Posted 19th January
A recent paper published in Avian Biology Research (i) has suggested data from citizen science schemes can be used to detect declining wildlife populations
The paper drew its data from Nature's Calendar, a scheme run by the Woodland Trust, and BirdTrack, which is run by the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO) - both schemes record common cuckoo sightings. When this data was studied alongside other programmes which looked into the population of the cuckoo, it was found that information gathered by citizen sciences showed similar decline patterns to other scientific investigations (the cuckoo is a Red Listed species).
'Citizen science' refers to projects where it is members of the public, as opposed to expert scientists, who gather the data. The findings of the research paper supports the use of citizen science data in other, wider studies of species population.
Charlotte Armitage, citizen science manager for the Woodland Trust, said: "It’s great to know that Nature’s Calendar data can be used to detect species decline. It’s yet another reminder that citizen science is a powerful tool, that can help us better understand our natural world. However, we need more people to contribute to these schemes; more records, means richer data. By recording as part of day-to-day life, you can become part of something much bigger and far-reaching."
Prof Tim Sparks from Coventry University, added: “Records on cuckoo arrival go back well over a century, thus giving us a better picture on how this species has fared. The Woodland Trust are adding both historical and current records to their database which will enable us to put recent changes into context.”
Nature's Calendar continues seasonal recordings which date back to the 18th century. Thousands of people have played a part in getting Nature's Calendar to become the leading survey in showing how climate change is impacting on UK plants and wildling. It works by members of the public recording the timings of natural phenomenon.
BirdTrack is run between the BTO, RSPB, Birdwatch Ireland, the Scottish Ornithologists' Club and the Welsh Ornithological Society, and looks at the migration movements and distribution of birds throughout the country.
(i) This paper was authored by T.H. Sparks, S. Atkinson, K. Lewthwaite, R. Dhap, N.J. Moran and P. Tryjanowski
Image courtesy of Amy Lewis