Citizen Science

Current Activity


Citizen science can broadly be defined as the involvement of volunteers in science.  BRC and the volunteer schemes have worked together to gather and analyse wildlife observations for 50 years providing evidence to underpin science, policy and practical conservation. During 2007, volunteer observers for biodiversity surveillance in the UK were estimated to contribute time in-kind worth more than £20 million. Combined with experience from other CEH-led citizen science environmental monitoring, CEH is becoming established as a leader in citizen science.



Key Outputs


A UK-Environmental Observation Framework project critically reviewed citizen science practice and highlighted lessons learnt, the requirements of data users, and also reviewed the potential benefits of new technologies. CEH acknowledged the importance of sharing good practice and produced a guide on the practical implementation of the review. More recently the “Choosing and Using Citizen Science” guide has been developed by CEH in collaboration with SEPA.

Conker tree science

Photo of scientist and children

Photo: Susie Pocock.

The Conker Tree Science project engaged over 8,000 people. People were invited to report the occurrence of the horse chestnut leafminer (Cameraria ohridella). The project enhanced understanding of the invasion dynamics of this moth, the associated parasitoids and the value of citizen science.

Guides to citizen science

Picture of the guides to citizen science

Picture: CEH.

‘Choosing and using citizen science’ and ‘Guide to citizen science’ are two documents produced from projects reviewing the breadth and utility of citizen science for environmental research and monitoring. Both recognize the value of citizen science as an approach for undertaking environmental studies and provide a critical framework for developing such initiatives.


Smartphone apps

Photo of mobile phone running ladybird app

Photo: Heather Lowther, CEH.

The development of a smartphone apps for recording ladybirds has enabled the UK Ladybird Survey to attract new recorders. More than 9,000 records have been submitted in its first year. The newly released iRecord Butterflies app received more than 4,000 records within a month of being available. Verification and validation methods within iRecord provide quality assurance and onwards flow of data.


Future Challenges


Data quality is often a major challenge for citizen science approaches.  To ensure the usefulness of data collected by volunteers, a variety of quality assurance methods are used. Automated checks, developed by schemes and societies, when coupled with expert verification play a critical role in ensuring the accuracy of biological records. iRecord provides an example of this approach.  Development of novel methods will undoubtedly encourage further interest in citizen science and help to recruit and train new generations of recorders.





Hulbert J.M., Hallett R.A., Roy Helen E., Cleary M. (2023) Citizen science can enhance strategies to detect and manage invasive forest pests and pathogens. ,
Pocock Michael J.O., Logie Mark, Isaac Nick J.B., Fox Richard, August Tom (2023) The recording behaviour of field-based citizen scientists and its impact on biodiversity trend analysis. ,
Boyd R.J., August T.A., Cooke R., Logie M., Mancini F., Powney G.D., Roy D.B., Turvey K., Isaac N.J.B. (2023) An operational workflow for producing periodic estimates of species occupancy at national scales. ,
Evans Luke Christopher, Melero Yolanda, Schmucki Reto, Boersch-Supan Philipp H., Brotons Lluís, Fontaine Colin, Jiguet Frederic, Kuussaari Mikko, Massimino Dario, Robinson Robert A., Roy David B., Schweiger Oliver, Settele Josef, Stefanescu Constanti, van Turnhout Chris A. M., Oliver Tom Henry (2023) Mechanisms underpinning community stability along a latitudinal gradient: Insights from a niche-based approach. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd,
Peyton J., Hadjistylli M., Tziortzis I., Erotokritou E., Demetriou M., Samuel Y., Anastasi V., Fyttis G., Hadjioannou L., Ieronymidou C., Kassinis N., Kleitou P., Kletou D., Mandoulaki A., Michailidis N., Papatheodoulou A., Payiattas G., Sparrow D., Sparrow R., Turvey K., Tzirkalli E., Varnava A. I., Pescott O. L. (2022) Using expert-elicitation to deliver biodiversity monitoring priorities on a Mediterranean island. ,
Boyd Robin J., Powney Gary D., Burns Fiona, Danet Alain, Duchenne François, Grainger Matthew J., Jarvis Susan G., Martin Gabrielle, Nilsen Erlend B., Porcher Emmanuelle, Stewart Gavin B., Wilson Oliver J., Pescott Oliver L. (2022) ROBITT: A tool for assessing the risk-of-bias in studies of temporal trends in ecology. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd,
Browning Ella, Freeman Robin, Boughey Katherine L., Isaac Nick J. B., Jones Kate E. (2022) Accounting for spatial autocorrelation and environment are important to derive robust bat population trends from citizen science data. ,
Gardiner Mary M., Roy Helen E. (2022) The Role of Community Science in Entomology. ,
Viliani Leonardo, Bonelli Simona, Vercelli Monica, Roy David B., Riva Federico (2022) Does a short Pollard walk transect capture butterfly and bee diversity? A test to inform pollinator monitoring and community science initiatives. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd,
Brandt Miriam, Groom Quentin, Magro Alexandra, Misevic Dusan, Narraway Claire L., Bruckermann Till, Beniermann Anna, Børsen Tom, González Josefa, Meeus Sofie, Roy Helen E., Sá-Pinto Xana, Torres Jorge Roberto, Jenkins Tania (2022) Promoting scientific literacy in evolution through citizen science. Royal Society,