Citizen Science

Community Science for Community Outcomes

What is citizen science?

Also known as civic science, community science, volunteer monitoring, crowd science and crowd-sourced science, citizen science relies on input from non-professional scientists to generate reliable scientific data. The term is credited to New Scientist magazine in the late 1970’s but is now becoming more and more popular as both a scientific data collection tool, and an education and community engagement opportunity. There is a growing number of organisations that recognise the contribution that citizen science can provide to research and many have dedicated web sites and on-line resources available.

Who would make a good citizen scientist?

The short answer is anyone who is interested in helping. This could include school students, environmental groups, gardeners, food producers and anyone else with some time to spare, an interest in the natural world and a willingness to help.

What is involved?

This depends on the project and the position. This could be quite a dedicated role requiring weekly attention, to a once off contribution.

How can citizen science help on Norfolk Island? 

Developing tailored integrated management strategies for insect pests requires a sound understanding of agro-ecosystem in which the pest occurs. However, there are two key areas where our knowledge is lacking, and they are explained further as project one and two below.

Citizen Science Project 1 – Host phenology

The first is that we lack a comprehensive understanding of the phenology of plants that may be acting as alternative (reservoir) hosts for both avocado spotting bug (Amblypelta bilineata), and guava moth (Coscinoptycha improbana) on Norfolk Island. Research in New Zealand shows that guava moth breeds all year round but doesn’t occur in the colder areas of the country. This suggests that unlike other moths with similar lifecycles (eg codling moth) guava moth doesn’t diapause or aestivate (to escape adverse conditions) and could be vulnerable when there are few hosts available. Because we know that all guava moths on Norfolk Island originate on the island and don’t simply blow in from nearby breeding sites, it is possible to target susceptible hosts at key times in the moth’s lifecycle with the aim of reducing the population overall damage. This may entail a further reduction in the wild guava population on the island which may also help with spotting bug, or more simply targeting management on a particular host at a vulnerable time in the pest’s life-cycle. There are no guarantees that this will work but without phenological data on alternative hosts it is difficult to make well-informed management decisions. 

Citizen Science Project 2 – Natural enemy survey

The second big gap in our knowledge is a lack of understanding of the natural enemies of Fall armyworm that occur on Norfolk Island, especially in regard to egg parasitoids. Parasitoids have many different ecological niches but egg parasitoids lay their eggs in other insects’ eggs and prevent them hatching into caterpillars. Similarly, larval parasitoids lay their eggs into caterpillars and prevent them from emerging into moths and completing its lifecycle. While larval parasitoids can exert some control, because egg parasitoids prevent emergence of caterpillars, they can control the pest before they can cause any damage. It is not known if there are any egg parasitoids Fall armyworm or other caterpillar pests on Norfolk Island.

How can I join a project?

If you would like to join either of these two projects, please contact Customer Care (see contact details in footer below).