Can citizen science assist in determining koala (Phascolarctos cinereus) presence in a declining population?
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The acceptance and application of citizen science has risen over the last 10 years, with this rise likely attributed to an increase in public awareness surrounding anthropogenic impacts affecting urban ecosystems. Citizen science projects have the potential to expand upon data collected by specialist researchers as they are able to gain access to previously unattainable information, consequently increasing the likelihood of an effective management program. The primary objective of this research was to develop guidelines for a successful regional-scale citizen science project following a critical analysis of 12 existing citizen science case studies. Secondly, the effectiveness of these guidelines was measured through the implementation of a citizen science project, Koala Quest, for the purpose of estimating the presence of koalas in a fragmented landscape. Consequently, this research aimed to determine whether citizen-collected data can augment traditional science research methods, by comparing and contrasting the abundance of koala sightings gathered by citizen scientists and professional researchers. Based upon the guidelines developed, Koala Quest methodologies were designed, the study conducted, and the efficacy of the project assessed. To combat the high variability of estimated koala populations due to differences in counting techniques, a national monitoring and evaluation program is required, in addition to a standardised method for conducting koala population estimates. Citizen science is a useful method for monitoring animals such as the koala, which are sparsely distributed throughout a vast geographical area, as the large numbers of volunteers recruited by a citizen science project are capable of monitoring a similarly broad spatial range.
© 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Zoology not elsewhere classified