Improving and integrating data on invasive species collected by citizen scientists
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Limited resources make it difficult to effectively document, monitor, and control invasive species across large areas, resulting in large gaps in our knowledge of current and future invasion patterns. We surveyed 128 citizen science program coordinators and interviewed 15 of them to evaluate their potential role in filling these gaps. Many programs collect data on invasive species and are willing to contribute these data to public databases. Although resources for education and monitoring are readily available, groups generally lack tools to manage and analyze data. Potential users of these data also retain concerns over data quality. We discuss how to address these concerns about citizen scientist data and programs while preserving the advantages they afford. A unified yet flexible national citizen science program aimed at tracking invasive species location, abundance, and control efforts could be designed using centralized data sharing and management tools. Such a system could meet the needs of multiple stakeholders while allowing efficiencies of scale, greater standardization of methods, and improved data quality testing and sharing. Finally, we present a prototype for such a system (see www.citsci.org).
KeywordsCitizen science Shared databases Data management Data quality Invasive species Non-native species
This work was funded by the National Science Foundation under grant number OCI-0636213. DW and ACW also acknowledge support from the USDA—NRI (CREES 51.9)—Weedy and Invasive Species Program (Project 2008-35320-18680). Logistical support was provided by the Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory at Colorado State University and the USGS Fort Collins Science Center. The authors would like to thank Alan Knox, Rachel Licker, Pete Nowak, Brendon Panke, Mark Renz, Jake Vander Zanden and three anonymous reviewers for providing edits to earlier drafts of this manuscript. We would like to especially thank all the citizen science organizations that participated in our survey and interview process.
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