Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Welcome to Craywatch

Today is the debut of a new citizen science project, Craywatch. I’m your host, Zen Faulkes (a.k.a. Doctor Zen). I’d like to tell you a little about this project and how it came about.

The goal of this project is to collect data about the location of crayfish species in North America, with a particular eye to monitoring for invasive species. North America is the biodiversity hotspot for crayfish, but crayfish are under a lot of pressure, not the least of which is competition from newly introduced invasive crayfish.

There’s the why for this project. If you’ll indulge me, I’d like to talk a bit about how this project emerged below the fold.

This project grew out of my work on Marmorkrebs (a.k.a. marbled crayfish), the all-female cloning crayfish. I created and run the Marmorkrebs.org website. I got started doing Marmorkrebs research for a lot of reasons, but an interest in invasive species wasn’t one of them. As so often happens, plans get overtaken by events.

As part of my research, I put up a poll asking people for information, and was surprised by the number of people who were wiling to take a few minutes to help. Ultimately, the data from those website visitors was published in two open access journals (Faulkes 2010; Jimenez and Faulkes 2010). And I got some emails back from people who were pleased that the research had been published.

Not quite citizen science, but certainly a nudge in that direction.

The second was reading a paper by Stafford and colleagues (2010), who got interesting and informative data on the distribution of bees using existing social media tools. And I thought that was a brilliant idea to steal.

And I kept hearing about other successful citizen science projects. Like Galaxy Zoo. Like having thousand of fish specimens identified on Facebook.

I thought, “Let’s try it.” And so, here we are. I hope you’ll be able to participate.


Faulkes Z. 2010. The spread of the parthenogenetic marbled crayfish, Marmorkrebs (Procambarus sp.), in the North American pet trade. Aquatic Invasions 5(4): 447-450. http://dx.doi.org/10.3391/ai.2010.5.4.16

Jimenez SA, Faulkes Z. 2010. Establishment and care of a laboratory colony of parthenogenetic marbled crayfish, Marmorkrebs. Invertebrate Rearing 1(1): 10-18. http://inverts.info/content/establishment-and-care-laboratory-colony-parthenogenetic-marbled-crayfish-marmorkrebs

Stafford R, Hart AG, Collins L, Kirkhope CL, Williams RL, Rees SG, Lloyd JR, Goodenough AE. 2010. Eu-social science: the role of internet social networks in the collection of bee biodiversity data. PLoS ONE 5: e14381. http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0014381

Photo by salyangoz; used under a Creative Commons license.

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