In addition to sharing research results with the public directly, one of the best ways to engage people in science is to include them in the scientific process. I collaborate with a number of non-academic citizen science organizations and individual citizen scientists in my projects. I have also found members of the general public to be some of the most knowledgeable resources for developing study sites and finding specimens for my research.
TurtleSAT is one of several citizen science initiatives developed by Ricky Spencer and Feral Scan to allow Australians to collect observational data on wildlife they see in their hometowns and backyards. TurtleSAT is a mobile phone app (and website) that allows people to record observations of Australian turtles and turtle nests, including location, time, and species. We use these data to determine locations of high turtle abundance and/or nesting activity, which can then be used to target specific locations for further study. Some citizen science organizations, like Turtles Australia, take this process a step farther and use TurtleSAT to enter comprehensive data on mass turtle nesting events, including nest locations, nest density, habitat characteristics of nesting sites, and rate of nest depredation by foxes. We use these data to make inferences about turtle preferred nesting habitats and locations, and impacts of foxes on turtle nesting success.
Citizen Scientist Collaborations on Australian Turtle Projects
Our projects on turtle conservation in the Murray River involve collaborations with many local stakeholders and interest groups, including Banrock Station Wine and Wetland Centre, Calperum Station, Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority, North Central Catchment Management Authority, and Winton Wetlands. We also collaborate extensively with Yorta Yorta Nation Aboriginal Corporation in Victoria and with the Ngarrindjeri people via the Aboriginal Partnerships Program and Aboriginal Learning on Country (ALOC) teams in South Australia.
HerpMapper is a US-based initiative that allows users to input location data for reptile and amphibians observations anywhere in the world, using either the website or smartphone apps. Locality observations can then be made available to researchers and management agencies interested in improving their understanding of reptile and amphibian distributions. I currently serve on the Taxonomic Review Committee for HerpMapper.
Local Herpetological Societies
Since my Ph.D., I have been actively involved with local herpetological societies, including the Arkansas Herpetological Society, the Dallas-Fort Worth Herpetological Society, and the Australian Herpetological Society. I have given science presentations to these societies and actively participate in their field trips, herp surveys, and meetings. I also collaborate with members of these societies on some of my research and conservation projects. These groups are the often most knowledgeable resources for finding study species and locations important for my research.