Origins of Citizen Science

Citizen Science is thought of as a modern happening, but the truth is it started in the 19th century. During this time scientific investigation was often carried out by amateurs. Charles Darwin is an outstanding example of such a person and who's contribution to understanding biology and in particular, natural selection is of the highest order.

There are two common ways of defining Citizen Science:

  • Irwin 1995 described citizen science as related to store knowledge within the non-scientific group and he described this as lay, local and traditional knowledge (LLTK)
  • Public participation in science (e.g. public bird surveys) or crowd sourcing. The recent and rapid development of technology including the internet, mobile devices, high definition video cameras, GPS and various apps have seen this area of citizen science expand rapidly. providing large scale data for scientists to collect analysis and interpret.


Science Communication Unit, University of the West of England, Bristol (2013). Science for Environment Policy In depth Report: Environmental Citizen Science. Report produced for the European Commission DG Environment, December 2013. Available at:

A famous "Citizen Scientist"

Charles Darwin (Elliot & Fry, 1880, cca)

Citizen Science in Queensland

There are a number of Citizen Science projects being conducted in Queensland. The Wildlife Preservation Society Queensland (WPSQ) is an established organisation that not only advocates for wildlife but manages 9 Citizen Science projects linked to biodiversity monitoring including Seagrass Watch and Mangrove Watch.

In the Moreton Bay Region the Redcliffe Environmental Forum in conjunction with Wetland Care Australia and the James Cook University conducts a saltmarsh monitoring project at the Bremner Road Saltmarsh Reserve.

The Moreton Bay Regional Council conducts an annual Koala survey. This project invites community members to contribute to koala conservation by recording sightings in their local neighbourhood - including in backyards and public parks. The project has collected annual data for the past 5 years helping to build a picture on koala abundance in the local areas.

Urban Koala

Citizen Science surveys can scan urban areas