Butterfly citizen scientists in the United States increase their engagement in conservation

Eva J. Lewandowski, Karen S. Oberhauser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

77 Scopus citations


Nature-based citizen science projects can educate their volunteers about conservation issues and encourage them to engage in conservation actions. Theory and previous research suggest that knowledge of issues and action strategies, as well as social factors can influence the decision to take action on a given issue. To determine the extent to which volunteers are receiving information and support through their citizen science projects that could increase their engagement in conservation, we surveyed participants from butterfly citizen science projects across the United States. We asked volunteers if they received information on butterfly conservation threats and action strategies, if they were actively encouraged to engage in conservation, if their project provided a sense of connection and community that supported engagement in conservation, and how their engagement in 12 different conservation actions, ranging from planting host plants to contacting the media about butterfly conservation, has changed since joining citizen science. 79% of our respondents reported that they have received information on butterfly conservation from their citizen science project, and 55% felt that their project actively encouraged them to engage in conservation. 95% of respondents reported that they had increased their involvement in butterfly conservation. Notably, volunteers who received information on conservation and who were encouraged to engage in conservation by their citizen science project were more likely to have increased their engagement in conservation. Connection to other volunteers was also linked to increased conservation action. We make recommendations for how citizen science projects can improve their programming to increase conservation engagement.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)106-112
Number of pages7
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Butterflies
  • Conservation action
  • Public participation in research
  • Volunteers


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