Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Earth and Ocean Sciences

First Advisor

Carol Boggs


Citizen science is becoming an ever more popular way for scientists and resource managers to deal with needs for large temporal and spatial scale datasets. It provides a free or low cost means for collection of extensive amounts of data across time and space while acting as a public education and outreach tool, empowering communities to be involved in the management decisions being made in their back yard. Though large, well-known citizen science programs such as the Christmas Bird Counts are being used extensively for peer reviewed literature and management decisions, there are numerous smaller, local counts that have the potential to inform research and decision making at a local scale. Here I examine one of these more typical programs, a single North American Butterfly Association butterfly survey that takes place at Congaree National Park in Richland County, South Carolina. I used this program as a case study to explore means in which scientific research at a much smaller spatial and temporal scale can be used to verify and optimize citizen count data and methods to address research and management goals. In order to achieve this, I collected a comparison dataset across one field season which was used to verify the past citizen science data and explore potential sources of differences between researcher and citizen gathered data. Both datasets were also used to explore the effects of phenology on the natural variation expected within a low temporal resolution dataset such as this one. Our data suggest that, while there may be some effects of participant experience and detection consistency in data reliability, the data collected by the program are generally of quality to be used by National Park managers.

The citizen data also suggest a significant effect of growing degree day on count results, particularly total accumulated GDD from the previous year are affecting the diversity of summer count data. Lastly, I used what I learned from the study to make generalized suggestions for ways to improve the utility of citizen science programs, as well as providing an additional chapter with suggestions specific to our case study program.