Skip to content
Skip to main content

About this free course

Become an OU student

Download this course

Share this free course

Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

1 What is citizen science?

In October 2009, six-year-old Katie Dobbins who lives just outside London, England, saw an unusual furry moth on her windowsill (Figure 1). Curious to find out what it was, she showed it to her dad, who helped her to take a photo and posted the observation on the then-new citizen science platform [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] . Within 24 hours, the iSpot online community confirmed it to be the euonymous leaf notcher, a species never previously seen in the UK.

Little girl holding picture of moth
©Get Reading
Figure 1 Katie and the moth

This example of citizen science demonstrates its power. It enables anyone to participate, make discoveries and contribute to scientific knowledge, while at the same time being able to engage with and learn about science. The story of Katie and the moth will be revisited later in this week as we discuss the concept of citizen science and how to become a citizen scientist.

This first week of the course examines the growth of citizen science and how it contributes to scientific knowledge. You will learn about its historical context – how amateur scientists have long been contributing to scientific research and biological recording. You will also learn how, with the support of new communications technology, citizen science has recently grown a much wider audience, engaging volunteers in the collection and processing of data on a huge scale. This first week briefly examines what motivates and engages people to participate in citizen science and explores the impact and benefits of this participation. Finally, you will be introduced to examples of citizen science projects and activities along with the process of becoming a citizen scientist and joining a community such as