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Biodiversity – 5 Leads For Thriving Citizen Science

Written by: Lovanne Lubaton Gallo, Executive Contributor in conversation with Dr. Judy Friedlander

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Not only for scientists: Citizen Science in biodiversity is collaborative research where the focal point is on volunteers for data gathering through species monitoring from a collection of random observations. This activity has wider geographic coverage growth, specific dimension and data collection on what scientists working solely with limitations. Hence, the application of sustainability has a noteworthy part to protect and enhance biodiversity we, humans have a very significant role in the environment; making sure that there will be abundant resources to offer for our generation's future.



1. How Does Citizen Science Complement Classroom Teaching?

Citizen science ticks so many boxes for education – for infants, primary and high school. Of course, we don't want to put anything into a 'box,' so perhaps we should quickly move on… Citizen science involves indoor and outdoor education and generates skills in many areas, including maths, science, geography, information and communication technology, and more. It also significantly contributes to necessary biodiversity research, which empowers the younger generation who are making a difference to environmental outcomes. Only 30 percent of Australian species are formally identified, 'citizen' science observations are now generally regarded as accurate as professionals, and our scientific authorities are crying out for more citizen science data. It's a no-brainer that makes us, as a country brainier!

2. What Assets And Resources Did Teachers Tell You They Needed To Implement The BioBlitz?

BioBlitzes and citizen science are a new realm to many teachers who overestimate the time, assets, and resources needed to implement these school practices. We ran 45-minute Zoom workshops last year – which we will also do this year in 2023 – to provide critical information. We explained what citizen science is. We showed how students could contribute to databases such as iNaturalist and the CSIRO's Atlas of Living Australia, and BioBlitzes by going outside on their school grounds and taking photos for the teacher to upload to biodiversity databases. And we provided links to the curriculum for different age groups.

The 2022 B&B National School Citizen Science BioBlitz was, in many cases, an introduction to the basic concepts, and we are hoping that this year we can build on initial experiences. It is enough to get students outside observing plants, insects, birds, and more and take some photographs for a teacher to upload to the BioBlitz scheduled for September's Biodiversity Month. This allows teachers and students to do deep dives into favourite and observed species, to see map distributions, and to see what their school and others are observing. We are finding that once everyone gets a taste and gets over their tech fear – sorry to say it can happen that way – they become incredibly excited and say things like: 'I didn't realize it was so easy!' Schools must say: 'We are engaging in the BioBlitz and can run from there.' Much of the exploration flows from this starting point.

Of course, we and other citizen science experts and educational institutions can provide many resources, such as the Atlas of Living Australia's classroom activities and Questagame. However, it is important to stress that all schools need to get involved in the BioBlitz is a lunch hour for observations – with students using a Smart device with reasonable photographic capabilities – and for the teacher to upload the observations to the citizen science initiative or database.

3. What Are Your Dreams For The BioBlitz? What Improvements Or Changes Could It Deliver?

What is so fantastic is that once you demonstrate citizen science to children and adults and explain how they can help our threatened species by contributing to such necessary biodiversity research, the light goes on and becomes this extraordinary quest. It's such a great combination of technology, education, and outdoor experiences. Many of us feel that technology has negative impacts, but this is an example of a positive one that enriches personal experiences, group experiences, and other species' experiences!

Research shows a deep malaise among many of us who read about all these terrible stories of species going extinct and being threatened. Citizen science can help ailing species. We need to know where our insects, birds, mammals, and plants are; why some are thriving in specific areas; how we can encourage them in other areas. The BioBlitz is a beautiful way to engage students in this vital biodiversity quest. We attracted 60 schools to the first National School B&B BioBlitz last year. We want to attract 600 this year! You have to be positive! Just think of how all that data could help us fill in the gaps in our knowledge of our incredible Australian species!

Our cities are biodiversity hotspots that we can help if we plant with biodiversity in mind. But we need knowledge and data. Enter citizen science. Encouraging citizen science is a crucial recommendation of Australia's Strategy for Nature 2019-2030, the State of Environment report, and Chief Scientist’s communications and papers. Each State Department of Education needs to make this a priority.

And children’s contributions are not to be scoffed at. A study has demonstrated that young people can contribute observations to iNaturalist that are "research grade" – and therefore more accessible and potentially useful to biodiversity research and monitoring. And the longer they participate, the better their observations become. Citizen science also offers a refreshing way for students to engage in maths, science, and other skills building – a typical comment from teachers is: 'Now I don't have to get the students to stand at the edge of the school and count red cars! They can count insects or particular plants instead!' So many examples like this make learning relevant, functional, and fun.

4. What Do Kids Most Enjoy About The BioBlitz?

Kids respond to learning about how other kids have made citizen science discoveries or found a species that have yet to be seen for decades. Stories such as the experience of 14-year-old Luke Downey of Canberra inspire others to record and upload images to biodiversity databases. Last year, Luke found a rare beetle, Casuarina testacea, last seen in the ACT in 1955. His observation was recorded in the Canberra Nature Map, an online repository of rare plants and animals.

Another thing kids love is seeing how macro photography, which photographs small objects at very close distances, can bring another level of life alive. Students seem to know the world differently when you demonstrate how this type of photography can reveal the veins of leaves, insect wings, and insects' incredible eyes. The clarity of these images means experts can often determine the species, adding to the understanding of distribution and numbers to assist on-ground conservation.

Verbal and online feedback by students after last year's B&B BioBlitz reveals how citizen science can be a practical and positive experience. One North Melbourne primary school student, said the activity made her feel "like being more a part of a community." And one student in Darwin said the training was "the most fun he had ever had," and his teacher reported that while taking part, the student was "the most engaged he had seen."

5. What Do Teachers And Schools Most Enjoy About BioBlitz?

The opportunities to explore key learning areas such as maths, science, and technology in new, refreshing, and relevant ways are a plus. We need to respond to the technology of today and the ease students have with computers, Smart devices, and photography.

There are so many areas and applications to explore, such as creating maps, researching environmental issues, discussing climate and weather and how they impact living things, identifying and investigating scientific questions, taking part in sampling and data collections, identifying species, using counting skills and tally marks and other recording methods, making predictions, discussing probabilities. And the BioBlitz also allows students and teachers to get outside and engage with the nature around them. And if it inspires them to plant more plants and support other species, even better!

We are starting to register schools for this year’s BioBlitz and to offer a 45-minute Zoom training if they would like. They can register on this link.

About Judy:

Dr. Judy Friedlander founded the not-for-profit organization PlantingSeeds Projects, which steers the B&B Highway and the National School Citizen Science B&B BioBlitz. The B&B Highway – Bed and Breakfasts for Birds, Bees and Biodiversity – is an educational and practical program that has been implemented in over 120 Australian schools with many more planned. She is an Adjunct Fellow, Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney.


Follow me on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, YouTube and visit my website for more info!


 

Lovanne Lubaton Gallo, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Lovanne Gallo, the International Ambassador of Women of Global Change (WGC) is a multiple White House Award nonprofit service organization who serves communities both in the US and Internationally. The Founder and CEO of Sustainable World Act Now (SWAN), Sydney Australia and Co-Founder/Chairman of SWAN Philippines. A circular economy strategist who helped developed sustainability curriculum of one of the colleges in Sydney Australia. The brain of “Recycling City” which she developed the design concept 20 years ago and now it defines as “Circular Economy “. As she thinks 20 years in advance, she calls herself a visionary leader. She started her career in Design and Build when she was on her 20s and became a philanthropist and environmentalist.

 

Images Source:

  • Courtesy Plantingseeds Projects

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