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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Jennifer Forman Orth

Professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston

I am currently a post-doctoral research associate in the Biodiversity and Ecosystem Informatics Lab at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where I study invasive species and assist in the development of software tools that facilitate the study of biodiversity. My educational background is in plant biology and environmental science. For a sampling of my current and past projects, please visit my website.

Engaging Nature Photographers as Citizen Scientists: The Life on the Purple Loosestrife Project

The citizen scientist project Life on the Purple Loosestrife was designed to track the use of the invasive wetland plant purple loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria) by other organisms. With the goal of surveying as wide a region as possible, volunteers were recruited using the photography site Flickr and were asked to photograph any plant or animal observed on wild purple loosestrife plants. Forty-three volunteers from three different countries and four different US states have participated in the project so far. Preliminary results revealed the presence of twelve different orders of plants, gastropods, insects and spiders, with forty-three different insect and spider families represented. The insect data was comparable with a peer-reviewed study performed in Canada in 1994, and demonstrates not only that citizen scientist teams are effective at collecting valuable biological data but also that the internet is an effective tool with which to collect and share such data.

Citizen science, volunteer monitoring, participatory action research... this site supports organizers of all initiatives where public participants are involved in scientific research.

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