Utilizing Citizen Science and Museum Data to Identify Populations of Rare Plants
Over the past decade, citizen science, the use of volunteers to collect data or conduct research, has increased in popularity. It has enabled scientists to collect large amounts of data using minimal resources and time. The use of citizen scientists to collect data is more cost effective than traditional science, even when experts are used to verify data collected (Gardiner et al. 2012). This method of data acquisition has been especially successful in ecological studies of climate change, rare and invasive species monitoring, spread of disease, phenology studies, and landscape ecology (Dickinson et al. 2012). When combined with historical data, these large datasets allow for research at unprecedented spatial and temporal scales (Dickinson et al. 2012). Many successful projects collect baseline data to monitor change and enable appropriate responses to ecological crises, such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill (Dickinson et al 2012). The combination of Citizen Science with conservation goals is especially powerful (Dickinson et al 2012).
The future success of citizen science is linked to emerging technologies (Newman et al. 2012). One such technology is the iNaturalist platform. This web based data collection tool utilizes the ubiquity of smart phones to collect spatial and temporal data about living organisms. Scientists can create projects within the platform to collect data on their species of interest. The Texas Nature Trackers program utilizes this approach to encourage citizen scientists to monitor and search for populations of rare Texas species. The inclusion of specific training by scientists has been shown to increase the quality of data collected by citizen scientists. This project seeks to provide the training materials to enable citizen scientists to more effectively search for new populations of rare plants.
BRIT received a Conservation License Plate Grant from Texas Parks and Wildlife in 2017 in collaboration with Tarleton State University. Information on the habitat and distributions of ten rare plants was compiled and predictive habitat maps were created using Geographic Information Systems habitat modeling. All ten taxa are listed on the Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN) list and are endemic to the state. The Texas Conservation Action Plan identifies taxa on the SGCN list as needing additional monitoring and study. Species Information sheets were created to enable citizen scientists to more effectively locate populations of these taxa, helping TPWD better understand their true distributions.
Species Information Sheets:
- Campanula reverchonii (Basin bellflower)
- Croton alabamensis var. texensis (Texabama croton)
- Dalea hallii (Hall’s prairie-clover)
- Dalea reverchonii (Comanche Peak prairie-clover)
- Gaillardia aestivalis var. winkleri (White firewheel)
- Hymenopappus carrizoanus (Sandhill woolywhite)
- Liatris bracteata (Coastal gay-feather)
- Liatris cymosa (Branched gay-feather)
- Rayjacksonia aurea (Houston daisy)
- Salvia pentstemonoides (Big red sage)