Citizen Science.

To: COG List <>
Subject: Citizen Science.
From: John Harris <>
Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2019 23:36:48 +0000

I agree with David about the ‘scientific’ contribution of English clergy in the 17th-19th centuries. Interestingly, although David is right that clergy, compared to the other villagers, had a secure income although often very modest, another very important point is that they had no choice but to study the sciences in their Oxford or Cambridge degrees. Theology was the ‘queen of the sciences’ but many clergy came out of university with more interest in the natural world than theology – although to be fair to them, they would have believed there was a link.

I do understand what Philip is getting at. Data which is gathered and shared with others and analysed is certainly ‘science’. But I think so is rigorous observation which is methodically recorded, which is what many clergy did. Even today, we would surely regard the amateur astronomer who discovers a new comet  as a citizen scientist.

An interesting Australian example was Rev. William Branwhite Clarke and his amateur work on minerals west of Sydney including predicting the gold rushes.





From: David Rees <>
Date: Tuesday, 26 February 2019 at 8:50 am
To: Philip Veerman <>
Cc: chatline <>
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Some good news for Eastern Curlews?


Sorry Phillip but the value of Gilbert White's work is that it has survived.    I know the place well where he worked and his observations can be compared with now, down to the behaviour of individual species.  Fortunately the area remains pretty similar to what it was in his day. Ordinary people had a struggle to simply survive back then, literacy levels were low,  country clerics etc. on the other hand were literate and on a good wicket.  These folk have given us some of the oldest well-recorded 'citizen science', at least in the English speaking world, and also, I understand, elsewhere in Europe. All this happened well before good digital cameras and Canberra nature map etc.......




On Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 5:23 AM Philip Veerman <> wrote:

Martin it seems appears to wish to dispute whether citizen science is older in Britain or USA. Wow is that distinction worth fussing over? It is a hard one to define a start point. Even if the RSPB was founded in 1889, if the Christmas Bird Count (I assume the American one), started in 1900, then I wonder if the RSPB had organised any citizen science within 11 years of starting. Existence of RSPB is not of itself citizen science. So which was the first to reach any kind of data-useful standing? Who cares?

The article makes the point that citizen science refers to in this case: “the dozens of volunteers who took part each year”. Thus Selborne, John James Audubon and Gilbert White are hardly relevant, when they were working mostly on their own and not part of large scale organised activities (citizen science). The term also carries the general idea that the people involved are not professionals (i.e. paid) but volunteers. “Erin Rogers, the chair of the Australian Citizen Science Association, said it could provide meaningful data to help form decision-making, while also engaging the general public in science.”



From: Martin Butterfield [
Sent: Sunday, 24 February, 2019 2:49 PM
To: Sue Beatty
Cc: ; Geoffrey Dabb; COG List
Subject: Re: [canberrabirds] Some good news for Eastern Curlews?


I hope the rest of the article is more correct than this "Professor Justin Marshall, the chief investigator at Coral Watch, said birdwatching was the oldest form of citizen science, originating in the United States."  


By way of example 

  • The Natural History of Selborne is a book by English naturalist and ornithologist Gilbert White. It was first published in 1789.
  • John James Audubon (born Jean Rabin; April 26, 1785 – January 27, 1851). so unless Audubon was shotting at the age of 4 he was well behind Gilbert White

Perhaps he is on about the Christmas Bird  Count which started in 1900?  Nice try no cigar: the RSPB was founded in 1889!  


Googling the Professor's name he seems to be, surprisingly in view of that statement, of British birth arther than from the US.




On Sun, 24 Feb 2019 at 14:31, Sue Beatty <> wrote:


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