Young and wanting to contribute to preserving biodiversity? What are you waiting for? Time to make a difference!
What is Citizen Science?
Anyone can be a Citizen Scientist - you don't need a degree or scientific background - you just need enthusiasm and a willingness to get involved. In many countries around the world members of the public contribute their observations to a variety of projects, including weather information, traffic counts, and sightings of birds and other animals. Official surveys are expensive and time-consuming, but if enough people get involved, each person doing their 'little bit', then the information collected can be used for scientific analyses that can tell us about the state of our environment and natural heritage.
What is the WorldBirds project?
Every year, millions of people around the world go out birdwatching for fun. Many keep notes on what they have seen, and these data are extremely valuable for conservation at all levels - from local site protection to national and international policy-making. It is impossible for conservation organisations to visit all areas for all species, and members of the public can help fill in the gaps. What you may think is an unimportant sighting of a common species can be used to build up a bigger picture - every observation has value! The WorldBirds project brings together a 'family' of systems to collect data on birds.
How can you help?
The most obvious way is to enter your sightings into your local WorldBirds system so that they are immediately available for others to see and for conservation analyses. The more people who participate, the more useful the system becomes to birders and professionals, so encouraging others to participate is very important. In addition, we are also encouraging birders to collect a little more information about their visits to improve scientific value, including data such as time spent birding and how many people were in the group, as well as asking for full lists whenever possible (a full list notes all species seen, both common and rare), although part lists are very welcome.
What's in it for you?
The system provides a wide variety of functions, including:
- easy-to-use data entry screens;
- ways to organise your visits;
- Latest News to show data that have just come in;
- reports to view, map and download data, so you can plan trips;
- country and location checklists to print and take with you;
- 'top 50';
- the knowledge that you are helping conservation!
How does the system work?
Visit the World Map page to see which countries have databases. Not all countries have similar systems - most use a version created by the RSPB, BirdLife and Audubon, and you can find some instructions on how to use those systems below. About 30 countries have their own independent systems, part of the overall family, but working in a slightly different way - these usually have a set of instructions you can download. A small number of countries have no system - we hope to develop these in the future.
Now you have read about participation, all you need to do is:
- go out and have fun birding;
- enter your sightings into the system;
- feel good about helping protect birds;
- encourage your friends to do the same;
- use the reports and checklists to plan your next birding trip;
- go out and have fun birding...again!
How to watch birds
While aimed primarily at UK birders, the RSPB's advice pages give you useful information on how to watch birds, including tips and hints to make birding easier, the things it would be useful to take on a trip, and what to look out for.
Most importantly, keep yourself safe and don't disturb the birds or their habitat. You can find out more by looking at the RSPB's birdwatchers' code. Remember, NEVER look at the sun directly, especially not with binoculars!
What other fun things can you do?
The RSPB WildSquare project has a lot of activities for fun things to do (in English).