Discovering and connecting with citizen science projects at a global scale has never been closer to reality than now! Over the past few months the teams at SciStarter (www.scistarter.com – based in the USA) and the Atlas of Living Australia (www.ala.org.au – ALA) have been collaborating to enable project information about citizen science projects to be shared between the two systems so that people can easily find and connect with citizen science activities wherever they may be operating, and regardless of which system the projects were registered in.

scistarter screenshotThis has been a dream of many people for a long time. Over the last 10 years or so, several different project discovery platforms have evolved independently around the world and the internet allows people anywhere to register their projects on any of the platforms. However, it has been becoming increasingly difficult and confusing for people to find and connect with projects of interest to them in their local areas because the systems have not been connected with each other. Often thing aren’t easy though and connecting them up has proven to be pretty challenging due to incompatibility of data structures and differences in the level of technical development in different platforms.

SciStarter and www.CitSci.org have been sharing project information within the USA for a few months already, but the connection with the ALA is the first successful international connection. The ALA is Australia’s national biodiversity data aggregation system and provides hosted web-based infrastructure to support people in Australia running biodiversity related citizen science projects including the collection of standards-based biodiversity data.The BioCollect system (http://www.ala.org.au/biocollect/) provides both a project register tool to help connect people with projects, as well as a powerful and flexible data collection facility for those who want to use it.

biocollect screenshotThe Australian Citizen Science Association (www.citizenscience.org.au – ACSA) and European Citizen Science Association (www.ecsa.citizen-science.net – ECSA) are also working towards providing discovery and access points for citizen science projects at a continental level. To facilitate this and related goals, the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington DC is also leading an international data and metadata working group in conjunction with the American Citizen Science Association (www.citizenscienceassociation.org – CSA), ECSA, ACSA and the Open Geospatial Consortium (www.opengeospatial.org – OGC) to develop a data interchange standard for citizen science project information (https://www.wilsoncenter.org/article/ppsr-core-metadata-standards). It is anticipated that this will enable other platforms to also begin connecting up to share their project information too.

According to Anne Bowser, coChair of the data and metadata working group and Senior Program Associate at the Wilson Center, “The international connection between SciStarter and ALA will heighten our awareness of the range of citizen science projects operating on different geographic sales. This is a huge step towards building a global community of citizen science researchers and practitioners, and will pave the way for new research collaborations and partnerships”.

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Reminder: ALA Science Symposium 11-13 May 2016, Perth

Register now – places are filling up.

Call for abstracts closes 15 April.

Have you used the Atlas of Living Australia in your recent research project? Are you keen to know more about the range of research enabled by the Atlas?

Come to the symposium to present your experience or to learn more about what the Atlas can do.

The symposium agenda will include abstracts, posters and speed talks running on Wednesday 11 and Thursday 12 May. Workshops to demonstrate Atlas capabilities will be held on Friday 13 May.

What:       The 3rd Atlas of Living Australian Science Symposium

When:      Wednesday 11 – Friday 13 May 2016

Where:     Keiran McNamara Conservation Science Centre, 17 Dick Perry Avenue, Kensington, Perth

Cost:        Free (travel assistance is available for some participants)

Please register to attend the 2016 ALA Science Symposium and submit an abstract.

For further information, including links to local accommodation and travel awards, click here.

Submission of abstracts for oral presentations will close Friday 15 April 2016.

Submissions of posters and speed talks will close Friday 29 April 2016.

Gang-gang photo

Gang-gang (image credit: Tegan Liston)

In 2014 the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) adopted the Gang-gang cockatoo as its ‘Bird of the Year’ to celebrate 50 years of birding in the ACT.

COG developed an exciting citizen science project, the Gang-gang survey, to enlist the help of the community to collect information about the Gang-gang cockatoo. Mr Chris Davey, the survey project manager said COG was keen to introduce a wider audience to the fun of birdwatching and spark their interest in learning more about native birds and their habitat.

“Reaching this audience was greatly enabled by the development of the on-line web portal for the survey by the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA)” Mr Davey said. Members of the public were able to register and log casual sightings of the Gang-gang in the database. “It also helped that the Gang-gang is a charismatic bird, easily-recognised by its squeaky gate call and plumage” Mr Davey said.

The community response to the survey was outstanding with over 4,000 sightings logged in the ALA database and over 300 on-line participants by the end of the 12 month survey in February 2015. Ms Kathy Eyles, the survey communications manager said “Most of the survey participants were not COG members and we are excited that for many local people, this was their first foray into citizen science!”

Positive local media coverage of the survey project and also widespread affection and concern for the Gang-gang Cockatoo provided a focal point for community participation. Ms Eyles said there was plenty of positive feedback from participants. “We asked observers why they got involved in the survey and most said they were keen to help a project to learn more about the Gang-gang and really enjoyed watching out for these gorgeous birds in their gardens and local reserves”.

“I’ve wanted to get involved in citizen science – this is the first time I’ve been involved!”
“Survey made my walks more interesting and an interesting bird”
“I feel I can help protect them by logging them in the survey”
“Gang-gangs are interesting attractive birds and I’m worried about their decline”
“Proud to see them in my garden”

Gang-gang

Gang-gang (image credit: Tegan Liston)

“Importantly, we were also able to use the feedback from participants to identify a number of survey design and communication lessons for future citizen science projects” Ms Eyles said.

Mr Chris Davey the survey project manager said, the survey results reveal that the Gang-gang cockatoo has an interesting and non-random distribution within the region. “In urban Canberra for example, you are more likely to see the Gang-gang in suburbs bordering the forested nature reserves of Mt Majura and Mt Ainslie, Gossan Hill, Bruce and O’Connor Ridges, Black Mountain, Aranda Bushland to the north of Lake Burley Griffin and Red Hill and Mt Taylor to the south” Mr Davey said.

While the survey provided much needed information on the distribution and behaviour of Gang-gangs, it was not able to provide information on movement patterns that would help determine the number of Gang-gangs in the local region.

COG is now talking with the ANU Fenner School about a doctoral research project to build on the survey results. This research would track movement, possibly using marked birds, to shed light on their movement patterns in the region, and may also involve a breeding study. This means our budding citizen scientists may well be called upon again to help track the Gang-gang Cockatoo.

Copies of the survey reports are available from the Canberra Birds website: http://canberrabirds.org.au/observing-birds/gang-gang-survey/

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ALA Science Symposium 2016 – registrations open

Registrations are now open for the third Atlas of Living Australia Science Symposium which is being held at the Keiran McNamara Conservation Science Centre, 17 Dick Perry Avenue, Kensington, Perth from 11-13 May 2016.

You can now register to attend the 2016 ALA Science Symposium.

The main Science Symposium will be held on the 11th and 12th, with talks and posters and other activities to highlight the range of research and practical outcomes enabled by the Atlas. We will also be holding a day of ‘shoulder’ meetings on Friday 13 May 2016 as a chance to see demonstrations and tutorials of Atlas capabilities, for special interest groups to come together, or even for extra science presentations if we have a great deal of interest from presenters.

We invite you to submit an abstract for presentation at the Symposium on how you have used the Atlas in your work in one of the following categories:

  • 15 minute oral presentation
  • A poster
  • 5 minute speed talk presenting a new idea for the Atlas.

If you wish to present at this year’s Symposium, please upload an abstract of your paper using the following link: 2016 Science Symposium – upload link for abstracts.

Further information, including links to local accommodation and travel awards, can be found on the dedicated Science Symposium webpage: https://www.ala.org.au/2016-ala-science-symposium/