Accepted paper:

Watching nature: birdwatchers as volunteers for biodiversity monitoring

Authors:

Mariella Marzano (Forest Research)
Sandra Bell (Durham University)

Paper short abstract:

In order to meet the demands European Governments/NGOs for biodiversity data, they increasingly rely on input from large numbers of amateur (non-professional) naturalists. We use a specific case study from the United Kingdom of how birdwatchers are recruited to monitor and document biodiversity in their local area or ‘patch’.

Paper long abstract:

In order to meet the demands European Governments/NGOs for biodiversity data, they increasingly rely on input from large numbers of amateur (non-professional) naturalists. However, in order to maintain a sustainable level of such volunteers for continued monitoring, it is necessary to understand what motivates people to offer their time, skills and knowledge. This paper is based on ethnographic research into nature-based monitoring organisations or networks (http://eumon.ckff.si). We examine a specific case study from the United Kingdom as an example of how 'nature enthusiasts' are recruited to monitor and document biodiversity, in this case birds, in their local area or 'patch'. The Northumberland and Tyneside Birdclub (NTBC) is a county association in Northeast England where members record local bird activity as a natural extension of the 'lists' or 'ticks' of birds made daily as part of being a birdwatcher. In developing the necessary expertise and reputation as skilled birdwatchers, many hold intimate knowledge of their locality, representing a valuable resource for large-scale monitoring programmes run by UK NGOs like the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO). As a form of 'serious leisure', an overwhelming enthusiasm for birds is a powerful force for birdwatchers to keep personal records and participate in wider surveys to guarantee a sustainable future for birdlife. However, the authors will also explore the social worlds of dedicated 'birders' including their attachment to place, membership of social networks, the accumulation of reputation and status, and how these key attributes provide the potential foundation for a network of committed volunteers.

panel W101
Getting behind 'no man is an island' phrase: volunteering between altruism and self-interest