Love, Learning and Care for Birds: Relational Values in Ornithological Citizen Science

Project team member in front of her computer at the online BOU conference

By Wessel Ganzevoort, Postdoctoral Researcher at the Centre Connecting Humans and Nature, Institute for Science in Society, Radboud University

The EnviroCitizen team had the opportunity to share our work at the conference Citizen science and birds: People powering ornithology.This online conference took place on the 10th and 11th of October and was organised by the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU). The conference aimed to explore ornithological citizen science in all of its richness: as a methods for scientific data collection on birds, as an approach to inform policy and contribute to bird protection, and as a way to engage many diverse people, from committed birds to causal bird enthusiasts, in ornithology. The conference was run as both a virtual event with pre-recorded presentations and live Q&A with the audience, and simultaneous twitter threads by the presenters.

Our session on Tuesday was titled Benefits and costs of citizen science for organisations, participants and birds, and drew in around 65 audience members. The keynote address was delivered by Finn Danielsen (NORDECO), who discussed how a specific form of citizen science, community-based monitoring, offers a promising approach to address local natural resource management issues in close collaboration with community members. Other contributors to the session highlighted the power of ornithological citizen science: Samuel Levy and Megan McCleverty (BTO) showed examples of how they engage young people in birding, and Veronica Aponte (Environment and Climate Change Canada) showed a collage of video testimonies of participants of the North American Breeding Bird Survey talking about what makes the project meaningful to them. Other presentations examined some of the costs of ornithological citizen science: Jakub Kronenberg (University of Lodz) reflected on several of the tensions involved in birding, such as pressure on vulnerable natural areas, and Simon Gillings (BTO) discussed an oft-overlooked dimension: the carbon footprint of monitoring projects.

Our presentation closed the session, and was title Love, Learning and Care for Birds: Relational Values in Ornithological Citizen Science. We aimed to offer a ‘bird’s-eye view’ of the main findings from our interviews and ethnographic fieldwork with birders. In a series of short recordings we all shared insights around a key theme: Elle-Mari Talivee (Estonia) showed examples of charisma, Ann Elisabeth Laksfoss Cardozo (University of Stavanger, Norway) shared reflections on human-nature relationships, Ágota Ábrán (New Europe College, Romania) talked about learning, and Clara Contreras Ameduri (University of Extremadura, Spain) discussed care about and for birds. Wessel Ganzevoort (Radboud University, the Netherlands) connected these themes through the lens of relational values and their role in inspiring care. You can find our conference presentation below:

To take a look at our accompanying twitter thread, follow us at @EnvCit. To check out all of the conference contributions, search for the hashtag #BOUasm22.

Thanks to BOU for an excellent online conference, and if you have any responses to our presentation, reach out to us on twitter!

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