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Citizen science: Osa communities partner with scientists to reveal answers to nature’s mysteries

Blogpost by Marco Hidalgo-Chaverri, Coordinator of the Ecosystem Resilience and Community Outreach Program

Citizen science is the participation of the general public in scientific research activities. Citizens contribute actively, either through active monitoring or with local knowledge of their environment. This different way of doing science contributes to scientific knowledge through the participation of volunteer and trained citizens who are not usually specialists in the subject to be investigated and who contribute to help solve questions raised in scientific studies.

Community Biological Monitoring Group of Rancho Quemado, training with the Healthy Rivers Program at Osa Conservation. Photo: Marco Hidalgo

It is not a new way of doing science. In fact, it has existed for centuries, since the very beginning of science—from the contributions made by astronomers, to the observation of birds in remote parts of the world.

Citizen science projects allow the public, through their own experience, to understand how scientific research is carried out. Participants find that the process of doing science arises from observation and methods for data collection. People are adequately trained in a non-formal setting, contribute to the collection of data, and—if their curiosity catches on—they might even start their own research.

Coati (Nasua narica) photograph taken to be used in the App iNaturalist. Photo: Marco Hidalgo

These meetings of participation constitute an alliance between scientists and the general public, forming a great work team, answering the great questions about Earth’s biodiversity.

With this goal in mind, Osa Conservation is supporting the Community Biological Monitoring Groups formed in the Osa Peninsula. We are sharing experiences with organized groups in the communities of Rancho Quemado, Dos Brazos del Rio Tigre, Los Planes of Drake and the Alto Laguna Indigenous Territory. With these groups, we are working on the collaborative construction of knowledge through the Osa Camera Trap Network, who lead the collection of data and assist in data analysis. At Osa Conservation, we believe that the participation of communities to support the monitoring of spatio-temporal trends of biodiversity has special importance in the fight to prevent and stop the loss of flora and fauna species that are susceptible to small environmental changes.

Showing the children of the Osa Peninsula fauna in danger of extinction. Photo: Marco Hidalgo

The children of the Osa Peninsula have not been left out in this participatory contribution. Year after year, we have been supporting the Christmas Children’s Bird Count, which is a form of social appropriation of science like no other, since the students of schools and colleges become the main actors of this knowledge construction. The key to this initiative is to take science as an attitude and have the ability to marvel and generate questions with the things or situations we face every day. Our children find a magic in the birds and biodiversity that surrounds them. This information helps analyze traces of climate change and observe climatic phenomena, and these are the same students who will live the solutions.

Community Biological Monitoring Group of Rancho Quemado, visiting the Sea Turtle Program at Osa Conservation. Photo: Marco Hidalgo

In support of this effort of Citizen Science, Osa Conservation is promoting the use of global social networks, which are used by people who like to share images of the nature of the region. We are recommending the iNaturalistapplication, a technological tool that connects people with nature to build participatory citizen science, in order to understand the situation populations of our flora and fauna and the changes that affect different ecosystems. If you or members of your community want to be part of this great effort, you can contact us, and support us to create knowledge.

Osa Conservation
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