A review of citizen science and community-based environmental monitoring: issues and opportunities

Environmental Monitoring and Assessment
Cathy C Conrad, Krista G Hilchey

Abstract

Worldwide, decision-makers and nongovernment organizations are increasing their use of citizen volunteers to enhance their ability to monitor and manage natural resources, track species at risk, and conserve protected areas. We reviewed the last 10 years of relevant citizen science literature for areas of consensus, divergence, and knowledge gaps. Different community-based monitoring (CBM) activities and governance structures were examined and contrasted. Literature was examined for evidence of common benefits, challenges, and recommendations for successful citizen science. Two major gaps were identified: (1) a need to compare and contrast the success (and the situations that induce success) of CBM programs which present sound evidence of citizen scientists influencing positive environmental changes in the local ecosystems they monitor and (2) more case studies showing use of CBM data by decision-makers or the barriers to linkages and how these might be overcome. If new research focuses on these gaps, and on the differences of opinions that exist, we will have a much better understanding of the social, economic, and ecological benefits of citizen science.

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