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Since the 1800s, America has been known for its massive conservation projects–setting aside huge swaths of land in public parks and passing legislation like the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. Now, new technologies are making a different type of conservation project possible, and conservationists are capturing massive amounts of data to inform conservation efforts through community involvement. These crowdsourced projects harness knowledge and skills of large groups of people who can contribute to conservation goals. For example, the internet platform Sciestarter connects 100,000 registered citizen scientists plus millions of onsite visitors with over 3,000 individual conservation projects. The global networks facilitated by this technology can connect small scale projects with huge pools of volunteers. The eBird app is another example of crowdsourced science. Birdwatchers upload bird type, location, and time of sighting into the app, contributing to a massive database of bird observations from around the world. The crowdsourced data allows scientists to map the distributions and movements of birds, and has been used in over 100 peer-reviewed publications in scientific journals. Sciestarter and eBird are two of many conservation projects relying on crowdsourced science. In this research we examine whether technology-enhanced crowdsourcing has positive impacts on conservation outcomes. To do so, we examined existing literature on citizen science and crowdsourced conservation in addition to exploring key case studies of projects underway. Our initial research suggests crowdsourced science has the potential to foster bottom-up conservation that relies on community engagement for quality data collection. We also find leveraging technology could make citizen science even more potent and more research is needed in this area to realize these outcomes.


Utah State University

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Economics | Social and Behavioral Sciences

Crowdsourced Conservation

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Economics Commons