Washington: Citizens who get involved in science become more environmentally aware and willing to participate in advocacy than previously thought, according to a new study conducted in India by Duke University researchers.
Citizen science projects can lead to broader public support for conservation efforts, concluded the researchers at Durham, North Carolina based university
The survey covered 115 people who had recently participated in citizen science projects in India with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Centre for Wildlife Studies.The study, led by PhD student McKenzie Johnson, appeared in November in the journal Global Environmental Change.
The researchers found that in addition to gaining environmental knowledge and skills such as population monitoring and species identification, participants in the projects often became environmental advocates, sharing their knowledge within their social networks.
"Citizen science is having an impact in creating environmental advocates, many of whom are able to diffuse knowledge and create a network of people interested in environmental conservation," said Dr. Erika Weinthal, Lee Hill Snowdon Professor of Environmental Policy.
Previous studies have shown that citizen science helps boost environmental literacy and raise public awareness, Weinthal noted, but this is the first to demonstrate that it also helps build environmental networks.
Fifteen of the 115 people surveyed reported that they had gone on to create their own conservation organization after participating in citizen science projects. Others changed careers to become full-time wildlife conservationists.
"This shows the wonderful possibilities of experiential learning and the ways it can motivate people to drastically alter the path they believed themselves to be on," said Johnson.
"Getting the public involved in the scientific process goes a long way in building public support for wildlife conservation," said Krithi Karanth, adjunct assistant professor at the Nicholas School and associate conservation scientist at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
The research was funded by the Nicholas School of the Environment, the India Institute for Management in Udaipur and the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University.