Towards better species identification processes between scientists and community participants
Egerer, M and Lin, BB and Kendal, D, Towards better species identification processes between scientists and community participants, Science of The Total Environment, 694 Article 133738. ISSN 0048-9697 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Urban gardens are a model system for understanding the intersection between biodiversity conservation and citizen science. They contain high plant diversity that contributes to urban flora. However, this diversity is challenging to document due to site access and complex plant taxonomy with hybrids and cultivars. Community research participation provides a tool to measure plant diversity and distribution by engaging gardeners who are most familiar with their plants to report on their garden's species richness using citizen science. Yet there is little empirical exploration of plant identification consistency between citizen scientists and scientific researchers. This could lead to reporting differences (e.g., missing species, multiple reporting of the same species) due to spatial and temporal effects, different perspectives and knowledge systems, and cultural context. We leverage a scientific survey of garden plants and a questionnaire asking gardeners to report on the species in their gardens to perform an opportunistic comparison of gardener and researcher reported plant diversity in community gardens. The comparison shows that gardeners interpret instructions to report plants quite variably, with some reporting all species (including herbaceous weeds) and crop varieties, while others reporting only their main crop species. Scientist on the other hand seek clarity in terms of species and variety and report all species located in the plot, including the small weed species that are overlooked by some gardeners. Consistency could be improved if researchers are more specific about their reporting expectations when asking community members to participate in data collection. We use this case study to communicate that paired citizen scientist-researcher data collection and dialogue between groups is necessary to improve methods for conducting consistent and collaborative assessments of biological diversity.
plant taxonomy, urban gardens, citizen science, human bias