Why Watch Bees? Understanding Citizen Scientists' Motivations

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Meg Domroese, Center for Biodiversity and Conservation, American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
The benefits of citizen science to science, participants, and socio-ecological systems are increasingly recognized and valued, yet what motivates volunteer participants remains little studied and poorly understood. To better understand citizen scientists’ motivations and how they benefit from their participation, we surveyed volunteers in the Great Pollinator Project in New York City. We conducted pre- and post-season surveys and focus group discussions with "Bee Watchers" to find out who the active volunteers were, their motivations for joining, and what benefits of participation they experienced. With a range of motivators similar to those found in other volunteer projects, our findings correspond with and support those of other studies. However, while studies of motivations of environmental volunteers have indicated helping the environment as the strongest factor, helping or contributing to science was a leading motivation of our citizen science volunteers. Learning about bees and how to attract pollinators was as strong or a stronger motivator for many participants in the project. Being outdoors was also an attraction, particularly finding a meditative setting in an urban area to quietly watch bees. We discuss some of the steps we took in response to participants’ feedback in order to improve volunteer recruitment and retention, and recommend further studies to enhance understanding of volunteer motivations to benefit volunteers themselves as well as citizen science project outcomes.