Transformation

Colour test for an interpretative panel of flora and fauna found in Yolyn Am, Gobi Desert.

Colour test for an interpretative panel of flora and fauna found in Yolyn Am, Gobi Desert.

Where do community environmental groups fit into the increasingly talked about citizen science movement?

With the vast scale and diverse nature of the international citizen science movement, three main models of community participation have evolved (Bonney et al. 2009, Conrad and Hilchey 2010). At one end are contributory projects, where community members provide data to scientist-led projects. A simple web search for “citizen science projects” links you to hundreds of projects – almost all of which fit into this model. In Aotearoa, Marine Meter Squared is a good example of this model. In the middle is a hybrid model – described as collaborative. Here community members contribute for example, to project design and/or data collection, analysis, sharing findings and so on. At the opposite end are transformative projects that are essentially grass-roots, led by the community though with varying levels of input from project partners.

This is where the community environmental projects that form the basis of my PhD fit squarely into. I’ve used the term transformative as opposed to co-created (proposed by Bonney et al.) because it more accurately captures the reality of what’s being achieved here. Not only are groups contributing significantly to conservation gains – transforming the environment as it were, but also transforming themselves and their communities in the process.

Here are snippets from a recent interview –
“….those [few] families that live permanently in …, they will tell you unequivocally – and some of these people are quite cynical about conservation stuff… there are heaps more birds around…”

Measuring the changes in bird population in diversity through the popular 5-Minute Bird Count technique means more than just an objective study of restoration outcomes. Partnering up for 5MBCs means building relationships: “…we do the bird counts together and I’ve really got to know him and his family…”. The big picture is really “…to do with actually caring, it’s the elements of community – they’re back again.”

Did the designers of the 5MBC technique ever imagine there’d be so many outcomes? I sure didn’t.

Bonney, R.; Ballard, H.L.; Jordan, R.; McCallie, E.; Phillips, T.; Shirk, J.; Wilderman, C. 2009. Public Participation in Scientific Research: Defining the Field and Assessing Its Potential for Informal Science Education. Center for Advancement of Informal Science Education, Washington, D.C.

Conrad, C.; Hilchey, K. 2010. A review of citizen science and community-based environmental monitoring: issues and opportunities. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 176: 273-291.

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