Longitudinal research provides both individuals and their attending organizations essential data streams germane to very specific issues. Across the United States, pollinator decline remains a "hot button" given its impact upon our ability to continue growing food. The issue of growth/re-growth after forest fires is of particular concern given the extreme drought conditions that continue to plague the western states and invasive species are something that adversely affects both flora and fauna. Each of these issues has engendered a great deal of research over time and continues to be at the center of scientific inquiry, be it public or private.
Citizen science (also known as "community science") is the concept adopted by agencies and organizations that solicits voluntary research results collected specifically by private individuals. This line of data acquisition allows for anyone (with any background) the joyous opportunity to contribute meaningful material via a collective effort to further scientific understanding of key issues, often with a local impact.
This method of data collection affords researchers the ability to obtain large amounts of information, often across broader geographic regions, in a much shorter time span than would otherwise be possible on their own (even with an investigative team effort). In turn, the collectively acquired data illuminates larger conservation efforts as well as educating participants about an issue/species already of personal interest.
A few of the groups that have embraced the public in their conservation efforts are the California Native Plant Society (CNPS), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Xerces Society. Each of these groups has adopted and created projects drawing upon community science. CNPS uses the iNaturalist App in their "Fire Followers Campaign” which tracks emergent and recovering plant species in the aftermath of forest fires. Xerces Society has created separate projects spanning multiple states in an effort to spotlight invertebrate issues such as the Monarch Butterfly count in California as well as the Bumble Bee Atlas projects specific to the Pacific Northwest, Iowa, California, Nebraska, and Missouri. California Department of Fish and Wildlife is home to the "California Invasive Species Action Week" which goes far beyond target dates to include activities throughout the year around the state for both adults and children as well as spawning both live and virtual events to inform and engage the public about invasive species and its toll on our natural resources.
Events and Projects:
A number of apps and sites exist solely to engage and promote community involvement in issues that someone may already hold dear. Research is not something that many individuals may consider as a parallel to their own specific interest. The University of Arizona created SciStarter as a bridge between science and citizen.
Each of these organizations not only recognizes but embraces the need for public engagement in order to assure that conservation efforts become a part of the public consciousness moving forward.