Thursday, August 7, 2008 - 10:15 AM

SYMP 18-10: Using technology to get people back in touch with nature

Louis Liebenberg, CyberTracker Conservation, Karen M. Dvornich, University of Washington, Tricia Jones, University of Michigan, Cynthia Sims Parr, University of Maryland, Kevin Ravno, NaturalWorld, and Justin Steventon, Steventon Consulting.

Background/Question/Methods: People, especially children, in developed countries are spending more and more time indoors in front of televisions, playing computer games, or surfing the Internet. In a fundamental way technology is alienating people from nature. This is resulting in what has been termed an emerging “nature-deficit disorder”. This paper will look at how technology can be used to reverse this trend.
Results/Conclusions: In the USA, projects such as NatureMapping, BioKIDS and BioBlitz are using PDAs with GPS loaded with CyberTracker software to enable volunteers of all ages to collect biodiversity data. In BioKIDS, these inquiry-focusing activities technologies such as CyberTracker are used to promote conceptual understanding of science and scientific reasoning. In South Africa, the NaturalWorld website allows participants to share and view bird sightings. In the Kalahari trackers from local communities are being employed to survey wildlife conservation corridors. And the WhaleForce project involves yachtsmen around the world to monitor whales. Using Smart Phones to collect data in Citizen Science projects, the “Gameboy” factor can be used to bring people back in touch with nature. Allowing people to view their own data on the Internet also helps to develop interactive participation on a global level. At a time when people are becoming increasingly alienated from nature, technology can be used to involve people of all ages across a wide range on interests and cultures to participate in Citizen Science on a global level.