Guides to running citizen science while being sensitive to resources

Hello friends,

I am trying to renovate the descriptions of all the National Park Service projects that I manage (Please join!) and one concern I often get from parks is citizen scientists’ sensitivity/awareness to resource impacts. Resource impacts, especially in highly visited places like national parks, are a huge concern, and we want to do our best to encourage people to explore parks while also not trampling, handling, vandalizing, or generally degrading resources.

I can give two really common examples of problems NPS units commonly have that were brought to my attention recently.

  • Biological soil crusts being tread upon in places like the desert southwest, where it can take hundreds of years for the crust to recover. Simple messages like “Stay on the trails” are common knowledge for citizen scientists, but when an ameteur botanist is looking for x flower and they’re trekking through backcountry to find it, we’d like to give suggestions on how to do so in a low-or-lowered-impact manner.
  • People handling herps with their bare hands has been noted in parks as well. We want the public to be wary of the wildlife health problems associated with handling herps like that.

In an effort to be conscious of those concerns (or similar impacts, because there have been many comments made directly or indirectly to myself and others), I was going to develop a brief guide on responsible citizen science practices, no more than one page. I’d also be happy to develop it for the ‘Guides’ section of the website to be able to link to it. I don’t want to duplicate efforts, however. Does anyone know if a similar guide, dense and comprehensive or not, has been produced? In my searching, nothing seems to cover a super broad scope so far.


This is a guide that Kate Wing a few of the rest of us in this community put together a while back:

A Citizen Science Manifesto

It may provide a bit of a jumping off point, but it’s more focused on the community and social side. The primary part about the landscape/biota is summed up in this portion:

Leave things as you found them. Make it easy for other people to enjoy a place after you do your research. Fill in holes and put back rocks, whether you’re in a city park or at the bottom of the sea.


Guides are really designed to list taxa, so it probably wouldn’t be a great place for this. A journal post would be better.


Guides have been created in the past for instructional purposes for proper procedures, though, such as the BioBlitz guide. I do agree, however, that a journal post on the project page directly could serve as an effective outreach tool.

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Ah, the confusion of multiple uses of the word “guides”. Usually we interpret “guide” as the “Guides” feature, but as you point out we have confusingly also created a bioblitz guide, a curator guide, and a teacher’s guide.


Thanks for this. I’ll keep searching for a more comprehensive guide to navigating resource sensitivity. There have been some academic articles that address the concerns, but not many that comprehensively list common/easy to grasp solutions.

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Whoops! Did that come up in conversation when the second type of guide was in development? Could the name of what now hosts the BioBlitz, Curator, and Teacher “Guides” to be changed to “Manuals”?

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You may have already run across this, but has a toolkit page with a lot of resources on it.


They have awesome resources on! We had an early talk about updating the National Park Service page on there.


I just want to come back in and advocate a recently released book that covers this a little.

The Handbook of Citizen Science in Ecology and Conservation by the UC Press is released on ebook and had wonderful advice throughout on running and organizing programs/projects. More info in the link.


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