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Cornell Lab of Ornithology


Daniela Maldini

Director of Research at EarthWatch Institute

Daniela Maldini is the Director of Research at Earthwatch Institute, a non-profit organization that engages people worldwide in scientific field research and education to promote the understanding and action necessary for a sustainable environment. Daniela is also an Adjunct Professor at the University of Massachusett, Amherst. Daniela runs a research program on marine mammals in Monterey Bay, California and has been active in the marine science field for the past 20 years.

Volunteers as Field Assistants, Challenges and Opportunities: A Some Case Study

Over the years my project has involved over 500 volunteers from all walks of life. Although no formal data have been collected, experience has shown us that tasks need to be highly organized for volunteers to contribute effectively to reaserch efforts, training has to be highly structured, and inter-observer calibration has to be performed to determine performance variation and data reliability. Task that involve measurements such as length, weigth, reading of instrumentation are more easily performed than qualitative measurements such as collection of behavioral information, eval;uation of situations and more specialized tasks. Data entry tasks also need to be highly structured with clear procedures, preferably written in simple wording, and structured databases. Individual variation is high and staffs need to be able to recognize levels of interest and skills early to better direct effort. Unstructured and unclear instructions often lead to frustration and poor data collection ethic.

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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