As part of the strategy of increasing participation in Open and Citizen Science projects, the University of Coimbra is an active member of the EU-Citizen.Science consortium, a project created by the European Commission Horizon 2020 program. The online platform shares knowledge, tools, training and resources for citizen science, with a focus "for the community, for the community".
The consortium, with 14 members (including UC) and 9 partners in 14 European member states, represents a variety of active citizens in citizen science, including not only universities, but also non-governmental organizations, local authorities, community service organizations and museums. Its mission is to become a reference point for citizen science through the crossing of shared knowledge networks for participating citizens, professionals, researchers, political managers and society.
Currently, UC has three projects registered on the platform: Plant Letters, Invasoras (Invasive Plants in Portugal); and the recently launched Explorator project. Find out more about them below.
Invasive Plants - Invasive Plants in Portugal
The objective of the project is to raise awareness about biological invasions - responsible for problems in biodiversity and ecological and economic damage -, to make known the different invasive plants in Portugal and to stimulate public participation in the mapping of species, the control of plant populations and the education.
The project has created comprehensive profiles of species considered invasive in Portugal and provides useful tools and information for managers, members of the scientific community and anyone interested in the topic. The project also offers support material for environmental education, for teachers and informal action groups.
In this period when we are called to stay in our homes, the Invasoras project invites us to the "Invasoras à Janela" (Invasive by the window) challenge, in which each one, using their tablet, smartphone or iPad, can contribute to the identification of plants. To participate, simply download the app created by the project and report the discoveries made - from your window, in your own garden or from your balcony.
The Invasive Plants project comes from the Escola Superior Agrária of Coimbra and the Center for Functional Ecology of the UC.
Learn more and participate: http://invasoras.pt/invasoras-a-janela/.
Plant Letters - Nature Letters
This project seeks the help of the citizen to discover the stories within historical archives, records of botanical expeditions of plant discoveries. The project organization highlights the large accumulation of biological specimens arriving in Europe in the 19th century through letters from explorers from around the world. These charts are part of natural history collections, such as museums, herbariums and other collections.
Citizens are invited to transcribe letters, handwritten or typewritten, received by the Botanical Garden between 1870 and 1928, from more than 1,100 correspondents from around the world. The interface of the project's website, visually friendly, allows the identification of the different types of files to be transcribed (letter, postcard or business card) and provides a step-by-step to transcribe the phrases of the letters.
'Cartas à Natureza' is part of UNESCO's chair in Safeguarding Biodiversity for Sustainable Development at the University of Coimbra, in collaboration with the Botanical Garden and the University's Life Sciences Department.
Learn more and participate: Plant Letters - Classification.
Finally, the Explorator project, made available online on the last Earth Day (April 22), develops citizen science with the call for collaborative digitization of the largest Portuguese biological collection. The platform is designed to transcribe information about the hundreds of thousands of species in the herbarium.
In Explorator, the user is suggested an image and a way to write the relevant data, one field at a time, which makes it easy to progress through the session. Each field has a help icon to answer the most common questions. When a value is submitted, the platform checks whether the different values have been submitted for that field, which helps to avoid errors by mistake or distraction, and also helps less experienced users to better understand the type of information requested.
To help users become familiar with the samples and the type of information contained, only easy identification fields are requested at an early stage. As users respond, their responses are validated. The number of responses considered correct allows the user to level up, with more complex fields being requested. The prerequisites are just a tablet or computer with internet access.
Learn more and participate: https://coicatalogue.uc.pt/explorator.