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.





707 Oliver Tom H., Heard M. S., Isaac Nick J. B., Roy D. B., Procter D., Eigenbrod F., Freckleton R., Hector A., Orme C. D. L., Petchey O. L., Proenca V., Raffaelli D., Suttle K. B., Mace G. M., Martin-Lopez B., Woodcock B. A., Bullock J. M. (2016) A Synthesis is Emerging between Biodiversity-Ecosystem Function and Ecological Resilience Research: Reply to Mori. ,
708 Ovaskainen O., Roy D. B., Fox Richard, Anderson Barbara J. (2016) Uncovering hidden spatial structure in species communities with spatially explicit joint species distribution models. ,
709 Pescott OL (2016) Revised lists of nationally rare and scarce bryophytes for Britain. ,
710 Pescott OL, Preston Christopher D. (2016) Rare and interesting. ,
711 Pescott OL (2016) A systematic florula of a disturbed urban habitat: Pavements of Sheffield, England. ,
712 Redhead J. W., Fox Richard, Brereton Tom M., Oliver Tom H. (2016) Assessing species' habitat associations from occurrence records, standardised monitoring data and expert opinion: A test with British butterflies. ,
714 Roy Helen E., Baxter E., Saunders A., Pocock Michael J. O. (2016) Focal Plant Observations as a Standardised Method for Pollinator Monitoring: Opportunities and Limitations for Mass Participation Citizen Science. ,
716 Roy Helen E., Hesketh Helen, Purse Bethan V., Eilenberg Jørgen, Santini Alberto, Scalera Riccardo, Stentiford Grant D., Adriaens Tim, Bacela-Spychalska Karolina, Bass David, Beckmann Katie M., Bessell Paul, Bojko Jamie, Booy Olaf, Cardoso Ana Cristina, Essl Franz, Groom Quentin, Harrower Colin A, Kleespies Regina, Martinou Angeliki F., van Oers Monique M., Peeler Edmund J., Pergl Jan, Rabitsch Wolfgang, Roques Alain, Schaffner Francis, Schindler Stefan, Schmidt Benedikt R., Schönrogge K., Smith Jonathan, Solarz Wojciech, Stewart Alan JA, Stroo Arjan, Tricarico Elena, Turvey Katharine M. A., Vannini Andrea, Vilà Montserrat, Woodward Stephen, Wynns Anja Amtoft, Dunn Alison M. (2016) Alien Pathogens on the Horizon: Opportunities for Predicting their Threat to Wildlife. ,
717 Schmucki R., Pe'er G., Roy D. B., Stefanescu C., Van Swaay C. A. M., Oliver Tom H., Kuussaari Mikko, van Strien Arco J., Ries L., Settele Josef, Musche M., Carnicer J., Schweiger O., Brereton Tom M., Harpke A., Heliola J., Kuhn E., Julliard R. (2016) A regionally informed abundance index for supporting integrative analyses across butterfly monitoring schemes. ,
RN292 Ovaskainen O., Roy D. B., Fox R., Anderson B. J. (2016) Uncovering hidden spatial structure in species communities with spatially explicit joint species distribution models. ,