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Citizen Science Apps in a Higher Education Botany Course: Data Quality and Learning Effects

Pernat, Nadja; Gathof, Anika Kristin; Herrmann, Johann; Seitz, Birgit; Buchholz, Sascha

Although species identification apps are becoming increasingly popular in citizen science, they are hardly used in university courses on biodiversity literacy. In this study, we investigated whether the use of a plant identification app by students provides similar data quality to the use of scientific keys and whether it improves the process of knowledge acquisition. To this end, dry grassland plots were monitored in Berlin to record plant species diversity by two groups, Bachelor’s and Master’s students, with different experience in plant identification. Both groups were asked to survey the plots once in April and once in June, the first time with the app Pl@ntNet, and the second time with scientific keys commonly used in teaching. To evaluate their performance and the respective tools, the results were compared with those of experts from the same plots. The students identified, on average, only half of the plants per plot and misidentified or failed to identify a high proportion of species compared with the experts, regardless of the identification tool. In addition, the number of plants identified that did not occur at all in the region or in the considered habitat was alarmingly high. In view of the worldwide loss of species knowledge, it is becoming clear that apps can trigger the study of a species group, but do not solve the fundamental problem of neglecting biodiversity courses at universities.
Published in: Sustainability, 10.3390/su151712984, MDPI