Evaluating the ability of citizen scientists to identify bumblebee (Bombus) species

Steven Falk, Gemma Foster, Richard Comont, Judith Conroy, Helen Bostock, Andrew Salisbury, Dave Kilbey, James Bennett, Barbara Smith

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    50 Citations (Scopus)
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    Citizen science is an increasingly popular way of engaging volunteers in the collection of scientific data. Despite this, data quality remains a concern and there is little published evidence about the accuracy of records generated by citizen scientists. Here we compare data generated by two British citizen science projects, Blooms for Bees and BeeWatch, to determine the ability of volunteer recorders to identify bumblebee (Bombus) species. We assessed recorders’ identification ability in two ways–as recorder accuracy (the proportion of expert-verified records correctly identified by recorders) and recorder success (the proportion of recorder-submitted identifications confirmed correct by verifiers). Recorder identification ability was low (<50% accuracy; <60% success), despite access to project specific bumblebee identification materials. Identification ability varied significantly depending on bumblebee species, with recorders most able to correctly identify species with distinct appearances. Blooms for Bees recorders (largely recruited from the gardening community) were markedly less able to identify bumblebees than BeeWatch recorders (largely individuals with a more specific interest in bumblebees). Within both projects, recorders demonstrated an improvement in identification ability over time. Here we demonstrate and quantify the essential role of expert verification within citizen science projects, and highlight where resources could be strengthened to improve recorder ability.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere0218614
    Number of pages21
    JournalPLoS ONE
    Issue number6
    Publication statusPublished - 24 Jun 2019

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the
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    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)


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