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Bridging the Nature Gap: Can Citizen Science Reverse the Extinction of Experience?

Abstract

"Opportunities for people to interact with nature have declined over the past century, as many now live in urban areas and spend much of their time indoors. Conservation attitudes and behaviors largely depend on experiences with nature, and this "extinction of experience" (EOE) is a threat to biodiversity conservation. In this paper, we propose that citizen science, an increasingly popular way to integrate public outreach with data collection, can potentially mitigate EOE. Our review of the literature on volunteers' motivations and/or outcomes indicates that nature-based citizen science (NBCS) fosters cognitive and emotional aspects of experiences in nature. Although these experiences can change participants' behaviors and attitudes toward the natural world, this field remains largely unstudied. As such, even though NBCS can complement efforts to increase opportunities for people to interact with nature, further research on the mechanisms that drive this relationship is needed to strengthen our understanding of various outcomes of citizen science."

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