COS 63-7
A children’s citizen science project on seed removal provides interdisciplinary research opportunities

Wednesday, August 13, 2014: 10:10 AM
Regency Blrm E, Hyatt Regency Hotel
Victoria L. Miczajka, Institute of Ecology, Leuphana Universtiy Lüneburg, Lüneburg, Germany
Alexandra-Maria Klein, Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
Gesine Pufal, Albert-Ludwigs University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany

In citizen science, the public is engaged in authentic scientific research by recording observations and collecting or analyzing data, whilst at the same time learning about the specific research topic or ecology in general. However, most of these projects only focus on their specific ecological research question, but usually neglect other information such as the participant’s general background, their motivation or environmental awareness or changes in the participant’s ecological knowledge. The aim of this talk is to showcase interdisciplinary research opportunities citizen science projects have to offer. Here, we present findings on the ecological knowledge of children who took part in a citizen science project on seed removal.

We conducted the project in schools in urban and rural areas, where children investigated seed removal. This ecological research was coupled with interactive education on plant-animal interactions and we also assessed the development of children’s knowledge of biodiversity. In a quiz as part of the educational component, children aged seven to ten had to name native plant and animal species for every letter of the alphabet. This quiz gave us the opportunity to test whether knowledge of the native flora and fauna was affected by the children’s background.


Overall, children provided correct native species for only about half the letters. Children growing up in urban areas knew more native species than children living in rural areas. However, we expected children from rural areas to be more familiar with native species because they live closer to nature. It is commonly assumed that children from urban areas are more disconnected from nature and might therefore be less aware of native species. We can only speculate that our results show a shift in knowledge not despite but maybe because of the distance to nature. Our observations show that especially in urban areas, children are provided with numerous environmental education programs and environmental activities, whereas schools in rural areas are often neglected.

This specific example demonstrates that citizen science projects offer various interdisciplinary research opportunities and might provide novel findings not only in the field of ecology but also in sociology or education.