Involving citizen scientists

Involving citizen scientists in biodiversity discovery and monitoring

Citizen science has always played an important role in mycological research. For centuries, some of the leading taxonomic experts in mycology did not have academic positions. Fungal ecologists and conservationists have also attempted to use fungal citizen science data to enrich professional monitoring that are usually limited because of taxon-specific phenology. Additionally, molecular techniques (including DNA barcoding) have become a standard in fungal research, but are usually not available to amateur mycologists, creating a growing lack of comparability of data originating from professional and non-academic mycologists. To close the gap, this WP will develop a collaboration network between researchers, mycological societies, and citizen scientists across the continent. We will provide access to DNA barcoding, standardised protocols, and training to increase the amount and quality of fungal biodiversity data available for research and monitoring, with the aim to significantly contribute to the knowledge on fungal biodiversity in Europe, by tight collaborations with WPs 1, 2, 4 and 5.

Objectives

Discovery mission to complement structured fungal biodiversity monitoring. The discovery mission will consist of sampling campaigns involving citizen scientists and targeting fungal biodiversity in habitat types included in WP4. Some of these will be organised around the localities as those for eDNA and sporocarp sampling in WP4 but covering larger sampling areas. Hereby we aim to explore to what extent citizen science can complement and expand structured sampling of fungal biodiversity within well defined habitat types.

Epitypication mission to obtain candidate material for typifying classical European fungal taxa without an existing type. In collaboration with WP1, guided collecting efforts, targeting regions and habitats from where classical fungal taxa were described, will be performed, with the aim to obtain well documented collections, which can be sequenced to settle names of taxa that cannot be fixed due to lack of existing type material.

Field laboratories involving citizen scientists to generate DNA sequence data. The majority of specimens collected during the discovery mission will be barcoded in remote sequencing infrastructures, but to involve citizen scientists directly in the scientific process, we will set up field molecular laboratories during field sampling to involve participants in barcoding. Especially in the US, such efforts are now widely conducted in a highly inclusive manner, and are hugely expanding mycological knowledge.

Explore motivation factors for participating in fungal citizen science across Europe. Based on questionnaires we will make a survey of the motivating factors for participation in fungal citizen science, targeting participants in the missions described above, but potentially expanding to participants already involved in ongoing fungal citizen science projects. We hypothesise that motivating factors differ widely across Europe, reflecting different traditions for fungal citizen science and academic research. We expect this insight will be useful to understand regional and national sampling bias analysed in WP5.

Tasks

Providing resources for field mycologists. An online service will be created (in multiple languages) to communicate campaign goals, progress, and outcomes. To maximise standardisation, joint protocols, workflows, and instructive materials (incl. identification key) will be shared. Responsible partners: UNIWARSAW and USB in collaboration with CSIC, UNITO, UNIBO, UNICA, AUA, ELTE, LUOMUS.

Discovery mission. Two cross-European sampling campaigns will be organised, open to all partner countries and beyond, if funding and interest to collaborate is present. Instructive movies and PDF guides will be made to instruct volunteers to deliver high quality data, including field photos and material for sequencing. The PlutofGO app will be used as a common platform for recording, supplemented with national open source alternatives. Sequencing will be coordinated across the consortium, using cost effective high throughput pipelines. Responsible partner: USB in collaboration with UNIWARSAW, UNITO, UNIBO, UNICA, AUA, ELTE.

Epitypification mission. We will launch a continuous sampling mission, targeting potential epitypes for taxa identified under WP1, and utilising the same tools and approaches as above. However, extra strict criteria for documentation of suitable candidate collections will be applied, along with a guiding taxon list on the project homepage. Responsible partner: USB in collaboration with CSIC, SMNS, UNITO, UNIBO, UNICA, ELTE, LUOMUS.

Field molecular laboratories. We will set up a field molecular workflow including DNA extractions, PCR, and sequencing using the Nanopore MinION. All participants will be encouraged to generate DNA barcode sequences for collected specimens. The sequences generated in field molecular labs and in barcoding infrastructures will be shared with WP4 and 5. Responsible partner: UNIWARSAW in collaboration with AUA.

Fungal citizen science survey. The motivation factors, activities, and learning outcomes of citizen scientists in different countries will be mapped using a standardised questionnaire. Responses will be analysed to test the hypothesis presented in O3.4. Responsible partners: UNIWARSAW and USB in collaboration with CSIC, UNITO, UNIBO, UNICA, AUA, ELTE, LUOMUS.

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