Citizen Science : you can all participate!

Citizen Science was once again at its best last summer season at CREA Mont-Blanc. Volunteers, hikers or visitors in the mountain huts, voluntarily help conduct scientific research. Let’s take a look back at a particularly active season.

Facing the glacier d’Argentière ©Brad Z. Carlson

Simple observations to make

Different protocols are open to everyone: For the first one, participants had to observe five species of plants close to the hut in order to note the progress in their seasonal rhythm. They could also take a photo of ringed alpine chough met in the mountains, send the photo as well as the location and receive in return information on the specific bird. In some hut like refuge des prés, it was possible to watch and count the tadpoles in a pond next to the hut. There was something for everyone!

At the refuge des Prés, an animator from the nature reserve of Contamines-Montjoie was present once a week to help the hikers in their observations. “This was a determining factor since we were able to collect about 40 participations in this way. On the other hand, we realized there were fewer participations if we do not make this facilitation effort” comments Anaïs.

The quantitative results are therefore mixed. But there are many positive points: “The people who participate are always very interested, even if they don’t necessarily feel legitimate to collect data for a scientific program. It doesn’t require any special knowledge, and they can do it with their children. Hence the importance of having a facilitator who reassures them on this point. Enriched by these feedbacks, these citizen science projects will be renewed next summer. In the meantime, discussions are ongoing to find the most attractive format for these programs.

Volunteers involved

Still in the Chamonix valley, about 20 volunteers took turns all summer to survey predetermined points in order to characterize the soil, identify the plants and measure their height. The objective was to enrich a map of the alpine shrubs located between 1800 m and 2300 m by completing the satellite data (in particular for the ORION project SCO Space for Climate Observatory). It also helped to refine the knowledge of the flora present next to CREA Mont-Blanc camera traps. In order to make the link between local wildlife and vegetation.

Amaury Berger, a biology student and intern at CREA Mont-Blanc, prepared and coordinated the participation of the volunteers in these 13 outings, which made it possible to carry out 80 series of measurements on each of the 137 plots identified. “At the beginning of the week, I contacted the volunteers and organized the week’s missions: schedule, equipment, weather… Then, we went out in the field from Tuesday to Thursday in teams of 3 or 4 people for outings of about 8 hours. And Friday was dedicated to the data entry of observation”, he says.

A key contribution

In one month, the contribution of the volunteers was impressive, since they carried out a total of nearly 11,000 soil determinations and height measurements and recognized over 22,000 plants! “They were super motivated, hiking in the mountains, exchanging with researchers from CREA Mont-Blanc, and feeling useful. Among them, there were all kinds of profiles: professionals, students, nature lovers, vacationers who never heard about citizen science before…” As for Amaury, he really enjoyed the experience: “It was the first time I did science in the mountains. I was in the field all the time and I learned a lot! It made me want to continue on this path,” he concludes.

A huge thank you to the Summer 2022 team, researchers and volunteers : Emilie Lab, Maeva Youf, Aëlig Créno, Estelle Solem, Nadine Gex, Sandrine Goulmy, Sebastian Fischbach, Ben Robson, Chiara Quadranti, Elsa Östlund, Matteo, Pascal Negre, Stéfanie, Anaïs Ramet, Mathieu Vercaemer, Marjorie Bison, Brad Carlson, Gilles Yoccoz, Anne Delestrade et Amaury Berger. They realized 142 plots during their 16 days in the field. Analyses are in progress, to be continued…

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