like to incorporate into my project if I also decide to develop an application.

This theme of using smartphone applications for citizen science projects was echoed throughout the event by many speakers including a lecture by Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr. Allen Finkel’s who emphasised a list of continuous engagement strategies that could be used through these applications. Some of my personal favourites were real-time validation on observation/data submission and notification of updates to contributed observations. I personally thought these were great ways to keep participants engaged and improve the longevity of a project overtime. Using an application is just such a simple way to get more people to engage in these projects so effortlessly using their smartphone.

In summary, the Australian Citizen Science Association conference of 2018 was an absolute blast and provided many great ideas from all walks of citizen science projects. What really stood out to me was the wide-spread use of smartphone applications part of these projects and how useful they can be for sustained engagement, education and ease of access for participants. I think it really emphasises how much we should be incorporating and embracing the electronic age more to help with the engagement of these citizen science projects. I hope to use many of these ideas and work on the successes of these projects in the future.

#ECSA2018: Gaining European Citizen Science Association inspiration!

Having never been to Europe myself, it was intriguing to see just how large those alps are, and I was immediately struck by the politeness of the people, as well as the interesting mix of historical and modern cityscape aspects.  Below are just a few reflections from my experiences attending the #ECSA2018 Conference and other pre- and post- workshops in Geneva, Switzerland, as well as a quick jaunt to England, in early June. 

Progressing Global and Large-Scale Initiatives

Exploring the UN Sustainable Development Goals & Citizen Science Global Partnership

Attendees of the meeting to discuss the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and citizen science at the UN Environment office in Geneva.

The day before #ECSA2018 officially started, people from some far flung corners of the world including Switzerland, Austria, Spain, Germany, England, China, the United States and Australia gathered at the UN Environment office in Geneva. Martin Brocklehurst, Chair of ECSA’s Policy Working Group, asked us to explore what is needed to develop an institutional framework and gather support for scaling-up how citizen scientists can contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Libby Hepburn then kicked off the workshop proper by sharing with us with an overview of how Australian governments and citizen science projects currently align with the SDGs, and how this could be expanded. Following this, Martin provided us with an analogous state-of-play for Europe and potential for the future. After these excellent overviews, Martin and Anne Bowser, from the U.S.-based Wilson Center, led multiple breakout sessions exploring framework needs and the role of the Citizen Science Global Partnership (CSGP) in advocating for and supporting citizen science and SDG alignment.

The 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Anne Bowser then delved into what the Citizen Science Global Partnership may look like in the future through a number of events. She facilitated a conference dialog session, for example, exploring the 1) position and role, 2) community value, 3) personal value, and 4) networking potential of the CSGP in the context of the citizen science community and more broadly.

The Citizen Science Global Partnership dialog session during #ECSA2018. Photo credit: Monica Peters.

Community input from this session then formed the basis of a post conference workshop supported by the European initiative Citizen Science COST ACTION, further examining the goals of the Partnership, governance structure, and relationship to the business community. Outcomes will help to inform how the CSGP continues to take shape over the next two years.

Attendees of the COST ACTION Citizen Science Global Partnership workshop.

The work hasn’t stopped since Geneva! A number of people are continuing to push these global efforts forward into the future. Libby, Caren Cooper & Rosy Mondardini, for example,  have initiated a SDG and Citizen Science Task and Finish Group as part of ECSA’s larger Policy Working Group.  If you are interested in following progress or getting actively involved in exploring how citizen science can be a key contributing part of the SDGs you can register HERE. Martin and Anne are also very actively continuing their respective work gathering support and advocating for alignment of citizen science, the SDGs, and the CSGP. Martin is, for example, is encouraging citizen science advocates to represent these efforts at global events, including the UN World Data Forum & Eye-on-Earth Symposium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Funding is not currently available to support travel, but if you are interest or already attending and interested in SDGs, do let us know and we will put you in contact with initiative leaders.  

Considering Citizen Science Data and Metadata

Who doesn’t love to talk about society, data, and metadata? Well, clearly a lot of citizen science folks in Geneva were game! As part of the conference, Jaume Piera, from the Institute of Marine Sciences, ran a dialog session on Simplifying citizen science methods for data. Our very own Peter Brenton, from the Atlas of Living Australia and CSIRO (AU), led a great workshop on Advancing citizen-science observational-data standards, where we explored a standardization of data for a number of participant case studies. Information gathered from this will feed into Australian and international efforts, such as the ACSA and CSA Data and Metadata Working Group, of which Peter and I are members. After the conference, Luigi Ceccaroni, from Earthwatch Europe and also a Director of ECSA, led a Citizen Science COST ACTION Working Group workshop to Improve data standardization and interoperability. During this workshop, Luigi progressed longstanding, ongoing discussions, and facilitated us collaboratively contributing to a document intended to provide “a recommendation on how to represent data and metadata in citizen science”. If you are interested in such things, be sure to check out this COST Action Working Group and Geneva Declaration on Citizen Science Data and Metadata Standards document!

Attendees of the COST ACTION Data Standardization and Interoperability workshop. Photo credit: Luigi Ceccaroni.

If you have an inquiry or want to get involved in any of these large-scale efforts around the SDGs, the CSGP, and Data & Metadata, just send us a message, and we will put you in contact with the respective project leader.

Additional Highlights From #ECSA2018

This conference provided many opportunities to network and meet people in diverse ways. I thought it was a creative idea to give people water bottles of different colours and then have folks meet up based on the colours! The Public Citizen Science Festival was a hoot, where a few of us Oceania folks, including myself, Peter, and Monica Peters, got together and themed the letters we screen printed on our bags!

Folks who travelled from Australia (myself and Peter Brenton) and New Zealand (Monica Peters) having way to much fun with puns when deciding letters to screen print on our #ECSA2018 bags!

While I didn’t think to snap any pictures that particular night, I had an absolute blast catching up with loads of people, including none other than the lovely Nina James, coming from University of South Australia to present her work Strangers, stewards and newcomers in CS. I felt fortunate to be able to attend another dinner that started out small and quickly grew to an awesome group of folks from all over the world thrilled by citizen science!

Citizen science enthusiast from around the world gathering for a bite to eat in Geneva. Photo credit: Lea Shanley.

The talks, workshops, sessions, posters, and meetings throughout the conference were absolutely top notch. I was particularly struck by the very thought provoking keynote address that Bruno Strasser from University of Geneva, Geneva, gave that certainly challenged my understanding of what citizen science is and how people participate in it.

Video credit: Mendel Wong

Shannon Dosemagen also gave a brilliant keynote sharing her journey that led to her working with communities to advocate for their environments through Public Labs.

Video credit: Mendel Wong

Then Sven Schade, from the European Commission, led a fascinating COST Action workshop exploring Citizen Science Strategies in Europe as well, where we heard from policy expert Paul Waller discuss opportunities and issues for citizen science as an input to policy development. Claudia Göbel discussed how tasks of this working group are divided to explore different aspects of policy integration, what they have achieved to date, and what is envisioned for the future.

Claudia presenting during the COST ACTION workshop exploring Citizen Science Strategies in Europe.

It was also quite informative to attend the ECSA General Assembly, which is analogous to our ACSA Annual General Meetings. Here I learned not only about the structure of ECSA, but about their voting process, working groups and activities, outcomes of the year, and much more. The meeting didn’t start until evening and went into the wee hours of the night, but as you can see below, this crowd didn’t lack enthusiasm!

ECSA General Assembly attendees who stayed to the very end! Photo credit: ECSA (Cropped by Jessie Oliver)

As the conference wrapped up, I started to prepare for my continued #CitSci adventure. Just before I left Geneva, however, Jonathan Brier invited me to join him on a tour of European Organization for Nuclear Research, known as CERN, which admittedly I knew next to nothing about beyond some loose citizen science connections. Wow, my mind was completely blown learning about particle accelerators! 

Learning the impressive and fascinating history of CERN and checking out decommissioned particle accelerator equipment with Jonathan.

I then blasted off to London, where I did a whirlwind trip, learning more and exchanging ideas about ACSA and ECSA with folks including Margaret Gold and Lucy Robinson. 

Catching up with Lucy at the Natural History Museum in London, before presenting and seeing some mind-blowing museum treasures.

It was also a thrill to present my citizen science technology design research to Lucy Robinson, John Tweddle, and the other members of the Natural History Museum citizen science crew.  One of my last citizen science stops was the University College London, where I presented my PhD work to the members of the UCL Interaction Centre, who are all doing really interesting technology design research.

Excitedly presenting my PhD research on how to design engaging technology for citizen science and conservation.

Then it was time to start my epic journey back to Brisbane! I can’t begin to express my gratitude enough for being able to attend so many wonderful events, and for all of the new and old friends alike that made this trip an absolutely worthwhile endeavour. It’s impossible to mention everyone who generously shared their time, knowledge, and passions for citizen science, but thank you to each and every one of you. Special thanks to Margaret for all of the support you provided on my London trip! I look to forward to sharing all that I have learned from this trip with members of our wonderful citizen science community here at home!

Want more info about the conference? Check out the #ECSA2018 Conference website, the conference program. Conference attendees also often tweeted using the hashtag #ECSA2018, which you can search for via twitter.  Michelle Neil, our own ACSA social media moderator, followed tweets from Brisbane, and created tweet summaries for each day of the conference as well, which you can also check out: Conference Opening | Day 2 Highlights | Day 3 Highlights | Final Day Highlights.

Geneva graced with me with one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen just as I was preparing to leave!

“The ACSA conference was rewarding and inspiring”

James Gullison reflects on the important messages from CitSciOz18 – and how great it was to be in Adelaide!

  • James Gullison from DuneWatch, Gold Coast

I was given the opportunity to attend and present at the 2018 Australian Citizen Science Association conference in Adelaide – an opportunity that I could not pass up on for two reasons:

The first was the chance to meet up with a group of people from all around Australia and different parts of the world to share ideas, experiences, knowledge, inspiration, a few good laughs and learn from one another. It was an opportunity to experience other people’s projects and where their passions lie.

The second reason was quite simple to me. I had never been to Adelaide and wanted to experience its indigenous culture, colonial history, art precincts, good food and wine, its amazing natural beauty and the weather.

I had an opportunity to explore some of the wonders of the Art Gallery of South Australia. Adelaide as a city is a real stand out for me with so much on offer and the heat!! Getting around was easy and I decided to head to Semaphore one evening as a mini field trip. I wanted to have an insight into how Adelaide suburbs initiate coastal management but also see the different coastal dune vegetation. I was not disappointed with what I saw, expanding dunes, busy beaches and the sunset is one I will not forget any time soon.

Taking in a sunset from the pier at Semaphore to finish off an energetic day at the conference

The first day of the conference was a great way to kick things off for the week, mainly because it meant I would have my presentation finished on day one. I will admit that public speaking is something that I still get nervous with.  Considering my job role is community engagement, you would think that I would be used to it by now. Unfortunately, I still have the butterflies prior to talking and I’m not generally relaxed until halfway through.

In all honesty, I did not know what to expect, as this was the first time I had attended a conference like this. I prepared what I could for my presentation and hoped that the question time would be kind. This talk went well without any issues, although I found a speed talk goes rather quickly when you are trying to condense so much information into a reduced period.

Shaking off the nerves to give this presentation in such a short period

I felt privileged to be able to present in a room full of people who share similar passions and are part of something bigger. Citizen science has been gaining momentum over the past few years and this conference showcased a variety of projects from all over the country and other parts of the world.  We all share one common trait; we believe we are making a difference in the projects we are involved in.

One of the highlights for me at this conference was listening to the talk given by the keynote speaker, Australia’s Chief Scientist Dr Alan Finkel, about how the birth of citizen science started in this country from the humble beginnings of German botanist Ferdinand Mueller.  There was also a great message within this talk, which highlighted the importance of the work that we are all doing within our prospective project.

  • Is it good citizen science that is consistent with the exacting standards of current science experimental processes?
  • Is it a door to the world of science for the community and open for anyone to be involved?
  • What makes it worth doing?

I was happy to go through our DuneWatch project and look at these three statements to see if we are on the right path. Looking at the approach of our project and how it has been well received on the Gold Coast I’m happy to say that we tick those boxes. And this approach can also be used for other projects that were showcased at the conference. Everyone who presented their projects need to be proud of their achievements to date. We truly are at the start a big push for citizen science in this country. What some of us do not realise is that we are the leaders for this citizen science movement within our communities.

The most rewarding aspect of this conference was coming home inspired by what I had seen and learnt over the course of a few days. I felt reinvigorated and recharged and it has been a starting platform for what is shaping as a great 2018.