Some cautions in the use of citizen science: A case study of urban insect collection

Craig R. Williams, Dawn Hawthorn-Jackson, Sofia Orre-Gordon, Shaun O’Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


The engagement of volunteers to collect scientific information (citizen science) is a powerful tool for gathering biodiversity information and for achieving environmental education objectives. Here we describe an intervention designed to enhance participant understanding of insects in ecosystems. We did this by involving them as citizen scientists to collect insects on traps and by providing them with enriching information about insects. We also evaluated the use of citizen scientists for the collection of insect biodiversity data. Despite targeted recruitment around a focal site (a constructed urban wetland), participants were spread throughout the Adelaide metropolitan area, a result of the most successful recruitment method being through electronic communication via social media. Use of paper flyers was ineffective. Surveys before and after the intervention demonstrated some enhancement of knowledge and understanding of insect roles in ecosystems, with participants nominating the insect trapping and subsequent information sheet being their primary sources of new information. However, participants largely appeared to have an existing interest in ecosystems and the environment, reducing our ability to improve understanding and attitudes in the community. Volunteer deployment of sticky traps proved successful in gaining new insect community data and shows promise for future use.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)57-69
Number of pages13
JournalTransactions of the Royal Society of South Australia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Australia
  • Citizen science
  • Ecosystems
  • Insects
  • Survey
  • Volunteers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anthropology
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Palaeontology

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