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International Journal of Zoology
Volume 2012, Article ID 349630, 14 pages
Review Article

The Citizen Science Landscape: From Volunteers to Citizen Sensors and Beyond

Department of Natural and Social Sciences, University of Gloucestershire, Cheltenham GL50 4AZ, UK

Received 1 March 2012; Accepted 22 June 2012

Academic Editor: Simon Morgan

Copyright © 2012 Christina L. Catlin-Groves. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Within conservation and ecology, volunteer participation has always been an important component of research. Within the past two decades, this use of volunteers in research has proliferated and evolved into “citizen science.” Technologies are evolving rapidly. Mobile phone technologies and the emergence and uptake of high-speed Web-capable smart phones with GPS and data upload capabilities can allow instant collection and transmission of data. This is frequently used within everyday life particularly on social networking sites. Embedded sensors allow researchers to validate GPS and image data and are now affordable and regularly used by citizens. With the “perfect storm” of technology, data upload, and social networks, citizen science represents a powerful tool. This paper establishes the current state of citizen science within scientific literature, examines underlying themes, explores further possibilities for utilising citizen science within ecology, biodiversity, and biology, and identifies possible directions for further research. The paper highlights (1) lack of trust in the scientific community about the reliability of citizen science data, (2) the move from standardised data collection methods to data mining available datasets, and (3) the blurring of the line between citizen science and citizen sensors and the need to further explore online social networks for data collection.