Comparing Best Management Practices of Community Based Monitoring between Habitats in the Literature and in Reality

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Community based monitoring projects, often called citizen science, have been on the rise for the last decade. Although they provide the benefit of large data sets from a wide area, the quality of the data is often questioned because they are collected by ?laypeople? with limited field experience. However, there are a number of side benefits of utilizing volunteers in research that may outweigh this concern: increased stewardship of the monitored habitat, educational benefits to participants, and community support for such research. The goal of many of these projects often is restoration or preservation of an area, and these side benefits may aid in meeting the end goal as much as the actual data collected. Many community based monitoring projects publish their results in scientific or technical literature with recommendations for similar future projects. This study determines if these recommendations match the best management practices actually used by programs. Also, this study compares recommendations and practices by habitat to see if more specificity is needed in thinking about improving the data coming from monitoring programs and allowing them to succeed at fulfilling their mission. A series of surveys of program coordinators and primary investigators were compared to recommendations in the literature to determine if published recommendations are a realistic representation of practices that occur in the field. Results showed that although the top recommendations of the literature and survey respondents were similar (championing collaboration with experts, consistent methodology, and presentation of data to policymakers), the means and implications of achieving these goals differs by habitat. Specific habitats were associated with slightly different types of mission statements that have implications for their definition of reliable data and overall success.

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