Launching a successful open data and citizen science initiative

As urban forest managers look for new ways to engage the public, many municipalities and non-profit groups are turning to citizen science and open data to connect with stakeholders. Citizen science generally refers to partnerships between the public and professional scientists to address real-world problems. The public can be involved in all stages of a project including formulating research questions, conducting scientific experiments, collecting and analyzing data, interpreting results, making new discoveries, and developing technologies and applications. Citizen science projects can generate public interest, but there are often concerns about the need for data coordination, quality control, open access, and long-term funding and resource commitment.

The OpenTreeMap mobile applications make it easy for citizen scientists to collect and update tree inventory information from their phones.

Many of our OpenTreeMap customers use citizen science to increase public awareness and support for community forestry and to collect quality data that can help drive management and policy decisions. This month’s Urban Forest Connections webinar, a webinar series sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service, highlights the challenges and opportunities surrounding citizen science in urban forestry. Lara Roman, Research Ecologist at the Philadelphia Field Station, presents findings from a study of volunteer data quality in urban tree inventories and implications for the use of citizen science for various urban forest data collection needs. OpenTreeMap Project Manager, Deb Boyer, shares lessons learned from citizen science and open data projects across the U.S. and discusses various technical approaches. You can watch the full recording here.

Since 1973, tens of thousands of volunteers have worked with Asheville GreenWorks to plant trees, clean rivers and improve the environment.

There are many other resources available to help you determine whether citizen science and open data projects are right for your community. We’ve listed a few below. We would also love to hear your stories about using citizen science.

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