The Museum’s vast collections of vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and microbes support our staff's unique expertise in evolutionary biology, biodiversity and systematics.

Recent Submissions

  • Innovation and elaboration on the avian tree of life

    Guillerme, Thomas; Bright, Jen A; Cooney, Christopher R; Hughes, Emma C; Varley, Zoë K; Cooper, N; Beckerman, Andrew P; Thomas, Gavin H (American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), 2023-10-27)
    Widely documented, megaevolutionary jumps in phenotypic diversity continue to perplex researchers because it remains unclear whether these marked changes can emerge from microevolutionary processes. Here, we tackle this question using new approaches for modeling multivariate traits to evaluate the magnitude and distribution of elaboration and innovation in the evolution of bird beaks. We find that elaboration, evolution along the major axis of phenotypic change, is common at both macro- and megaevolutionary scales, whereas innovation, evolution away from the major axis of phenotypic change, is more prominent at megaevolutionary scales. The major axis of phenotypic change among species beak shapes at megaevolutionary scales is an emergent property of innovation across clades. Our analyses suggest that the reorientation of phenotypes via innovation is a ubiquitous route for divergence that can arise through gradual change alone, opening up further avenues for evolution to explore.
  • Charting the Course of Pinniped Evolution: insights from molecular phylogeny and fossil record integration

    Park, Travis; Burin, Gustavo; Lazo-Cancino, Daniela; Rees, Joseph Pierce Gary; Rule, James; Slater, Graham; Cooper, N (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2024-04-19)
    Abstract Pinnipeds (seals, sea lions, walruses, and their fossil relatives) are one of the most successful mammalian clades to live in the oceans. Despite a well-resolved molecular phylogeny and a global fossil record, a complete understanding of their macroevolutionary dynamics remains hampered by a lack of formal analyses that combine these two rich sources of information. We used a meta-analytic approach to infer the most densely sampled pinniped phylogeny to-date (36 recent and 93 fossil taxa) and used phylogenetic paleobiological methods to study their diversification dynamics and biogeographic history. Pinnipeds mostly diversified at constant rates. Walruses however experienced rapid turnover in which extinction rates ultimately exceeded speciation rates from 12-6 Ma, possibly due to changing sea-levels and/or competition with otariids (eared seals). Historical biogeographic analyses including fossil data allowed us to confidently identify the North Pacific and the North Atlantic (plus or minus Paratethys) as the ancestral ranges of Otarioidea (eared seals + walrus) and crown phocids (earless seals), respectively. Yet, despite the novel addition of stem pan-pinniped taxa, the region of origin for Pan-Pinnipedia remained ambiguous. These results suggest further avenues of study in pinnipeds and provide a framework for investigating other groups with substantial extinct and extant diversity.
  • Intraspecific variation in the cochleae of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and its implications for comparative studies across odontocetes

    Martins, Maria Clara Iruzun; Park, Travis; Racicot, Rachel; Cooper, N (PeerJ, 2020-04-13)
    In morphological traits, variation within species is generally considered to be lower than variation among species, although this assumption is rarely tested. This is particularly important in fields like palaeontology, where it is common to use a single individual as representative of a species due to the rarity of fossils. Here, we investigated intraspecific variation in the cochleae of harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Interspecific variation of cochlear morphology is well characterised among odontocetes (toothed whales) because of the importance of the structure in echolocation, but generally these studies use only a single cochlea to represent each species. In this study we compare variation within the cochleae of 18 specimens of P. phocoena with variations in cochlear morphology across 51 other odontocete species. Using both 3D landmark and linear measurement data, we performed Generalised Procrustes and principal component analyses to quantify shape variation. We then quantified intraspecific variation in our sample of P. phocoena by estimating disparity and the coefficient of variation for our 3D and linear data respectively. Finally, to determine whether intraspecific variation may confound the results of studies of interspecific variation, we used multivariate and univariate analyses of variance to test whether variation within the specimens of P. phocoena was significantly lower than that across odontocetes. We found low levels of intraspecific variation in the cochleae of P. phocoena, and that cochlear shape within P. phocoena was significantly less variable than across odontocetes. Although future studies should attempt to use multiple cochleae for every species, our results suggest that using just one cochlea for each species should not strongly influence the conclusions of comparative studies if our results are consistent across Cetacea.
  • The dynamic adaptive landscape of cetacean body size

    Burin, Gustavo; Park, Travis; James, Tamora D; Slater, Graham J; Cooper, N (Elsevier BV, 2023-03-28)
    Adaptive landscapes are central to evolutionary theory, forming a conceptual bridge between micro- and macroevolution.<sup>1</sup><sup>,</sup><sup>2</sup><sup>,</sup><sup>3</sup><sup>,</sup><sup>4</sup> Evolution by natural selection across an adaptive landscape should drive lineages toward fitness peaks, shaping the distribution of phenotypic variation within and among clades over evolutionary timescales.<sup>5</sup> The location and breadth of these peaks in phenotypic space can also evolve,<sup>4</sup> but whether phylogenetic comparative methods can detect such patterns has largely remained unexplored.<sup>6</sup> Here, we characterize the global and local adaptive landscape for total body length in cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and relatives), a trait that spans an order of magnitude, across their ∼53-million-year evolutionary history. Using phylogenetic comparative methods, we analyze shifts in long-term mean body length<sup>7</sup> and directional changes in average trait values<sup>8</sup> for 345 living and fossil cetacean taxa. Remarkably, we find that the global macroevolutionary adaptive landscape of cetacean body length is relatively flat, with very few peak shifts occurring after cetaceans entered the oceans. Local peaks are more numerous and manifest as trends along branches linked to specific adaptations. These results contrast with previous studies using only extant taxa,<sup>9</sup> highlighting the vital role of fossil data for understanding macroevolution.<sup>10</sup><sup>,</sup><sup>11</sup><sup>,</sup><sup>12</sup> Our results indicate that adaptive peaks are dynamic and are associated with subzones of local adaptations, creating moving targets for species adaptation. In addition, we identify limits in our ability to detect some evolutionary patterns and processes and suggest that multiple approaches are required to characterize complex hierarchical patterns of adaptation in deep time.
  • Microchromosome fusions underpin convergent evolution of chameleon karyotypes

    Mezzasalma, Marcello; Streicher, Jeffrey W; Guarino, Fabio M; Jones, Marc EH; Loader, Simon; Odierna, Gaetano; Cooper, N; Gaitan-Espitia, Juan Diego; Chapman, Tracey (Oxford University Press (OUP), 2023-07-17)
    Abstract Evolutionary shifts in chromosome compositions (karyotypes) are major drivers of lineage and genomic diversification. Fusion of ancestral chromosomes is one hypothesized mechanism for the evolutionary reduction of the total chromosome number, a frequently implied karyotypic shift. Empirical tests of this hypothesis require model systems with variable karyotypes, known chromosome features, and a robust phylogeny. Here we used chameleons, diverse lizards with exceptionally variable karyotypes ($2n=20\text{-}62$), to test whether chromosomal fusions explain the repeated evolution of karyotypes with fewer chromosomes than ancestral karyotypes. Using a multidisciplinary approach including cytogenetic analyses and phylogenetic comparative methods, we found that a model of constant loss through time best explained chromosome evolution across the chameleon phylogeny. Next, we tested whether fusions of microchromosomes into macrochromosomes explained these evolutionary losses using generalized linear models. Multiple comparisons supported microchromosome fusions as the predominant agent of evolutionary loss. We further compared our results to various natural history traits and found no correlations. As such, we infer that the tendency of microchromosomes to fuse was a quality of the ancestral chameleon genome and that the genomic predisposition of ancestors is a more substantive predictor of chromosome change than the ecological, physiological, and biogeographical factors involved in their diversification.
  • Primum non nocere: Technologically advanced non-invasive pheromone traps for sustainable monitoring of the European threatened hermit beetles Osmoderma barnabita / eremita (Coleoptera: Scarabaeidae)

    Taube, Laura; Valainis, Uldis; Balalaikins, Maksims; Mizers, Valdis; Soldāns, Arvis; Gintaras, Alvydas; Telnov, Dmitry (Baltijas Koleopterologijas Instituts/Baltic Institute of Coleopterology, 2023-12-30)
    A smart pheromone trap designed for the monitoring of Osmoderma barnabita / eremita has been successfully developed and testedin situ. The trap's design and operational principles allowa photo-recording of the capture moment and logging parameters of air temperature and humidity at the moment of capture. These dataare then seamlessly transmitted to a server via mobile network. The adaptability of environmental parameter recording allows customization to suit specific requirements of a given study. Rigorous testing of these traps within three Natura 2000 sites in Latvia in 2003has substantiated their robust performance and efficiency. Notably, the traps exhibit versatility and can be modified and tailored for monitoring various insect species, utilizing both pheromones and lures as attractants. This innovation holds promise for advancing ecological research and monitoring endeavours pertaining to diverse insect populations.
  • Revisional notes on the genus Microhoria Chevrolat, 1877 (Insecta: Coleoptera: Anthicidae) from the Eastern Mediterranean and Turkey, with new descriptions, an annotated catalogue, and a key

    Telnov, Dmitry (Baltijas Koleopterologijas Instituts/Baltic Institute of Coleopterology, 2022-12-30)
    The species of Microhoria Chevrolat, 1877 from the Eastern Mediterranean including Turkey and Sinai Peninsula, are reviewed, keyed, and catalogued for the first time. Statuschange is proposed for Microhoria rubronotata (Pic, 1896) stat. nov. New synonyms are proposed for Microhoria emaciata (Pic, 1896) (= Anthicus leuthneri var. creticus Pic, 1903 syn. nov.), M. latipennis (Pic, 1892) (= A. leuthneri var. dissimilis Pic, 1897 syn. nov.), M. ottomana (LaFert&eacute;-S&eacute;nect&egrave;re, 1849) (= A. tenebricosus Pic, 1897 syn. nov.), and M. rubronotata (Pic, 1896) stat. nov. (= A. humerifer Pic, 1902 syn. nov.). Lectotypes are designated for the following 11 taxa: Microhoria akbesiana (Pic, 1896), M. angulapex (C. Koch, 1935), M. boyadjeani (Pic, 1904), M. corallicollis (Reitter, 1889), M. delagrangei(Pic, 1892), M. emaciata (Pic, 1896), M. inobscura (Pic, 1908), M. ionica (Pic, 1901), M. kaifensis (Pic, 1896), M. rubriceps (Pic, 1896), and M. schmiedeknechti (Pic, 1899). The following ten species new to science are described: Microhoria bremeri sp. nov., M. capreolus Telnov & Degiovanni sp. nov., M. janssoni sp. nov., M. machairodus Telnov & Degiovanni sp. nov., M. punctatissima sp. nov., M. quercus sp. nov., M. walkeri sp. nov. (all from Turkey), M. muehlei Telnov & Degiovanni sp. nov., M. orbitalis sp. nov. (both from Iran), and M. paxvobiscum sp. nov. (Iraq). Taxonomic status of Anthicus terminatus var. latebrunneus Pic, 1901 is discussed. Illustrations of numerous taxa are provided for the first time. In total, 41 species confirmed from the Eastern Mediterranean and records of another six species require further confirmation. In addition, several new faunistic records are provided.
  • A new subspecies of Boletoxenus mixtus Grimm, 2014 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Tenebrioninae)

    Telnov, Dmitry (Baltijas Koleopterologijas Instituts/Baltic Institute of Coleopterology, 2023-12-30)
    Boletoxenus mixtus dynastes ssp. nov., a new subspecies of mycetophagous Bolitophagini darkling beetles from mainland SE Asia, is described and illustrated.
  • New and poorly-known taxa of Lagriinae Latreille, 1825 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae) predominantly from the collections of the Naturkundemuseum Erfurt. 1

    Telnov, Dmitry (Baltijas Koleopterologijas Instituts/Baltic Institute of Coleopterology, 2023-12-30)
    In the present paper, the following nine new species from the subfamily Lagriinae are described and illustrated: Acutogria weigeli, Bothrichara dani, B. doberai, B. skalei, Oreogria astrapia, Xenocerogria koteka spp. nov. (all from New Guinea), Arthromacra anoulak sp. nov. (Laos), Bothynogria annamita sp. nov. (Vietnam) and Cerogria s. l. critica sp. nov. (Sulawesi). Cerogria (Drepanomela) cribratula (Schaufuss, 1887) (Sulawesi) is redescribed, and a lectotype designation is made for this species. New records presented for three poorly known Papuan and one Indian Subcontinent species. A brief discussion on generic features of some of the new taxa is presented.
  • A new, remarkable Chlorophila Semenov, 1891 (Coleoptera: Tenebrionidae: Lagriinae) from China

    Telnov, Dmitry (Baltic Journal of Coleopterology, 2021-12-30)
    Chlorophila Semenov, 1891 is a small genus of emerald-green Lagriinae Latreille, 1825: Tenebrionidae Latreille, 1802 restricted to the mountain systems of China, the Himalayas, and northern Indochina. In the present paper a remarkable new species, Chlorophila gemma sp. nov. from mainland China, is described and illustrated.
  • Quantitative photography for rapid, reliable measurement of marine macro‐plastic pollution

    Razzell Hollis, Joseph; Henderson, Gabrielle; Lavers, Jennifer; Rea, Edward; Komyakova, Valeriya; Bond, AL (Wiley, 2024-01-09)
    Abstract Plastics are now ubiquitous in the environment and have been studied in wildlife and in ecosystems for more than 50 years. Measurement of size, shape and colour data for individual fragments of plastic is labour‐intensive, unreliable and prone to observer bias, particularly when it comes to assessment of colour, which relies on arbitrary and inconsistently defined colour categorisations. There is a clear need for a standard method for data collection on plastic pollution, particularly one that can be readily automated given the number of samples involved. This study describes a new method for standardised photography of marine plastics in the 1–100 mm size range (meso‐ and macro‐plastics), including colour correction to account for any image‐to‐image variation in lighting that may impact colour reproduction or apparent brightness. Automated image analysis is then applied to detect individual fragments of plastic for quantitative measurement of size, shape, and colour. The method was tested on 3793 fragments of debris ingested by Flesh‐footed Shearwaters (Ardenna carneipes) on Lord Howe Island, Australia, and compare results from photos taken in two separate locations using different equipment. Photos were acquired of up to 250 fragments at a time with a spatial resolution of 70 μm/pixel and were colour‐corrected using a reference chart to ensure accurate reproduction of colour. The automated image analysis pipeline was found to have a 98% success rate at detecting fragments, and the different size and shape parameters that can be outputted by the pipeline were compared in terms of usefulness. The evidence shown in this study should strongly encourage the uptake of this method for cataloguing macro‐scale plastic pollution, as it provides substantially higher quality data with accurate, reliable measurements of size, shape and colour for individual plastics that can be readily compared between disparate datasets.
  • Frontiers in soil ecology—Insights from the World Biodiversity Forum 2022

    Eisenhauer, Nico; Bender, S Franz; Calderón‐Sanou, Irene; de Vries, Franciska T; Lembrechts, Jonas J; Thuiller, Wilfried; Wall, Diana H; Zeiss, Romy; Bahram, Mohammad; Beugnon, Rémy; et al. (Wiley, 2022-11-11)
    Abstract: Global change is affecting soil biodiversity and functioning across all terrestrial ecosystems. Still, much is unknown about how soil biodiversity and function will change in the future in response to simultaneous alterations in climate and land use, as well as other environmental drivers. It is crucial to understand the direct, indirect and interactive effects of global change drivers on soil communities and ecosystems across environmental contexts, not only today but also in the near future. This is particularly relevant for international efforts to tackle climate change like the Paris Agreement, and considering the failure to achieve the 2020 biodiversity targets, especially the target of halting soil degradation. Here, we outline the main frontiers related to soil ecology that were presented and discussed at the thematic sessions of the World Biodiversity Forum 2022 in Davos, Switzerland. We highlight multiple frontiers of knowledge associated with data integration, causal inference, soil biodiversity and function scenarios, critical soil biodiversity facets, underrepresented drivers, global collaboration, knowledge application and transdisciplinarity, as well as policy and public communication. These identified research priorities are not only of immediate interest to the scientific community but may also be considered in research priority programmes and calls for funding.
  • A multi-taxon analysis of European Red Lists reveals major threats to biodiversity

    Hochkirch, Axel; Bilz, Melanie; Ferreira, Catarina C; Danielczak, Anja; Allen, David; Nieto, Ana; Rondinini, Carlo; Harding, Kate; Hilton-Taylor, Craig; Pollock, Caroline M; et al. (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2023-11-08)
    Biodiversity loss is a major global challenge and minimizing extinction rates is the goal of several multilateral environmental agreements. Policy decisions require comprehensive, spatially explicit information on species’ distributions and threats. We present an analysis of the conservation status of 14,669 European terrestrial, freshwater and marine species (ca. 10% of the continental fauna and flora), including all vertebrates and selected groups of invertebrates and plants. Our results reveal that 19% of European species are threatened with extinction, with higher extinction risks for plants (27%) and invertebrates (24%) compared to vertebrates (18%). These numbers exceed recent IPBES (Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services) assumptions of extinction risk. Changes in agricultural practices and associated habitat loss, overharvesting, pollution and development are major threats to biodiversity. Maintaining and restoring sustainable land and water use practices is crucial to minimize future biodiversity declines.
  • Forest leaf litter beetles of Taiwan: first DNA barcodes and first insight into the fauna

    Hu, Fang-Shuo; Arriaga-Varela, Emmanuel; Biffi, Gabriel; Bocák, Ladislav; Bulirsch, Petr; Damaška, Albert František; Frisch, Johannes; Hájek, Jiří; Hlaváč, Peter; Ho, Bin-Hong; et al. (Pensoft Publishers, 2024-01-08)
    We report the publication of 953 DNA barcodes of forest leaf litter beetles from central Taiwan, in total representing 334 species of 36 beetle families. This is the first bulk of data from the Taiwanese Leaf Litter beetles project focused on uncovering the under-explored diversity of leaf litter beetles across Taiwan. Based on these data, we provide the first records of the following taxa for Taiwan: family Sphindidae (genus Aspidiphorus Ziegler, 1821); tribes Trichonychini, Ctenistini, and Bythinoplectini (all Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae); genera Gyrelon Hinton, 1942, Thyroderus Sharp, 1885, Cautomus Sharp, 1885 (all Cerylonidae), Dermatohomoeus Hlisnikovský, 1963 (Leiodidae), Paraploderus Herman, 1970 (Staphylinidae: Oxytelinae), Thinocharis Kraatz, 1859 (Staphylinidae: Paederinae), Cephennodes Reitter, 1884, Napoconnus Franz, 1957 (both Staphylinidae: Scydmaeninae), Bicava Belon, 1884 (Latridiidae), Otibazo Morimoto, 1961, Seleuca Pascoe, 1871 and Acallinus Morimoto, 1962 (all Curculionidae); species Oodes (Lachnocrepis) japonicus (Bates, 1873) (Carabidae: Licininae), Drusilla obliqua (Bernhauer, 1916) (Staphylinidae: Aleocharinae) and Coccotrypes advena Blandford, 1894 (Curculionidae: Scolytinae). The records of Anapleus Horn, 1873 (Histeridae) and Batraxis Reitter, 1882 (Staphylinidae: Pselaphinae) have been confirmed. The male of Sivacrypticus taiwanicus Kaszab, 1964 (Archeocrypticidae) is described for the first time. Gyrelon jenpani Hu, Fikáček &amp; Matsumoto, sp. nov. (Cerylonidae) is described, illustrated, and compared with related species. DNA barcodes associated larvae of 42 species with adults, we are concisely illustrating some of these: Oodes japonicus, Perigona cf. nigriceps Dejean, 1831 (both Carabidae), Ptilodactyla sp. (Ptilodactylidae), Maltypus ryukyuanus Wittmer, 1970 (Cantharidae), Drusilla obliqua, Myrmecocephalus brevisulcus (Pace, 2008), Diochus sp., Mimopinophilus sp. (all Staphylinidae), Stelidota multiguttata Reitter, 1877, Lasiodites inaequalis (Grouvelle, 1914) (both Nitidulidae), Lagria scutellaris Pic, 1910, and Anaedus spinicornis Kaszab, 1973 (both Tenebrionidae). We also report the first cases of Rickettsia infections in Scydmaeninae and Pselaphinae. All data (sequences, metadata, and voucher photos) are made public in BOLD database and in a Zenodo Archive.
  • Innovation in Citizen Science – Perspectives on Science-Policy Advances

    Hecker, Susanne; Bonney, Rick; Haklay, Muki; Hölker, Franz; Hofer, Heribert; Goebel, Claudia; Gold, Margaret; Makuch, Zen; Ponti, Marisa; Richter, Anett; et al. (Ubiquity Press, Ltd., 2018-04-27)
    Citizen science is growing as a field of research with contributions from diverse disciplines, promoting innovation in science, society, and policy. Inter- and transdisciplinary discussions and critical analyses are needed to use the current momentum to evaluate, demonstrate, and build on the advances that have been made in the past few years. This paper synthesizes results of discussions at the first international citizen science conference of the European Citizen Science Association (ECSA) in 2016 in Berlin, Germany, and distills major points of the discourse into key recommendations. To enhance innovation in science, citizen science needs to clearly demonstrate its scientific benefit, branch out across disciplines, and foster active networking and new formats of collaboration, including true co-design with participants. For fostering policy advances, it is important to embrace opportunities for policy-relevant monitoring and policy development and to work with science funders to find adequate avenues and evaluation tools to support citizen science. From a society angle it is crucial to engage with societal actors in various formats that suit participants and to evaluate two-way learning outcomes as well as to develop the transformative role of science communication. We hope that these key perspectives will promote citizen science progress at the science-society-policy interface.
  • Ten principles of citizen science

    Robinson, LD; Cawthray, Jade Lauren; West, Sarah Elizabeth; Bonn, Aletta; Ansine, Janice; Haklay, Muki; Hecker, Susanne; Bowser, Anne; Makuch, Zen; Vogel, Johannes; et al. (UCL Press, 2018-10-15)
    Citizen science, the active participation of the public in scientific research projects, is a rapidly expanding field in open science and open innovation. It provides an integrated model of public knowledge production and engagement with science. As a growing worldwide phenomenon, it is invigorated by evolving new technologies that connect people easily and effectively with the scientific community. Catalysed by citizens’ wishes to be actively involved in scientific processes, as a result of recent societal trends, it also offers contributions to the rise in tertiary education. In addition, citizen science provides a valuable tool for citizens to play a more active role in sustainable development. This book identifies and explains the role of citizen science within innovation in science and society, and as a vibrant and productive science-policy interface. The scope of this volume is global, geared towards identifying solutions and lessons to be applied across science, practice and policy. The chapters consider the role of citizen science in the context of the wider agenda of open science and open innovation, and discuss progress towards responsible research and innovation, two of the most critical aspects of science today.
  • How Do Young Community and Citizen Science Volunteers Support Scientific Research on Biodiversity? The Case of iNaturalist

    Aristeidou, Maria; Herodotou, Christothea; Ballard, Heidi L; Higgins, Lila; Johnson, Rebecca F; Miller, Annie E; Young, Alison N; Robinson, LD (MDPI AG, 2021-07-13)
    Online community and citizen science (CCS) projects have broadened access to scientific research and enabled different forms of participation in biodiversity research; however, little is known about whether and how such opportunities are taken up by young people (aged 5–19). Furthermore, when they do participate, there is little research on whether their online activity makes a tangible contribution to scientific research. We addressed these knowledge gaps using quantitative analytical approaches and visualisations to investigate 249 youths’ contributions to CCS on the iNaturalist platform, and the potential for the scientific use of their contributions. We found that nearly all the young volunteers’ observations were ‘verifiable’ (included a photo, location, and date/time) and therefore potentially useful to biodiversity research. Furthermore, more than half were designated as ‘Research Grade’, with a community agreed-upon identification, making them more valuable and accessible to biodiversity science researchers. Our findings show that young volunteers with lasting participation on the platform and those aged 16–19 years are more likely to have a higher proportion of Research Grade observations than younger, or more ephemeral participants. This study enhances our understanding of young volunteers’ contributions to biodiversity research, as well as the important role professional scientists and data users can play in helping verify youths’ contributions to make them more accessible for biodiversity research.
  • Understanding the Citizen Science Landscape for European Environmental Policy: An Assessment and Recommendations

    Turbé, Anne; Barba, Jorge; Pelacho, Maite; Mugdal, Shailendra; Robinson, LD; Serrano-Sanz, Fermin; Sanz, Francisco; Tsinaraki, Chrysa; Rubio, Jose-Miguel; Schade, Sven (Ubiquity Press, Ltd., 2019-12-02)
    Citizen science is increasingly upheld with the potential to underpin all aspects of the environmental policy process. However, to date, contributions of citizen science to environmental decision-making remain sparse and not well understood. Evidence points to a gap between the potential relevance of citizen science for policy and its actual implementation. We lack a comprehensive assessment of the current impacts of citizen science projects on environmental policy, and an identification of the scientific, engagement, and governance characteristics of projects that facilitate successful contributions to policy. This paper addresses that knowledge gap through identifying the characteristics of citizen science projects that support policy. We present an inventory of 503 citizen science projects with environmental policy relevance, and an in-depth analysis of 45 case examples with quantitative assessment of characteristics of the citizen scientist, scientific, socio-economic, and policy dimensions. Our results demonstrate that citizen science can underpin all steps of the environmental policy process, and that a diversity of approaches can be used to achieve this. However, governmental support, scientific excellence, and NGO-leadership facilitate policy linkages. We discuss the main challenges and opportunities identified by project leaders in linking citizen science and policy and present a set of recommendations for promoting the better integration of citizen science in the different phases of the policy cycle. Central among these are clarifying policy needs, facilitating access to citizen science data, and improving their evaluation and recognition by decision-makers.
  • The diversity and evolution of ecological and environmental citizen science

    Pocock, Michael JO; Tweddle, John C; Savage, Joanna; Robinson, LD; Roy, Helen E (Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2017-04-03)
    Citizen science—the involvement of volunteers in data collection, analysis and interpretation —simultaneously supports research and public engagement with science, and its profile is rapidly rising. Citizen science represents a diverse range of approaches, but until now this diversity has not been quantitatively explored. We conducted a systematic internet search and discovered 509 environmental and ecological citizen science projects. We scored each project for 32 attributes based on publicly obtainable information and used multiple factor analysis to summarise this variation to assess citizen science approaches. We found that projects varied according to their methodological approach from ‘mass participation’ (e.g. easy participation by anyone anywhere) to ‘systematic monitoring’ (e.g. trained volunteers repeatedly sampling at specific locations). They also varied in complexity from approaches that are ‘simple’ to those that are ‘elaborate’ (e.g. provide lots of support to gather rich, detailed datasets). There was a separate cluster of entirely computer-based projects but, in general, we found that the range of citizen science projects in ecology and the environment showed continuous variation and cannot be neatly categorised into distinct types of activity. While the diversity of projects begun in each time period (pre1990, 1990–99, 2000–09 and 2010–13) has not increased, we found that projects tended to have become increasingly different from each other as time progressed (possibly due to changing opportunities, including technological innovation). Most projects were still active so consequently we found that the overall diversity of active projects (available for participation) increased as time progressed. Overall, understanding the landscape of citizen science in ecology and the environment (and its change over time) is valuable because it informs the comparative evaluation of the ‘success’ of different citizen science approaches. Comparative evaluation provides an evidence-base to inform the future development of citizen science activities.
  • “No todo es Sargazo”: Aprendizajes en un proyecto de ciencia ciudadana marino-coster

    Benavides Lahnstein, Ana Ilse; Paredes Chi, Arely; Rios Vazquez, Ameyalli; Galindo-De Santiago, Maria del Carmen; Khatun, Kaysara; Vazquez Delfin, Erika; Robinson, LD; Brodie, J; Wardlaw, Jessica (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, 2023)

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