Citizen science

Contributions from volunteer collectors and recorders are increasingly important to scientific research and policy.

Lake Merritt Bioblitz!
Lake Merritt Bioblitz by Nerds For Nature. Photo licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Volunteer collectors and recorders have made significant contributions to on-the-ground knowledge about biodiversity, and recent improvements in technology have helped increase the flow and quality of occurrences from citizen sources.

Whether through smartphone-enabled field observations, online specimen transcriptions or other emerging innovations, citizen science is increasingly important to scientific research and policy. As evidence, look no further than the occurrence records provided through the GBIF network.

A 2016 study published in Biological Conservation registers the massive contributions that citizen scientists already make to GBIF-mediated data. Despite some limitations of the dataset-level analysis, it's clear that nearly half of all occurrence records shared through the GBIF network come from datasets with significant volunteer contributions.

The analysis also highlights the fact that biodiversity data from citizen scientists, like biodiversity data generally, are distributed unevenly across geography and taxa. Identifying data gaps and biases could help guide citizen programmes to focus on poorly sampled regions, like Africa, Asia and Latin America, and underrepresented organisms, like insects and fungi.

How can I contribute citizen science data to GBIF?

The GBIF network seeks to harness the enthusiasm and interest of individuals who participate in citizen science by working with data publishers to help them share data collected by project volunteers. The GBIF network is built on a member-state and organization model, which includes an endorsement process that help ensure that the quality, stability and relevance of the institutions who share their data.

We encourage citizen scientists interested in sharing their time and their observations to get involved by:

For further reading

  • Chandler M, See L, Copas K et al. (2016) Contribution of citizen science towards international biodiversity monitoring. Biological Conservation. Available at: doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2016.09.004
  • Amano T, Lamming JDL & Sutherland WJ (2016) Spatial Gaps in Global Biodiversity Information and the Role of Citizen Science. BioScience 66: 393–400. Available at: doi:10.1093/biosci/biw022
  • Groom Q, Weatherdon L & Geijzendorffer IR (2016) Is citizen science an open science in the case of biodiversity observations? Journal of Applied Ecology. Available at: doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12767
  • Roy HE, Pocock MJO, Preston CD et al. (2012) Understanding Citizen Science & Environmental Monitoring: Final Report on behalf of UK-EOF. Wallingford, UK: NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology & Natural History Museum. Available at:
  • Theobald EJ, Ettinger AK, Burgess HK et al. (2015) Global change and local solutions. Biological Conservation 181: 236-244. Available at doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2014.10.021

Find citizen science opportunities via GBIF Participant nodes