Dr Colin Meurk – Key Note Speaker

Dr Colin Meurk is a senior ecologist at Landcare Research, a government research institute specialising in understanding, protecting and sustainable use of terrestrial environments and resources. His special interests are biogeography, ecological restoration and design (http://natureservices.landcareresearch.co.nz/app/) , landscape dynamics, urban ecology, subantarctic islands, conservation biology, integration of biodiversity into cultural landscapes, and citizen science (http://naturewatch.org.nz/ ). He has major involvements with community restoration projects in and around cities (Travis Wetland Trust President, Quail island Trust Board Member, Ernle Reserve restoration committee, Maronan kanuka restoration adviser), is a board member of The 50Degrees South Trust, and promotes integration of biodiversity within production landscapes – Greening Waipara and Te Ara Kakariki (green pathways across the Canterbury Plains). He has received a Christchurch (NZ) Civic Award, Loder Cup, Old Blue Award (Royal Forest & Bird Protection Society) and Ecology-in-Action Award (NZ Ecological Society) in recognition of his applied conservation work – and recently he has been associated with A Green Ribbon Award for Travis Wetland and Golden Foot Award for the CHCH Great Perimeter Walkway concept – projects for which Colin was instrumental in getting off the ground.

Title: Tools for Citizen Bio-Science – The Nature Watch NZ Experience. Colin D Meurk (Landcare Research) & Jon Sullivan (Lincoln University)

Ten years on from embarking on the citizen science journey, we at NatureWatch NZ (run by NZBRN Trust) have been on a roller-coaster.  We started with a turn of century Swedish-based website (Artportalen) to record natural history observations. It was good in its day and had been wildly popular in Sweden and northern Europe, especially among birders (it was built by one). But it had no pictures or conversations and no means of verifying records. That made it difficult to engage and connect lots of people into an online community.
In August 2012, we jumped ship and swam over to iNaturalist (an open-source California Academy of Sciences supported site, created by a geek who is also a ‘naturalist’ – a rare and fortuitous combination). It has all the modern bells and whistles. Most importantly, it was built to facilitate an online community. People could comment on each other’s observations and help each other with identifications. Immediately the numbers shot up and usage is still steadily rising in terms of the ‘crowd’ (a few thousand users), number of new records (127 000, over 1000 per week, supported by 160 000 digital images) and 2.8 million page views by 241 000 unique viewers. Among its many features are crowd-sourced identifications of any organism, conversations around observations, a wide range of search functions for records, anecdotal or structured data, custom fields for any associated information, projects, places, species guides, Wikipedia information about all species ,bulk upload and download from CSV files, templates for monitoring and surveillance, live streaming of any subset of data or project to other host websites, and mobile apps. The system is incredibly flexible yet most of the flexibility is hidden beneath the simple facade of observations – what species, where, and when. Through our integration with iNaturalist and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), Nature Watch NZ is also part of the world community.
We have learned much about crowd sourcing, early adopters, cautious followers, narcissistic youth posting selfies rather than diagnostic images, addiction, data biases, behaviour modification, ‘training’ of observers by NatureWatch NZ (like a dog trains its trainer!), teaching opportunities but problems with fitting into curriculum and devising lesson plans, and frustrations of continual ‘reinvention of the wheel’ competing for limited funds!

Title: NatureWatch NZ http://naturewatch.org.nz/ – A Practical Session

Landcare Research meurkc@landcareresearch.co.nz &  NZ Bio-Recording Network Trust (hosting NatureWatch NZ – https://www.facebook.com/nzbrn ; http://blog.naturewatch.org.nz/  ; https://twitter.com/naturewatchnz ; https://itunes.apple.com/nz/app/naturewatch-nz/ ; https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.inaturalist.android – works from iNaturalist)
This session will be a rapid tour through the main features and capabilities of NZ’s biggest Citizen Bio-Science platform – NatureWatch NZ – how it supports learning about our natural heritage, contributes to surveillance of pests, and is a template for structured monitoring. The bulk of time will be on 5 steps to loading up your own observations, getting them identified and added to projects. If some of you bring a camera card or flash drive with a natural history image (or take one at the venue) we will demonstrate the recording process and how simple life is J.

Dr Colin Meurk Presentation