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Crowd-sourcing for Conservation: Metrics on Monsters Mobilizing the Masses

Jones, Jason L.

Nevada Department of Wildlife

Las Vegas, Nevada USA

Citizen science has made substantive contributions to science particularly in the past decade, with an explosive increase in participation by the public in species specific scientific projects. These projects have resulted in numerous peer-reviewed scientific publications that have influenced natural resource management and environmental protection decisions and policies across the nation. For species that are hard to detect (e.g., secretive, cryptic, rare) on the landscape, outsourcing field work to trained citizens may be one of the most efficient and effective means of providing information to both land and species management agencies, particularly given the relatively high costs associated with implementing rigorous studies across large landscapes. The Gila Monster (Heloderma suspectum) is an iconic species in the Southwestern United States and is considered the “holy grail” of reptile observations by many herpetologists and enthusiasts alike. Given the Gila Monsters’ iconic status, it is relatively easy to identify enthusiastic volunteers willing to work long and hot hours across the Mojave Desert in hopes of making a Gila Monster observation, as well as contributing to science. This enthusiasm, when paired with project specific data forms and protocols, can ultimately provide rigorous data on the species general ecology, life history, movement patterns, genetic relatedness and connectivity, and habitat associations across Southern Nevada. Because of its status, ease of identification, and low detection rate, this species is a model organism for crowd-sourcing conservation based projects. In this talk, I will discuss the past seven years of Nevada’s Gila Monster citizen science project and the metrics measured through crowd-sourcing.

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