Citizen Science is the collection and analysis of data collected by the general public to be used for scientific research. It is usually done collaboratively with professional scientists. It can also be described as public participation in scientific research.
Citizen science is very important as it enables scientists to collect data that would otherwise be impossible or expensive to collect by themselves. With the help of modern technology, people from all over the world can contribute to scientific studies by sharing data with each other.
Scientists often work with community groups as they may already be involved in similar projects, for example if they are working to help their local wildlife, and the citizen science program involves identifying wildlife species, then this collaboration will assist both parties in reaching their goals. The community groups are especially helpful as they can help by promoting the project to bring in new people, to generate ideas, and engage with scientists for advice.
A community group will have a variety of people with different skills and backgrounds too, so scientists will be able to utilize these skills to expand their project and data collection methods. Volunteers can include kids, school students, amateur scientists, retirees and educators.
Citizen science programs are also a great opportunity for students and other volunteers to increase their knowledge and skills in a particular area. Looking into volunteering opportunities that relate to your studies will greatly increase your chances in getting a job.
Citizen Science at CHEN
If you are looking into working in the environment field, whether it is on the research or community engagement side of things, volunteering with a group that increases knowledge and gives you valuable skills, will be very beneficial to your future career.
CHEN has a Landcare group that includes bush regeneration and citizen science opportunities. Our citizen science opportunities include, water quality testing which is in collaboration with Streamwatch; identifying and taking hollow measurements, which is in collaboration with Hollows as Homes; and Frog ID which is in collaboration with the Australian Museum.
We also partake in bush regeneration activities which is not a citizen science project but does provide you with knowledge and skills related to land management and plant identification.
If you want to get ahead in your career by partaking in such activities, please contact us to get involved.
Please email, firstname.lastname@example.org for more information, otherwise click this link to be added to the Fred Caterson Landcare Group where you can keep up to date with what we are doing and come along!
At CHEN, we have collaborated with Streamwatch, ‘a citizen science water monitoring program that enables community groups to monitor the quality and health of local waterways’.
As part of the Fred Caterson Landcare group we incorporate citizen science opportunities such as water quality testing, to help educate our community about their local environment and to provide valuable data to help reduce pollution events while also providing a valuable record of waterway health.
Undertaking citizen science will be attractive to people that have an interest in the environment and want to volunteer their time to help in a variety of ways, to young students that want to explore their career options and attain skills that will help them get a job after study and to those that have some time on their hands and want to spend it being outdoors, trying new things whilst helping their community.
If you would like to be a part of this program, please contact us and we can get you started. We would love to have you!
As the human population increases, more urban development increases and is taking over important bushland, necessary for not only the survival of ecological communities and the wildlife it provides for but also our health and well-being too. This is because nature provides us with healthy environments by purifying our water, provides us with food, stabilizes our climate, protects us from flooding, and provides pollination services for agriculture and human nutrition, among others.
Nature provides for us physically, but what about mentally?
This is an exciting concept that has been researched a lot over the past few decades, and these studies have come to find that there is indeed a relationship between having regular nature exposure and an improvement in our mental health.
In recent decades there have been a lot of studies done on the relationship between nature-contact and our mental health. What has been found, from cross-sectional and longitudinal research is that being in regular contact with green and/or blue spaces (aquatic or marine environments) can be in part, correlated with improved psychological well-being and reduced psychological/stress impacts. This can be in the form of sounds or images too such as rain, birds, or trees in the wind for example (P. Dadvand, X. Bartoll, X. Basagaña et al., 2019).
The evidence found in these studies that link nature exposure to psychological well-being is an increased level of positivity, more happiness, positive social interactions, cohesion, more purpose in life, manageability of life tasks and a decrease in mental distress (P. Dadvand, X. Bartoll, X. Basagaña et al., 2019).
What is even more interesting is that in addition to longitudinal studies, nature exposure has been shown to improve other cognitive functions such as memory and attention, impulse inhibition, imagination and creativity, improved sleep and less stress. These last two functions are associated with mental health issues, and so we can suggest that nature exposure does play a role in reducing mental health symptoms (Bratman, G, Anderson, C, B, Berman, et al., 2013).
What Can We Grasp From This?
As we can see from the results of these studies, being in regular, close contact with nature, in a variety of settings (parks, nature reserves, street tree’s, beach), plays a significant role in improving your well-being. However, this study does mention that having close nature contact isn’t the only solution, as other factors can contribute significantly to your mental health such as your social life, finances, relationships, trauma and health, among others.
Overall, these studies help us understand just how important being around nature is, especially to our technologically advanced generation, where we are on our screens more and are less inclined to go outside. On top of that, majority of the Australian population lives in cities or in highly urbanized areas where there is less access to green spaces.
Therefore, we need to prioritize this need by making decisions that incorporate nature into our lives. This can be in the process of deciding where to live, the activities you choose to do; where you go on your holidays or weekends; who you vote for in local or state government to promote more green spaces in your community and to look after our local bushland; or whether you want to join community groups that spend time in nature. The options are there!
The services nature provides for us are pretty important to our overall functioning and well-being so it begs us the question as to why we don’t look after our environment as much we should?
If you do feel this way and want to be in nature more often and perhaps even want to help it survive and flourish, there are various ways you can get on board!
One of them is by joining a community group such as a Landcare or Bushcare group, which would be organised and advertised by your local council.
Check out their website to see what they offer!
The Fred Caterson Landcare Group
At CHEN, we have formed a Landcare group within the Hills Shire to bring people together and to help their local bushland and the waterways that reside in them. We do this by partaking in bush regeneration activities that support the regeneration of native plant species; we partake in citizen science such as water quality testing at the Cattai creek; and we do fun but educational activities together such as Yoga in Nature (like in the image above), Bush food days and Tea-leaf making!
Bratman, G, Anderson, C, B, Berman, M, G, Cochran, B, Vries, S, Flanders, J, Folke, C, Frumkin, H, Gross, J, J, Hartig, T, Kahn, P, H, Kuo, M, Lawler, J, J, Levin, P, S, Lindahl, T, Meyer- Lindeberg, A, Mitchell, R, Ouyang, Z, Roe, J, Scarlett, L, Smith, J, R, Bosch, M, Wheeler, B, W, White, M, P, Zheng, H and Daily, G, C, 2013 ‘Nature and Mental Health: An ecosystem service perspective’, Science Advances, vol. 5, no. 7, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aax0903
Dadvand, X. Bartoll, X. Basagaña, A. Dalmau-Bueno, D. Martinez, A. Ambros, M. Cirach, M. Triguero-Mas, M. Gascon, C. Borrell, M. J. Nieuwenhuijsen, 2019, ‘Green spaces and general health: Roles of mental health status, social support, and physical activity’, Environ. Int. 91, 161–167
P. White, I. Alcock, B. W. Wheeler, M. H. Depledge, 2013, ‘Would you be happier living in a greener urban area? A fixed-effects analysis of panel data’, Psychol. Sci. 24, 920–928
CHEN is offering the chance to be a part of a Landcare Group at the Fred Caterson Reserve in Castle Hill.
This group aims to provide bush regeneration services to the Cattai creek and its surrounding bush land. This may include some days focused on tree planting and weed removal, while other days may be focused on providing citizen science data to numerous organizations. One example of this is working with Streamwatch to collect water quality data from the Cattai creek. Another may include using the FrogID app to collect data on the frog species in the area and submitting it to the Australian Museum for research.