Citizen Science

Citizen science enlists the help of the public to gather scientific data that contributes to scientific research across many knowledge disciplines. Examples of citizen science date back to the 19th century; however, at the time, they were not recognised. There has been a proliferation of citizen science projects over the past decade, with many projects now harnessing new technologies such as smartphone apps to increase accessibility and remote participation and capture real-time data. This has been termed ‘citizen cyberscience’. Today, public participation in science is increasingly based on access to smartphones and the internet, where online projects are most likely to attract a technically literate audience.64 The megatrend internet of things, defined as networks of interconnected physical devices, sensors and digital technologies that connect and exchange data,65 has allowed the public to participate in science en masse. It provides a means for raising public awareness of scientific projects and environmental issues, assisting professional scientists in collecting data and creating environmental stewardship.

There are estimated to be at least 41 citizen science programs across all Victorian ecosystems ranging from animal counts to the recording of animal sounds for species identification to litter counts. Specific to the Yarra River and its corridor, there are at least 13 diverse citizen science programs where some of the collected data contributes towards management decisions. For example, platypusSPOT is a program which collects data on platypus sightings along the Yarra River and has aided Melbourne Water in managing the main Yarra water stem to protect and enhance platypus populations.

Although the approximate number of citizen science programs is presented in this SoY report, exact information, such as volunteer numbers per annum, is unavailable for reporting. Although this information may be held by each respective organisation or citizen science program, there is no central database where information is available. There is an opportunity here for a centralised citizen science platform where social and biophysical science data can be annually assessed.