Citizen science programs are emerging as an efficient way to increase data collection and help monitor invasive species. Effective invasive species monitoring requires rigid data quality assurances if expensive control efforts are to be guided by volunteer data. To achieve data quality, effective online training is needed to improve field skills and reach large numbers of remote sentinel volunteers critical to early detection and rapid response. The authors evaluated the effectiveness of online static and multimedia tutorials to teach citizen science volunteers (n = 54) how to identify invasive plants; establish monitoring plots; measure percent cover; and use Global Positioning System (GPS) units. Participants trained using static and multimedia tutorials provided less (p <.001) correct species identifications (63% and 67%) than did professionals (83%) across all species, but they did not differ (p =.125) between each other. However, their ability to identify conspicuous species was comparable to that of professionals. The variability in percent plant cover estimates between static (??10%) and multimedia (??13%) participants did not differ (p =.86 and.08, respectively) from those of professionals (??9%). Trained volunteers struggled with plot setup and GPS skills. Overall, the online approach used did not influence conferred field skills and abilities. Traditional or multimedia online training augmented with more rigorous, repeated, and hands-on, in-person training in specialized skills required for more difficult tasks will likely improve volunteer abilities, data quality, and overall program effectiveness. ?? Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Additional publication details
Teaching citizen science skills online: Implications for invasive species training programs