Citizen science allows community members with more in-depth knowledge of an area to guide scientists and managers who may not be as familiar. Volunteers can also provide larger-scale data collection over a longer period of time than conventional science, and with more people on the lookout, changes in the environment are more likely to be spotted.
Citizen science projects can create a richer dialog between the public, Forest Service, and environmental organizations. Volunteers can learn from a project's outcomes and in turn, those scientists and organizations receive input from volunteers, providing them with a better understanding of public priorities and social contexts. Below are some public engagement benefits of citizen science.
Science Literacy — Citizen science can improve science literacy and build expertise by helping volunteers better access and understand scientific information, even steering some toward science or management careers. Professional scientists are finding that some citizen science volunteers, particularly young adults, show enthusiasm and aptitude for scientific research and could diversify and increase the candidates available for jobs in conservation science, natural resource management, and environmental protection.
Shared Knowledge — Citizen scientists can spread knowledge among their friends, family, and colleagues by sharing their citizen science activities and discussing the issues they care about through a wide range of social networks. The information they impart and the example they set can motivate others to get involved or to change their behavior. People are more likely to change their behavior in response to examples set by their friends and neighbors than in response to public information campaigns.
- Increased Involvement — Citizen Science can engage people in decision-making processes by increasing firsthand understanding of conservation or environmental issues, and encouraging participants to become more responsive to the issues they care about. Participants maybe more likely to appear at public meetings and to provide constructive comments on proposed actions once they have engaged in a citizen science effort.
For more information, see C. McKinley, Duncan, et al., 2016, Citizen science can improve conservation science, natural resource management, and environmental protection.