The following piece was written for the GiGLer, the newsletter of Greenspace information for Greater London (GiGL). In this (very) short piece, I’m explaining the approach that we use at ExCiteS to understand ecology, environmental volunteering and what knowledge we can extract by using environmental data collected by citizens. Thanks to the data collections provided by GiGL, iSpot and iRecord some preliminary results will be presented during a talk at the Citizen Science Association conference in February in San Jose, California.
The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment popularised the concept of ‘ecosystem services’; ensuring that nature is considered in decision-making by measuring and accounting for the benefits it provides to human wellbeing.
The value of some services such as pollination of agricultural crops can be measured, however not all services are so easily quantified. The intangible values of nature as a source of inspiration, as the source of religious symbols and practices, and as something that contributes to tourism are classified as cultural ecosystem services. To measure these qualitative benefits, we can look at human activities that demonstrate attachment to nature. One such measure of cultural ecosystem services is the quantity and frequency, as well as the range and timing, of volunteer contributions to environmental recording and other environmental volunteer activities. GiGL datasets give us an invaluable information to understand this. Social and cultural biases towards environmental factors can be assessed by matching environmental observations and census data. We can also measure the spatial and temporal differences between citizen science and professional recording in London. The attractiveness of biodiversity to laypeople can also be assessed by analysing data on citizen science.
Amongst the research questions we hope to answer are the following: When are volunteers more likely to act? Where do they most often go? Which species are most likely to be recorded by volunteers? Which urban areas tend to attract recording of environmental data? Is there any correlation between ethnicity and environmental volunteering?
In this research, which is supported by UCL Grand Challenges Small Grants programme the Extreme Citizen Science (ExCiteS) research group is partnering with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Centre for Biodiversity and Environment Research (CBER).