Amateurs can be experts: A new perspective on collaborations with citizen scientists

Benjamin M. Viola, Karina J. Sorrell, Rohan H. Clarke, Stuart P. Corney, Peter M. Vaughan

Research output: Contribution to journalShort SurveyOtherpeer-review


Observations made by citizen-scientists are highly regarded in many fields of biology. Public participation in research leads to increased environmental stewardship, greater data-acquisition, and multi-disciplinary advances. However, to date, there is a paucity of literature that acknowledges the professional benefits we, as scientists, gain through open consultation and two-way collaboration with interested parties. Citizen scientists often have specialised interests in particular taxa or habitats. They spend much time observing their subjects/s of interest, becoming accustomed to subtle nuances in appearance, behaviour, or dynamics that are challenging to detect without a high level of familiarity. In a world where professional researchers must increasingly balance competing demands on their time, and demonstrate the cost-effectiveness of their research, we stand to benefit by acknowledging the specific expertise of amateurs and the value their experience brings to observations. We use marine ornithology as an exemplar of this discussion – reasoning that data quality can be greatly improved by collaboration with expert amateurs, concomitantly improving the outcomes from research for conservation and management. We encourage researchers surveying wildlife, plant life, and other organisms to consider where their information and skills may come from, and close the loop between citizens and science to make the most of what amateur naturalism has to offer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109739
Number of pages5
JournalBiological Conservation
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2022


  • Marine ornithology
  • Natural history
  • Observations
  • Research
  • Seabirds

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