Category: Engaging citizens

Australian Citizen Science Association statement on 2019/20 bushfires

The unprecedented Australian fires are devastating. They have led to the loss of lives, homes, habitats and livelihoods. Members of the Australian Citizen Science Association extend our deepest sympathies to those affected personally and also recognise the ecological grief that may be prompted by the scale of this crisis. 

In this time of extreme loss, we are also buoyed by the extraordinary response of individuals and communities in a time of crisis.  We believe there is a role for citizen science to assist across multiple disciplines, in many research and monitoring capacities. 

ACSA is a member-based community that supports, informs and develops citizen science. With this in mind, we are seeking to support conversations and plans that help further connect the citizen science community to contribute to the extraordinary and complex efforts required to organise a safe, strategic and coordinated response – both short and long-term.

We understand that there are many people who want to help with response. We do too. Please appreciate that the safety of you and others is paramount.  If considering citizen science activities, always ensure that the area you visit is cleared for entry, you are safe and that your activities do not interfere with the critical frontline work of emergency first responders. We are not currently promoting field based data collection. Emergency responses need to come first. Many volunteers are actively contributing to response efforts as firefighters, relief centre workers, and wildlife carers, while other people returning to their homes are putting out water or vegetables for wildlife remaining. Our thanks goes out to those contributing to these efforts.

The first four steps of ACSA’s approach is outlined below:

STEP 1 – Rapid community feedback

ACSA has commenced multiple processes for crowdsourcing information about what and how citizen science projects might contribute to the recovery of forests and ecosystems, monitor the effects of climate change, and empower citizens to create datasets that may positively influence climate policy.  

A quick call for ideas is open for feedback. No idea is too big or too small. You can share information about  existing projects and new concepts that could address a critical gap. As a community, we can work together to create and support imaginative, robust and impactful projects that will contribute to positive outcomes for science and society. We’ll share the ideas generated with you and use them as part of our citizen science advocacy in consultations with government and industry. 

STEP 2 – Community of practice discussion

We encourage our members to join the WILDLABS Bushfires Slack channels, in which several of our committee members, and representatives from response organizations such as Conservation Volunteers Australia, are already active. Please get involved in these conversations to share your insights and details of any active groups or discussions around citizen science bushfire responses so that we can link to these initiatives. There are several citizen science threads. The WILDLABS Slack link is <https://www.wildlabs.net/community/thread/825>. 

STEP 3 – Project audit & key needs

We are partnering with SciStarter and Atlas of Living Australia on a survey to compile a list of projects where citizen science data and data processing could be useful in helping to monitor the impacts and recovery from the bushfires and of a changing climate more broadly. We will be posting this survey soon – please stay tuned. 

This survey will be a first step in helping to support the broader conversations around how to maximise the positive contributions from citizen science for response and recovery efforts. If you manage or know about good projects, we very much value your feedback.  There are a huge range of existing citizen science projects that are already collecting data around relevant topics. 

Potential categories of needs and goals identified so far include:

    • post fire assessment and recovery (ecology and or biodiversity monitoring, documenting regrowth, identifying remaining patches of habitat, soil condition)
    • Wildlife and endangered species support (presence/absence, abundance, distribution, predator control)
    • Air quality, cloud, smoke monitoring etc. (empowering citizens to self-monitor or access nearby monitoring, coordinating citizen data)
    • Water quality, including runoff/ash issues (projects exist, coordinating/sharing role)
    • Health and well-being (respiratory issues, mental health, community sustainability)
    • Climate change observations, local weather conditions
    • Research (Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC
    • Shared global goals (Earth Challenge 2020, SDGs). 

We have also had a number of science, research and conservation organisations reach out. This conversation linking key needs from science, management and policy organisations and the Australian and global citizen science community is where ACSA seeks to focus our efforts. To help us consider ways to best connect the citizen science community with key needs, we welcome feedback on critical information gaps and key research needs where citizen science can help. 

STEP 4 – Long-term strategy

An effective response to coordinate citizen science contributions at this scale will require extensive strategy, consideration and collaboration. ACSA will work to develop a more long-term response together with you, our community. This will include approaches to best align the key data needs identified by science, management and communities with citizen science data collection, processing, analysis and sharing activities. 

We’re exploring ideas around how we can support constructive sessions at the upcoming ACSA National Citizen Science Conference (Oct 2020) and through other key advocacy and collaborative activities. We welcome your feedback to shape next steps. If you are interested in being part of a working group for a disaster recovery research stream of the conference, please contact cobi.calyx@unsw.edu.au.

ACSA stands with you and your communities, and we will support Australia’s response to the bushfire and climate crisis as best we can. As climate change continues to influence more aspects of our lives through both extreme events and other environmental, social, cultural and economic changes, we want to continue strengthening ACSA as a platform that can advocate for your priorities.

“Join Flutracking” Prof Paul Kelly urges Australians

On 6 April 2020 Professor Paul Kelly, Deputy Chief Health Officer, encouraged all Australians to join Flutracking to help track the spread of COVID-19.

Following this  Dr. Craig Dalton, co-ordinator of Flutracking.net reached out to ACSA and asked for our assistance in spreading this message far and wide.

Participating in this citizen science project is easy, and will provide incredibly valuable information that can help us track COVID-19 and other illness in real time.

Join Flutracking at https://info.flutracking.net/ and complete a simple 30 second survey once a week.

Join Flutracking now.

City Nature Challenge is GO!

“Imagine how many species we could document if everyone in Australia just spent a few hours a day for four days documenting the biodiversity in their own backyard!”

Sick of staying indoors? Have you heard about the biggest backyard bioblitz Australia has ever seen?  For the first time ever the City Nature Challenge is being contested by four Australian cities. Due to COVID-19, the City Nature Challenge (Australian organisers) are also encouraging everyone in Australia to join in the fun and bioblitz their own backyards (or balconies) in the name of science!

It all takes place from the 24th to 27th April inclusive, but there are also daily challenges leading up to the big event, so get the kids involved too!

Please note: the iNaturalist app is rated as ages 4+ in the Google and iOS app stores however you do need to be 13 years old to have an iNaturalist account so m Mum or Dad will need to supervise 4-12 year olds.

Want to do something fun and a bit unusual? Sunday the 26th of April is Moth Night.  Put up a white sheet outside under cover and shine a light onto it. Turn off all other lights and wait 10 minutes for the moths to find the sheet. Then start logging those moths. This is a great one to get the kids involved in too!

Click here for more information about Moth Night.

Enjoyed Moth Night? Look out for Shake A Tree Day!

Reminder: When bioblitzing your own backyard be sure to log in your observations as “obscured” for geoprivacy reasons.

Check out City Nature Challenge Redlands City QLD, City Nature Challenge: Geelong, City Nature Challenge: Greater Adelaide and City Nature Challenge 2020 / Sydney for details of our Aussie city competitors.

 

For the full media release go to:

https://citynaturechallengeaustralia.wordpress.com/2020/04/08/city-nature-challenge-2020-media-release/

Welcome to Global CitSciMonth!

Citizen Science Month offers thousands of opportunities for you to turn your curiosity into impact. There’s something for everyone, everywhere! If you are #HomeSchooling, #StayAtHome or just having a #Staycation you can join a project or event from wherever you are to help scientists answer questions they cannot answer without you. There is something on every day (and night) during CitSciMonth and most are suitable for students to join in online. Check out the calendar for more information here such as the Grey Mangrove Hunt or join the ACSA team in the Stall-A-Thon where we will be helping to find a cure for Alzheimers with Stall Catchers.

Note: Check the time zones before you sign up for web events as this is a global events month.

Is your favourite citizen science project celebrating Global Citizen Science Month? Please let us know so we can share the word on the ACSA social media accounts!

Are you ready to BioBlitz?

With less than 50 days until the 5th City Nature Challenge (CNC) the four Australian cities competing are busy training citizen scientists and getting the word out on social media. International founders and organisers, Lila Higgins (Natural History Museum of LA County) and Alison Young (California Academy of Sciences), anticipate more than 40,000 people worldwide will make & share over 1 million observations of nature in over 230 cities from the 24th to 27th of April inclusive. All Australian iNaturalist research-grade observations are added to the Atlas of Living Australia via the iNaturalist Australia node. You can read more about that here.

Philip Roetman and ACSA SA recently hosted their first CNC training session. Part one of “Using iNaturalist” can be found on the Adelaide City Nature Challenge YouTube channel here.

Redland City is meanwhile preparing for its first training event from 4pm-6pm on Saturday the 21st of March at Indigiscapes. Entry is free and open for all ages.

City of Geelong is running information sessions as part of it’s annual Geelong Nature Forum. Click here for more information.

Download the iNaturalist app and head to Redland City (QLD), City of Sydney (NSW), City of Geelong (VIC) or Greater Adelaide area (SA) from the 24-27th of April to participate in the City Nature Challenge 2020!

ACSA-Vic event: How can Citizen Science contribute to public health?

Join our next Citizen Science event and discover how citizen science can contribute to public health.

When: 3pm – 5:00pm, 25 March, 2020
Where: Kathleen Syme Library and Community Centre, 251 Faraday St, Carlton.
RSVP: via Eventbrite

Guest presenters:

  • Ann Borda, Centre for the Digital Transformation of Health – The University of Melbourne 
    Ann is a Senior Research Fellow in the Centre for the Digital Transformation of Health at The University of Melbourne. Ann has a PhD in information science from University College London which has served as a springboard for her commitment towards transdisciplinary scholarship. Ann’s own research focuses on participatory health, digital health literacy, and smart cultural heritage.
  • Ollie Conlan, Bicycle Network
    More than two thirds of Australians, including children, don’t get enough exercise. The stats tell us that too many people are spending too much time sitting and not enough time moving. It’s a problem that we’re fighting hard to solve. With your help, Bicycle Network is making it easier for everybody to ride a bike, every day.

Presentations will be followed by time for group discussion and networking. We encourage you to come along and share your project stories and develop our community of practice.

Registration and full details via Eventbrite.

 

The Australian Citizen Science Association convenes a community of practice in citizen science, exploring ways to make participation in research by non-scientists not just instructive, but also engaging, fun and social. Our thanks to our Chair, Kade Mills for hosting this gathering.

From your ACSA-Vic Committee
Chair: Kade Mills (Victorian National Parks Association)
Vice Chair: Tess Hayes
Secretary: Yvonne Cabuang (Melbourne Water)
Committee Members: Linden Ashcroft (University of Melbourne), Julian O’Shea (Unbound), Pat Bonney (Federation University) and Christine Connelly (Victoria University).

ACSA Bushfire Response projects audit and promotion

Early in the new year we were waking up to the realisation of how awful and extensive all the bushfires across Australia were. We were also seeing a huge response from the public who wanted to contribute, to do something to help affected wildlife which we were seeing perhaps surviving the bushfires but subsequently in real problems because of a lack of water, food and shelter/cover.

We also realised that none of us knew what citizen science we could usefully do that would help scientists and natural resource managers with information about what was happening. We also needed to be guided as to what to look for so as to begin to understand the destructive and regenerative processes we were observing around us.

ACSA established an informal working group to undertake an audit of post bushfire/wildfire projects which involve an element of citizen science in their data gathering. Our task was to collate what we could find and make it accessible to the whole citizen science community.

We now have both an Atlas of Living Australia Biocollect Bushfire Projects page and a Sci Starter microsite to which we can continue to add suitable projects and where you can find relevant platforms and methodologies to work with.

Our “global audit” resulted in only 10 projects that responding to the survey. Not a great number, but there are really valuable projects within the responses Here are a few examples:

  • The WaterbugBlitz project which can be used to track the presence/absence of waterbugs to compare them with those present before the fires and monitor how they are affected by ash and erosion runoff and the subsequent changes in water quality after the fires
  • Eye on Water which looks at the colour of water and maps it against satellite images – this will be interesting because of all the extra material now present in any water bodies affected by fire, flood ash and erosion.
  • The Environment Recovery Project based on iNaturalist asking for observations from recently burned areas
  • Two Globe Observer projects, one on Land Cover recording and one on Clouds for recording post bushfire changes in vegetation/erosion and smoke intrusions
  • Questagame Bushfire which is a competition to record unusual species in refuge unburned areas and later when it is safe, to record what comes back into burned ecosystems
  • Naturemapr Water and Feed station monitoring asking people to record where water stations are and what comes to visit and behaviours such as aggression, including feral animals and unusual species and insects.
  • NatureMapr Post Bushfire regeneration and repopulation For recording post-fire regeneration and repopulation: The post fire appearance of any fungi, insect, plant and any other wildlife group can be recorded at locations specified by fire intensity, original habitat type or other environmental variable of interest, or as sites for which there is pre-fire data. Recording unusual or greater numbers of wildlife in refuge areas and how long they stay.
  • Airater a project to support people with asthma and allergies to better manage their health. The app provides users with up to date, local information on environmental conditions, including air pollution, pollen and temperature. Users can also log their asthma/allergy or other health symptoms and develop a personal profile of what their environmental triggers are.
  • Citisens, an app developed in Greece which allows citizens to easily georeference a fire-line in real-time and report its coordinates as they are photographing a wildfire. It offers real-time prediction and dynamic assimilation of citizen-reported hotspots into ongoing simulations for improved predictive accuracy, and decision support to issue citizen alarms based on the estimated time-dependent risk at their location due to an approaching wildfire.

The activity around putting out water and food stations and general post bushfire monitoring in many places, by natural resource management agencies and also many individual and community groups, will undoubtedly produce many images via camera trapping and we are pleased to learn that the Australian Museum is establishing  a Bushfire specific page for its great “Wildlifespotter” platform, so everyone with multiple camera trap images will be able to invite the global community to help identify “camera captured” wildlife.

We have also identified a number of other existing and tested projects which could easily be modified for post-bushfire research and are currently approaching universities and agencies to seek information about what scientists are seeking to work on and how our communities of citizen scientists could work with them. Some of these are focused on specific animals like Platypus, Frogs, Glossy Black cockatoos and Echidna. The Echidna project is particularly interesting as it seeks Echidna scat(poo) which can be analysed for stress, so post bushfire evidence will give fascinating new understanding of what levels of stress these animals are suffering around bushfires.

Although we hope that this season’s bushfires are over, there is much work to be done to understand better the effects of what has happened this season, in the short-term and long term. We also want to be better prepared both to help and to learn more,  more quickly when next bushfires happen in Australia, so we are gathering information about research which has been completed and which is just beginning and we hope to create a resource hub for a range of information and tools which everyone will be able to access.

Libby Hepburn

libby@atlasoflife.org.au

Citizen Science Bushfire Response Project Audit

The unprecedented continental scale of the current Australian bushfires is devastating. They have led to the loss of lives, homes, habitats and biodiversity on a huge scale.

In this time of extreme loss, we are buoyed by the amazing response of individuals and communities in this time of crisis.  We believe there is a role for citizen science to assist across multiple disciplines, at scale, in many research and monitoring capacities to contribute to important and valuable science that is needed now and into the future.

ACSA is seeking to support conversations and plans – both short and long term – that help further connect the citizen science community to contribute to the complex efforts required to learn from and understand the impact of the bushfires (see ACSA bushfire response).

The first step we are taking is an audit to gather as many research projects as we can that include fire – bushfire/forest/wildfire as their focus and citizen science as part of their methodologies. We have developed the ACSA Citizen Science Bushfire Response Project survey and we would be very grateful if you could circulate this widely through your networks to all those who might already be working in this area. We are seeking projects across a broad spectrum of subjects, from biodiversity to human health that use a wide range of methodologies, from projects which require on the ground work, to purely online projects where everyone can contribute.

This information will be used to create a publicly available list of active projects and ACSA will work with partners to identify a number of projects that have the potential to contribute on a national scale.

Contact:  Libby Hepburn

libby@atlasoflife.org.au   +61 458 798 990  Merimbula,

New South Wales, Australia

ACSA Seed Grant Winners

Congratulations to the recipients of ACSA’s Seed Grants for 2019! The Seed Grants were designed as a way of giving back and investing in our members, with two $1,000 grants available to ACSA members to seed their professional or project’s growth in line with ACSA’s strategic goals of Participation and Practice.

And the winners are:

  • Dr Erinn Fagan-Jeffries – Pupils for Parasitoid Wasps: The ‘Pupils for Parasitoid Wasps’ project involves school children running insect traps to collect parasitic wasps in their local environment, and being involved in naming and describing newly discovered species.

  • Jodie Valpied – Bachhus Marsh Platypus Alliance: The Seed Grant will help provide the necessary resources to the new Bacchus Marsh Platypus Alliance community group to begin a citizen science project on platypus habitat health, and to facilitate community engagement in this project.

Congratulations to Erinn, Jodie and your teams on winning this Grant, and we look forward to hearing how your projects progress.

Tell us more – updating your ACSA member profile

Two of the key findings from the Member Survey we conducted last year are:

  • people are seeking a community through ACSA, and
  • members are most interested in exchanging knowledge & experiences, and building a professional network.

To help facilitate these wishes, we’ve expanded the ‘My ACSA Profile’ section on our website and invite you to enter additional information about yourself and your citizen science experience / engagement. We hope that this will help foster that sense of community and enable you to learn more about other members interests and skill sets, which may help achieve that goal of building a professional network. This information will only visible to other ACSA members who are logged in to the membership portal. 

We are also working on a search function, which we hope, in time, will allow you to search for ACSA members who are based in Western Australia and who are interested in human health, for example. This sort of capability will be fantastic in terms of allowing you to connect with others in your field, or in terms of finding the right person to answer a question you may have.

We invite you to update your ACSA member profile now. Click on the link below, select My member profile > Profile > Edit.