Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Citizen Science and the India Biodiversity Portal
Thomas Vattakaven

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rydbergsalen
Date: 2014-10-30 11:45 AM – 12:00 PM
Last modified: 2014-10-03


The India Biodiversity Portal (IBP - http://indiabiodiversity.org) is a biodiversity informatics initiative based in civil society that strives to aggregate biodiversity information for the country and make it freely accessible to all. The portal is public participatory, providing a platform for citizens and experts to interact, collaborate to build and curate content.

The observation module on the portal is the primary entry for citizen involvement in content contribution and citizen science. Citizens are able to record the biodiversity in their vicinity and submit it to the portal. Other users are able to interact on these observations and suggest a species name for it. By aggregating the species names and sighting information, the portal is able to create spatial and temporal maps for each species. Observational notes on the natural history of the species and species images are also aggregated. All aggregated information is organised and displayed within a species page that also holds descriptive content for a species. The species descriptions are also publicly contributed online. Users can request contributor rights on any species or species group, based upon their interests and expertise. In addition the portal is also building a species name curation interface that will allow citizens to be involved with the taxonomic exercise of organising names.

IBP also offers the functionality to pull in relevant content from the main portal and create a theme-based group. Such groups can be utilized to run campaigns on the theme of interest, to crowd-source observations and map species distributions. The TreesIndia group is one such group with the aim of documenting every tree species in India with a photo-essay and atleast one occurrence record. The TreesIndia group launched the Neighborhood Trees Campaign to engage citizens across india to  photograph, map and document trees. The campaign lasted for 7 days in the month of April 2014 and was intended to set in motion largescale participation that would sustain beyond the campaign period to achieve the objective of the TreesIndia group.

The campaign saw widespread participation across the country. Campaigning was run completely online by reaching out to the public through email groups and social networking initiatives. Interested organizations across the country were invited to join as campaign partners, spread the word and organise tree-walks. The campaign was also picked up and featured widely by the press. Over 500 new users signed up to upload more than 2200 observations and over 20% of the users actively provided species identification to about 600 tree species. Enthusiastic participation continues even after the end of the campaign with over 1300 species currently documented. Some experts users who signed up during the campaign have enlisted as species page contributors and are helping populate descriptive information on the 7500 tree species of India.

We will showcase the efforts of the portal as an effective tool that harnesses the potential of citizen science and crowd-sourcing, with added layers of curation and validation, to build free and open biodiversity information for India.