“Anyone Know What Species This Is?” – Twitter Conversations as Embryonic Citizen Science Communities


Social media like blogs, micro-blogs or social networks are increasingly being investigated and employed to detect and predict trends for not only social and physical phenomena, but also to capture environmental information. Here we argue that opportunistic biodiversity observations published through Twitter represent one promising and until now unexplored example of such data mining. As we elaborate, it can contribute to real-time information to traditional ecological monitoring programmes including those sourced via citizen science activities. Using Twitter data collected for a generic assessment of social media data in ecological monitoring we investigated a sample of what we denote biodiversity observations with species determination requests (N = 191). These entail images posted as messages on the micro-blog service Twitter. As we show, these frequently trigger conversations leading to taxonomic determinations of those observations. All analysed Tweets were posted with species determination requests, which generated replies for 64% of Tweets, 86% of those contained at least one suggested determination, of which 76% were assessed as correct. All posted observations included or linked to images with the overall image quality categorised as satisfactory or better for 81% of the sample and leading to taxonomic determinations at the species level in 71% of provided determinations. We claim that the original message authors and conversation participants can be viewed as implicit or embryonic citizen science communities which have to offer valuable contributions both as an opportunistic data source in ecological monitoring as well as potential active contributors to citizen science programmes.


Link to centre authors: Daume, Stefan, Galaz, Victor
Publication info: Daume, S., V. Galaz. 2016. “Anyone know what species this is?”: Twitter conversations as embryonic citizen science communities. PLoS ONE 11(3): e0151387.

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