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Citizen science and global biodiversity
Citizen science and global biodiversity

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1 Overview of iSpot

As you are by now aware, iSpot [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] is a website aimed at helping anyone to identify anything found in nature. It is a platform designed to enable people to upload their observations of wildlife, help each other to identify species, and share and discuss their findings. In this regard, iSpot is a social networking website for biodiversity.

iSpot encourages people to share information about the wildlife they see. In doing so, it is anticipated that they will develop their scientific knowledge, increasing their species and taxonomic identification skills. In this regard, it is effectively a tool for crowdsourcing the identification of species and the recording of biological data. It seeks to:

  • lower barriers to identification by providing free, open-access web and mobile software
  • be open to all
  • create a social network around crowdsourcing biodiversity
  • connect beginners with experts
  • create a new generation of naturalists.
(Source: Ansine, 2013)

iSpot fits within the model of co-created citizen science projects discussed in Week 1. It has with content contributed almost entirely by the community of diverse enthusiasts and professionals, with contributor skill levels ranging from people new to wildlife identification all the way up to nationally and internationally renowned taxonomic experts (Roy et al, 2012). iSpot provides an online space that links novices with experts, with the idea that this can increase efficiency in identification while spreading taxonomic knowledge.

Developed as a platform with a user-friendly interface, iSpot provides multiple ways for users to participate, as outlined by the following five-step method (Figure 1):

  1. EXPLORE: Browse the over 30,000 species identified so far and see what other people are spotting.
  2. IDENTIFY: Want to identify something you’ve seen? Register, join the community, add observations and get help.
  3. CONTRIBUTE: iSpot motivates and encourages as you contribute through the multi-dimensional reputation system, which awards badges based on species groups.               
  4. PERSONALISE: View and use iSpot in your own way; take part in and create citizen science challenges by designing projects and building filters.
  5. RECOGNITION: With iSpot you can receive recognition as you learn and participate in quizzes that build and test knowledge as skills increase. There are also free online resources and iSpot has also been integrated into formalised learning such as OU modules and this course.
(Source: Ansine et al., 2017)
iSpot graphs
Figure 1 iSpot’s five-step participation method (adapted from Ansine et al., 2017)