Citizen science can generate data that would not exist otherwise while increasing public scientific literacy. However, the quality and use of citizen science data have been criticized in the recent ecological literature. We need an approach that advances eco-evolutionary understanding, achieves education goals and incorporates public participation into as many aspects of the scientific process as possible. We collaborated with public participants to make new discoveries about the distribution and ecology of ants while informing the next studies that participants and scientists might perform together. We implemented the School of Ants (SoA) program in which participants sample ants that are identified by taxonomic experts. Using a comprehensive framework that meets the needs of multiple agents, we also developed outreach materials about ant biology, collaborated with educators to incorporate SoA into classroom science, and launched an international SoA module in Italy. In the first 17 months, SoA volunteers collected ants at 500 unique sites across the USA-including all 50 states and Washington, D. C. To address concerns about the validity of citizen scientist-derived data, we conducted a ground truthing trial that confirmed that trained and untrained volunteers were equally effective at collecting ants. Data from SoA samples indicate that ant diversity varies across wide geographic scales and that there can be high levels of native ant diversity where people live. SoA volunteers collected 7 exotic and 107 native ant species. Although exotic ants were common, ants native to North America occurred in; 70% of all sites. Many of the ants common in backyards were species that tend to be very poorly studied. For example, citizen scientists documented a range extension of more than 2000 miles for the Asian Needle Ant, Pachycondyla chinensis. Using SoA data as a starting point, we collaborated with a science writer to produce a free, interactive iBook about the common ants in North America; the book included distribution maps such as that for P. chinensis informed by participant collections. Moving forward, we plan to leverage this existing framework to address more complex ecological and evolutionary questions in partnership with our public participants.

Ecologists, educators, and writers collaborate with the public to assess backyard diversity in The School of Ants Project / Andrea, Lucky; Amy M., Savage; Lauren M., Nichols; Castracani, Cristina; Leonora, Shell; Grasso, Donato Antonio; Mori, Alessandra; Robert R., Dunn. - In: ECOSPHERE. - ISSN 2150-8925. - 5:7(2014), p. art78. [10.1890/ES13-00364.1]

Ecologists, educators, and writers collaborate with the public to assess backyard diversity in The School of Ants Project

CASTRACANI, Cristina;GRASSO, Donato Antonio;MORI, Alessandra;
2014

Abstract

Citizen science can generate data that would not exist otherwise while increasing public scientific literacy. However, the quality and use of citizen science data have been criticized in the recent ecological literature. We need an approach that advances eco-evolutionary understanding, achieves education goals and incorporates public participation into as many aspects of the scientific process as possible. We collaborated with public participants to make new discoveries about the distribution and ecology of ants while informing the next studies that participants and scientists might perform together. We implemented the School of Ants (SoA) program in which participants sample ants that are identified by taxonomic experts. Using a comprehensive framework that meets the needs of multiple agents, we also developed outreach materials about ant biology, collaborated with educators to incorporate SoA into classroom science, and launched an international SoA module in Italy. In the first 17 months, SoA volunteers collected ants at 500 unique sites across the USA-including all 50 states and Washington, D. C. To address concerns about the validity of citizen scientist-derived data, we conducted a ground truthing trial that confirmed that trained and untrained volunteers were equally effective at collecting ants. Data from SoA samples indicate that ant diversity varies across wide geographic scales and that there can be high levels of native ant diversity where people live. SoA volunteers collected 7 exotic and 107 native ant species. Although exotic ants were common, ants native to North America occurred in; 70% of all sites. Many of the ants common in backyards were species that tend to be very poorly studied. For example, citizen scientists documented a range extension of more than 2000 miles for the Asian Needle Ant, Pachycondyla chinensis. Using SoA data as a starting point, we collaborated with a science writer to produce a free, interactive iBook about the common ants in North America; the book included distribution maps such as that for P. chinensis informed by participant collections. Moving forward, we plan to leverage this existing framework to address more complex ecological and evolutionary questions in partnership with our public participants.
Ecologists, educators, and writers collaborate with the public to assess backyard diversity in The School of Ants Project / Andrea, Lucky; Amy M., Savage; Lauren M., Nichols; Castracani, Cristina; Leonora, Shell; Grasso, Donato Antonio; Mori, Alessandra; Robert R., Dunn. - In: ECOSPHERE. - ISSN 2150-8925. - 5:7(2014), p. art78. [10.1890/ES13-00364.1]
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: https://hdl.handle.net/11381/2761459
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