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article imageReport highlights the success of citizen science

By Tim Sandle     Jan 27, 2013 in Science
The findings of a massive five-year citizen science project called the Opal Project have been published. The report contains , more than 25,000 surveys, produced by more than 500,000 people,
Last year the Digital Journal featured a review of the success of the burgeoning citizen science movement. Citizen science involves people participating in both scientific thinking and data collection. One of several citizen science bodies around the world, the UK-EOF, describes the activity as:
“Volunteer collection of biodiversity and environmental data which contributes to expanding our knowledge of the natural environment, including biological monitoring and the collection or interpretation of environmental observations.”
Now a new report into the success of citizen science has been published: The Open Air Laboratories (Opal) project. The Opal Project, according to the BBC "was designed to get people outdoors and provide a chance to get involved in scientific research."
The Opal Project was launched in 2007. The project led by Imperial College London and supported by a Big Lottery Fund grant. Partners of the project include the Natural History Museum.
According to The Guardian, since the launch 25,000 science surveys, each undertaken by citizen scientists, have been undertaken. These projects have been summarized in a report produced by the organization.
The main findings, which relate to the UK, are:
a) Domestic gardens were found to be hotspots for earthworms,
b) Lichens are very sensitive to air pollution.
c) A number of urban ponds with very good water quality were recorded but on average pond health scores, determined by the invertebrates present, were lower in urban areas than in rural areas.
d) There are distinct differences in the plants that make up urban and rural hedges with urban hedges containing more Beech, Privet, Laurel and Yew, while rural hedges had more Hawthorn, Bramble, Blackthorn and Dog Rose.
e) Obstacles such as buildings and trees have an influence on wind speed and public data provided additional evidence of the range of wind speeds in different habitats. Lowest average speeds were found in the dense urban environment and woodlands, and higher wind speeds recorded in the open field sites.
f) Citizen scientists recorded over a million invertebrates as part of the OPAL Bugs Count survey, using either an Android and iPhone app.
With this one example, citizen science has great potential for building upon the collective knowledge of science and the natural world, as well as showing the important contribution that ordinary people can make.
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