Lessons from lady beetles: accuracy of monitoring data from US and UK citizen-science programs

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Abstract

Citizen scientists have the potential to play a crucial role in the study of rapidly changing lady beetle (Coccinellidae) populations. We used data derived from three coccinellid-focused citizen-science programs to examine the costs and benefits of data collection from direct citizen-science (data used without verification) and verified citizen-science (observations verified by trained experts) programs. Data collated through direct citizen science overestimated species richness and diversity values in comparison to verified data, thereby influencing interpretation. The use of citizen scientists to collect data also influenced research costs; our analysis shows that verified citizen science was more cost effective than traditional science (in terms of data gathered per dollar). The ability to collect a greater number of samples through direct citizen science may compensate for reduced accuracy, depending on the type of data collected and the type(s) and extent of errors committed by volunteers.

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