Thursday, June 6, 2013

Citizen Scientists Key to Halting Sudden Oak Death (Op-Ed)


Shown above are lesions on the tree, which is one of the signs that the fungus is spreading. This fungus infests several species of oak trees. Infected trees develop bleeding or oozing cankers on the lower trunk. There is no treatment available once trees develop cankers. Shortly afterwards, the fungus is spread by spores, and usually begins to spreads in other nursery material. This fungus causes mortality in a short period of time.

he notable achievements that can result from engaging citizens in research are well known, and the practice of working with so called "citizen scientists", aka volunteers, has been established since these individuals started playing a pivotal role in the counting of birds in the early 1900s.

Nonetheless, there is still a prevalent belief that volunteers can only participate in research programs basically as unpaid field technicians, playing a role that is strictly limited by the supervision of "professional" scientists. Despite statements on the need to move citizen science forward published as early as 2008, currently, the will of leading scientists and major funding agencies to trust citizen scientists' data and financially support large projects heavily relying on volunteers is simply wanting.

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