Does the data source matter when we communicate about species range shifts with public audiences?

Dr. Victoria Martin1, Dr. Richard Stedman2, Dr. Bruce Lewenstein2, Dr.  Emma Greig1, Dr. Jonathon Schuldt2

1Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, U.S.A., 2Cornell University, Ithaca, U.S.A.

Our collective knowledge about species range shifts has been greatly improved by citizen science approaches to data collection and analysis. By harnessing the efforts of participants, citizen science has been able to record and process information at spatial and temporal scales that professional scientists are unable to achieve alone. Can these citizen science efforts also increase public acceptance of scientific findings, particularly related to climate change? Some argue that the broader exposure and improved transparency provided by citizen science will increase trust in and the legitimacy of science. However, others argue that introducing citizen efforts into the scientific process will increase the public perception that science is not reliable.


This study investigates the extent to which different groups trust information about climate-driven species range shifts by comparing messages from two data sources: citizen science vs professional, specialist scientists. Using a case study focused on feeder bird species that have undergone changes in distributions, messages are tested with three audience groups: feeder bird citizen science participants, people who feed wild birds but do not participate in citizen science, and people who do neither activity. The presentation will discuss the progress and results-to-date from this study. The findings will help communicators understand how to discuss species redistribution data sources and frame messages for specific audiences.


Victoria (Vicki) Martin is an environmental social scientist with research interests in science communication, citizen science, and behavior change. She has over 20 years of research experience working in diverse environments in Australia, New Zealand, the U.S. and Chile. The majority of her work is undertaken in collaboration with ecologists, biologists, and social scientists to address environmental impacts and management issues.

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