Citizen Science and Biodiversity Research: Reporting from the EU BON Workshop in Tartu, Estonia

By Jaume Piera, Researcher at CREAF and ICM, and Veljo Runnel, University of Tartu Natural History Museum

 

On June 27-28, 2016 ECSA participated in the workshop "Biodiversity research for and by citizens in Eastern Europe: tools, information services and public engagement" which took place in Tartu, Estonia, and was organised by Veljo Runnel from the University of Tartu Natural History Museum. As part of the EU BON project, the workshop had the goal to share accomplishments of the project mobilizing efforts for biodiversity research, promote products, and to raise and discuss challenges of citizen science and facilitate networking between countries, especially eastern and central European countries. In addition, it provided training for citizen science tools and introduced some Estonian projects and European initiatives. In addition, recommendations were prioritised and next steps for citizen science integration into biodiversity research identified.

The first day showcased the citizen science initiatives in Estonia, followed by best practice examples from the EU BON consortium. During the second day the participants had the opportunity to learn the tools and methods for citizen science data management by ECSA and EU BON. This was followed by a world cafe type of discussion about the needs of citizen science initiatives and the Pan-European citizen science gateway. One of the major conclusions regarding the Baltic countries is that stronger collaboration and supportive infrastructure is needed in order to make citizen science more effective and also to deliver accessible data. For a detailed recap of the workshop, please view this blogpost by Egle Marija Ramanauskaite.

Jaume Piera, chair of the ECSA working group "Projects, Data, Tools and Technologies", presented "The European Citizen Science Association: How ECSA can help in improving citizen science biodiversity data". This presentation introduced ECSA to those participants who didn´t know the association before.

Jaume also introduced Natusfera, the new open platform for biodiversity monitoring. Inspired by the existing platform iNaturalist, one of the main goals of this new platform is to facilitate the participation of any collective interested in collaborate in biodiversity monitoring, independent of its size and the capabilities of their members. To reach this goal, Natusfera aims to break existing barriers:

  • Technological barriers. Collectives will not require to have ICT expertise in the group to run Natusfera and to adapt it to their particular interest.
  • Knowledge barriers. Collectives may start participating even if they do not have the expertise to identify their own observations
  • Linguistic barriers. The users should be able to choose freely the language to participate  and exchange information in Natusfera. At present the platform is available in 5 languages: English, Spanish, Catalan, Galician and Euskera.

The project is promoted by the Spanish node of the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and at present, two ECSA institutional members (CREAF and ICM-CSIC) are collaborating in the platform development. Natusfera is also open for new contributions from more ECSA members, which can participate in different tasks:

  • Developing new features and services. Natusfera is using GitHub as a platform for collaborative coding.
  • Providing knowledge and outreach. ECSA members can contribute also improving the information in several collaborative platforms used by Natusfera, such as Wikipedia, or Encyclopedia of Life.
  • Translating Natusfera in local languages. It will be adapted to the collaborative platform Crodwin to facilitate volunteering translation in as many languages as possible.

Natusfera will be also used as the first case test to develop several collaborations that ECSA has initiated with other associations and institutions (ACSA, CSA, JRC, …) on topics related to the concept of “Internet of People”: Interoperability, Privacy/Security, Data reliability & Usability, Intellectual Property Rights and Engagement.

 

Contact Information:

For more information on the workshop or EU BON please contact or Veljo Runnel (veljo.runnel@gmail.com).  

Jaume Piera (jpiera@icm.csic.es) can also provide information regarding the workshop, his presentation on ECSA and Natusfera.

 

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