Scientific study involves volunteer citizens in measuring aquatic invertebrates
Citizen science aims to involve the local population in monitoring programmes. In this specific project, the objective was to develop a simple observation and monitoring metric of Aquatic Invertebrates for Volunteers that included the use of a tool that was easy to use and access for everyone.
A volunteer project developed in the Algarve
This study was developed in the Algarve region, characterized by its Mediterranean climate, where the marine environment is influenced by annual floods and dryness that directly affect the physical and biological characteristics of the streams. Of the 17 streams selected by the Agência Portuguesa do Ambiente (APA-ARHAlg) in this region, 36 samples were collected during spring 2010, after a period of intense precipitation.
The preparation of volunteers for participation in this study
To develop the skills required in this volunteer monitoring programme six training courses on "Conservation and Sustainability of Freshwater Ecosystems" have been established. The courses covered the entire Algarve region, between January and May 2010, and were divided in theoretical lectures, field activities, question and answer sessions and presentation of results.
In total, 87 teachers attended the courses and shared their knowledge with their 807 students from the 23 secondary schools that participated in this initiative. The 36 groups of volunteers were students who had no previous experience in macroinvertebrate assessment and were supervised by their teachers.
Evaluation of volunteers' results
Another objective of this project was to evaluate the efficiency of a monitoring program for volunteers through an audit procedure. This audit aimed to quantify how accurate the results obtained by the volunteers were. To achieve this objective, the results of the volunteers were verified by researchers (auditors) from the universities of Évora and the Algarve. The accuracy of the volunteers' results was measured through the differences between the primary analyses (collected by the volunteers) and audited analyses (evaluated by the researchers). The audit procedure showed a good performance of the volunteers, with no significant differences between the results obtained by the volunteers and the experts.
The importance of citizen science
After the training, all students prove to be able to identify aquatic invertebrates through the use of the Aquatic Invertebrate Metric for Volunteers. Both protocols and methods used in monitoring streams proved to be well accepted by volunteers. This method, used for the first time by trained volunteers, can be an important complement in the official monitoring program and in identifying possible ecological problems in the sampling sites.
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