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Citizen science data collection for integrated wildlife population analyses

June 15, 2021

Citizen science, or community science, has emerged as a cost-efficient method to collect data for wildlife monitoring. To inform research and conservation, citizen science sampling designs should collect data that match the robust statistical analyses needed to quantify species and population patterns. Further increasing the contributions of citizen science, integrating citizen science data with other datasets and datatypes can improve population estimates and expand the spatiotemporal extent of inference. We demonstrate these points with a citizen science program called iSeeMammals developed in New York state in 2017 to supplement costly systematic spatial capture-recapture sampling by collecting opportunistic data from one-off observations, hikes, and camera traps. iSeeMammals has initially focused on the growing population of American black bear (Ursus americanus), with integrated analysis of iSeeMammals camera trap data with systematic data for a region with a growing bear population. The triumvirate of increased spatial and temporal coverage by at least twofold compared to systematic sampling, an 83% reduction in annual sampling costs, and improved density estimates when integrated with systematic data highlight the benefits of collecting presence-absence data in citizen science programs for estimating population patterns. Additional opportunities will come from applying presence-only data, which are oftentimes more prevalent than presence-absence data, to integrated models. Patterns in data submission and filtering also emphasize the importance of iteratively evaluating patterns in engagement, usability, and accessibility, especially focusing on younger adult and teenage demographics, to improve data quality and quantity. We explore how the development and use of integrated models may be paired with citizen science project design in order to facilitate repeated use of datasets in standalone and integrated analyses for supporting wildlife monitoring and informing conservation.

Publication Year 2021
Title Citizen science data collection for integrated wildlife population analyses
DOI 10.3389/fevo.2021.682124
Authors Catherine C. Sun, Jeremy E. Hurst, Angela K. Fuller
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution
Index ID 70228089
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Coop Res Unit Leetown