Event Abstract

Where pathways cross: citizen science project StadtWildTiere in Vienna, Austria

  • 1 Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Sciences Vienna, Austria

As more and more people move into cities and urban landscapes, these areas will also slide into focus as habitats for wildlife (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Population Affairs Division 2015, Bateman and Fleming 2012). Public parks, gardens and other green areas provide habitats to live for foxes, badgers and other mammals (Baker and Harris, 2007). Cities offer year long food availability for many species as well as a warmer climate and abundant resources for building of nests and dens (Bateman and Fleming, 2012). Monitoring wildlife in urban areas poses challenges for scientists: Covering large areas with standard monitoring methods like transect sampling or camera traps is difficult, as not all land use classes in a city are freely accessible for research (Cohn, 2008; Colding et al., 2006; Lepczyk et al., 2004). Citizen science can bridge this gap in inaccessibility because people who have access to areas like private gardens or industrial areas can for example report sightings on an internet platform (Dickinson et al., 2010; Lepczyk et al., 2004; Weckel et al., 2010). The citizen science project StadtWildTiere was established in Vienna in May 2015. The goals of the project are in-depth research in the area of urban wildlife ecology in consideration of relevant stakeholders and intensification and increase in professionalism of bilateral knowledge-transfer between society and research. Here we present first results of this citizen science project. Material and Methods
The study area is Vienna, the capital city of Austria (48° 12’ 30” N, 16° 22’ 21” E) with a total area of 414.87km² and about 1.8 million inhabitants in 2015. Green areas like parks and gardens make up 45.1% of the city area, 35.5% are building areas, 14.4% are traffic areas and 4.7% of the area are waterbodies (MA 23 – Wirtschaft, Arbeit und Statistik 2015). 3384 sightings were gathered through the internet platform of the project www.stadtwildtiere.at between May 27th 2015 and February 9th 2016. Citizen scientists entering data are required to enter a place via a google maps map, species observed as well as time and date when the animal was seen. Registration is not mandatory. When registering, citizen scientists can upload photos of their sightings as well as data about their education and occupation voluntarily. Data was evaluated and then ranked according to liability of sightings. Sightings with no photo but at reasonable places and times received the status “OK”, sightings with a photo where identification of the animal is possible received the status “confirmed”. Some sightings where not evaluated at the date of the analysis, therefore they are shown with the status “new”. For further analysis, only data on mammal sightings with one of those three statuses was used (n=1975). All analysis were done using statistical software R 3.2.1 (R Core Team 2014). Results
Of the 3384 reported sightings, 60.4% were mammals, 33.6% were birds, 2.5% were amphibians and reptiles and 3.4% were others like fish and insects. When only looking at the reported mammal species, foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and bats (Microchiroptera) are the most often reported species, followed by hares (Lepus lepus) and badgers (Meles meles) (Figure 1). Sightings of mammals (n=1975) are not equally distributed across the day (Χ2 = 397.784, df = 23, p < 0.001). 64% of sightings are reported between 6pm and 6am. When comparing fox (Figure 2a) and badger sightings (Figure 2b), a certain difference in distribution can be seen. Of the reported 1975 mammal sightings 9% were new, 45% were “OK” and 45% were confirmed. Half of the confirmed sightings were made by experts, a photo was handed in with 44.3%. The remaining sightings were confirmed because of descriptions and other reasons (Figure 3). 75% of the registered users (n=355) entered data about their education (Figure 4). 44% indicated that they possess a university degree, followed by 16% with a finished secondary education. Discussion
Citizen Science proofed to be a valuable tool for monitoring especially mammal distribution in Vienna from first results. The data gathered within eight and a half months could cover most mammal species present in Vienna with the exception of edible dormouse (Glis glis). We made the experience that certain species are reported more often than other species. This can be due to observability of different animal species on different land use classes as well as habitat use of different species and differences in utilization of land use classes of humans (Quinn, 1995; Wine et al., 2014). However, we assume that it can also be due to sympathy of humans towards different species. Foxes are very charismatic animals, whereas rats (Rattus norvegicus) and edible dormice are often regarded as pests. This also shows in the numbers of reported sightings: while 540 fox sightings were reported, there were only 9 rat sightings. Setting a special focus with intensive public relations work on species that are not often reported, can probably improve reporting numbers. The high amount of academics reporting sightings might also influence data distribution, as there are districts within Vienna with a higher number of academics compared to others (Statistik Austria 2015). We want to investigate this issue in the future. Data evaluation is carried out along guidelines. However, there are always cases when species identification is difficult from a photo or knowledge about very rare species is necessary (e.g. when insect species are reported). Although data evaluation is time intensive, it is a necessary effort to guarantee for good data quality. Sightings with photos have to be encouraged because within the project citizen scientists often refrain from sending in low-quality photos. However also from low-quality photos species identification is possible and adds to data quality within the project. Since data is entered and evaluated the same way, comparisons between cities with our project partners in Switzerland and further partner cities in Austria are made possible. This offers new perspectives on a wildlife monitoring citizen science project.

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Keywords: citizen science, Urban Ecology, human-wildlife interactions, Monitoring, Urban wildlife

Conference: Austrian Citizen Science Conference 2016, Lunz am See, Austria, 18 Feb - 19 Feb, 2016.

Presentation Type: Oral Presentation

Topic: Citizen Science - Quo vadis?

Citation: Zink R and Walter T (2016). Where pathways cross: citizen science project StadtWildTiere in Vienna, Austria. Front. Environ. Sci. Conference Abstract: Austrian Citizen Science Conference 2016. doi: 10.3389/conf.FENVS.2016.01.00007

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Received: 04 Jul 2016; Published Online: 06 Sep 2016.

* Correspondence: Mr. Richard Zink, Research Institute for Wildlife Ecology, University of Veterinary Sciences Vienna, Vienna, Austria, richard.zink@vetmeduni.ac.at