The Collaborative Net
A sampling of citizen science across CNR
Working with Environmental Science, Policy, and Management (ESPM)professors Justin Brashares and Maggi Kelly, PhD candidate Christine Wilkinson enlists the help of farmers and livestock herders to study human-carnivore conflict in Kenya’s densely populated Great Rift Valley. Community members contribute to the research by marking the locations of carnivore sightings and livestock attacks on blank maps. Wilkinson and her Kenyan team have conducted these participatory mapping sessions with nearly 400 people living within two kilometers of Lake Nakuru National Park and Soysambu Conservancy—two areas that regularly experience human-carnivore conflict.
Citizen Science Safari
Also in the Brashares lab, ESPM PhD candidate Kaitlyn Gaynor is a lead scientist on WildCam Gorongosa, an online platform through which people around the world classify animals in camera-trap photographs from Mozambique’s Gorongosa National Park. Data from these images have provided scientists with insights regarding the restoration of large-mammal populations as the park recovers from decades of armed conflict, while giving people the opportunity to take a virtual safari from their own home and learn about ongoing conservation efforts. Gaynor’s collaborators at HHMI BioInteractive integrate WildCam into high school science curricula, so that students can help contribute data while testing their own hypotheses about wildlife ecology. Participation in that high school program has come full circle for Ava Wu, who is now a UC Berkeley undergraduate working as a research apprentice on Gaynor’s project.
90 Species and Counting
ESPM professor Gordon Frankie partners with the Sonoma Ecology Center and Cittaslow to conduct an annual count of Sonoma’s native bee populations. In 2010, the first Sonoma Bee Count yielded 32 bee-species observations from three sites. Local residents have continued this project for nine years, leading to a community-wide awareness of bees’ essential role as pollinators within ecosystems. Using pan traps and doing aerial collections from flowers, the volunteers have to date found more than 90 species, which are identified by taxonomist Jaime Pawelek, BS ’08 Conservation and Resource Studies, and then archived in UC Berkeley’s Essig Museum of Entomology.
Crawling Through the Archives
Through a project called CalBug, the Essig Museum of Entomology is working with seven other California institutions that have major insect collections to digitize and geo-reference one million insects and spiders archived throughout the state. Volunteers contribute by examining online photos of specimens from the collections and then transcribing the tag information accompanying each insect. These records become digital specimen labels—tags that are used by scientists to study biogeographic patterns, the spread of invasive species, and responses to land-use, climate, and other environmental changes. Led by ESPM professors Rosemary Gillespie and Kipling Will and Essig Museum curator Peter Oboyski, PhD ’11 ESPM, the Berkeley effort has added more than 300,000 specimens to the California Terrestrial Arthropod Database since 2010.
There’s an App for That
In her role as director of the Informatics and GIS Program in the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Maggi Kelly has, with her collaborators, built numerous smartphone applications for community science purposes. The team’s apps allow users to tag coyotes in urban environments, map aquatic invasive species, report suspected instances of crop-damaging rice plants, chart the movements of wild pigs, and more.
Tom Bruns, a professor in the Department of Plant and Microbial Biology, works with citizen scientists to survey mushroom species in Berkeley and beyond. Collaborating with local mushroom clubs, including the Bay Area Mycological Society and the Mycological Society of San Francisco, Bruns coordinated a survey of fungi in Point Reyes National Seashore from 2004 to 2007 and another such survey in Yosemite National Park from 2010 to 2012. These “mycoblitzes” resulted in online catalogs of fungi found in the parks. Building on this success, Bruns organized the first meeting of the North American Mycoflora Project, a space for professional and amateur mycologists to discuss survey techniques and share their knowledge of North American macrofungi. Now with other mycologists at the helm, the project has continued to mobilize mushroom clubs across the US and Canada to gather fungi data. Bruns has also deployed students and community members to document fungi on the UC Berkeley campus. A catalog of these mushroom sightings can be found on the iNaturalist website, with more than 140 fungal species observed to date.