Australian Museum announces new Centre for Citizen Science - The public to play a greater role in science.

Sydney, Australia, 23 April, 2015: The role the public can play in engaging with science in a practical way – known as citizen science – has taken a leap forward with the announcement today of the establishment of the Australian Museum Centre for Citizen Science (AMCCS) based in Sydney.

“Citizen science is an exciting and developing field of science, where the public can make a meaningful contribution to our scientific understanding. Museums, the world over, are ideal organisations to foster, excite and engage non-scientists to make this contribution,” Kim McKay AO, Director and CEO of the Australian Museum said.

“I’ve spent a good part of my career establishing large citizen science programs, both here and overseas, and have seen the significant positive impact they’ve had globally. It is fitting therefore that the Australian Museum Research Institute (AMRI) becomes a hub for citizen science in Australia”

“If you want to influence or change behavior, participation is a key element of any campaign, and Citizen science delivers on this in spades.”

The Australian Museum has had a long history in citizen science projects and currently manages, with collaborators, some of Australia’s most well known and best loved citizen science projects such as Bushblitz, Bioblitz and Streamwatch.

The Museum has also created the hugely successful ‘Digivol’- Digital Volunteer - program where volunteers from all over the globe can delve into the Australian Museum collection transcribing the data, so it is discoverable online for anyone to access anywhere in the world. This project has inspired other similar projects around the world.

Dr. Rebecca Johnson, the newly appointed director of Australian Museum Research Institute, said that AMCCS builds upon our long rich history in Citizen Science and provides a platform for further public engagement.

“The advent of smart phones, with their inbuilt GPS capability, among other things, allows us to explore cutting edge methods for citizen engagement,” said Dr. Johnson, who will oversee the newly created centre.

“We will collaborate with our museum partners as well as other scientists and community groups, and people will be able to contribute to many projects from any part of the globe – geography is no barrier” she said.

The Museum is also working with an international consortium of museums including the Smithsonian, Washington, D.C. and the Natural History Museum, London, to engage and build communities to assist Museums and Herbaria digitising their invaluable natural history collections.

The first event, a world-wide transcription blitz that will focus attention on science, biodiversity and collections will run from 22 – 25 October, 2015.

The Australian Museum will also extend its reach by hosting the Australian Citizen Science association at its Sydney headquarters.

Australian Museum is currently a major new national citizen project focused on biodiversity and climate change.

Current Citizen Science projects include:

DigiVol: Over 70 volunteers in the lab, and 918 online volunteers have been working for the past five years both onsite and online digitising Museum collections and capturing biodiversity data from around the world.

Solar-powered Ibis: for the past 7 years, Australian Museum has been conducting monthly surveys of the Ibis populations to reveal the inner-city eateries and vacation escapes of Ibis birds.

Cockatoo wing tags: Despite being large and loud, little is known about our sulphur crested cockatoos. In collaboration with the Royal Botanic Gardens and the University of Sydney, the project aims to increase our understanding and conservation of these native birds.

Streamwatch: A long running water monitoring program, where over 170 volunteers test water quality at sites spread across greater Sydney, the Blue Moutains, Illawarra and Southern Highlands.

Bush Blitz: is Australia’s largest nature discovery project - a three-year, multimillion dollar partnership between the Australian Government, BHP Billiton and Earthwatch Australia to document the plants and animals in hundreds of properties across Australia’s National Reserve System.

Birds in Backyards: is a research, education and conservation program focusing on the birds that live where people live.

Definition of Citizen Science

We define citizen science as: “Scientists and volunteer community members working together in partnership to collect and analyse data contributing to our knowledge of the natural and cultural world.”

Biographies

Kim McKay AO, Director and CEO

Kim McKay’s international career in social innovation, marketing, communications and management spans over 25 years. She is an environmentalist, author and international marketing and communications expert and a regular media commentator. She has worked with National Geographic in the USA since 2000 in a variety of roles, and on returning to Australia in 2005, established Momentum2 Pty Ltd, consulting in social and sustainability marketing and communications.

Kim was senior vice-president Global Marketing and Communications at National Geographic Channels International (USA), an executive director, Discovery Communications Inc (USA) and principal of Profile Communications Pty Ltd (Sydney). She is the co-founder and was deputy chair of Clean Up Australia (1989-2009), and co-founder and deputy chair of Clean Up the World (1992-2009).

Her current not-for-profit roles include board member of the Sydney Institute of Marine Science Foundation, board member of Fairtrade Australia and New Zealand, member of The Genographic Project Legacy Fund and advisory board member and ambassador for the 1 Million Women campaign.

Kim was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2008 for distinguished service to the environment and the community. In 2013 she received Australian Geographic’s Lifetime Achievement in Conservation award and was named one of the Australian Financial Review’s 100 Women of Influence. In 2011, Kim was included in the book “The Power of 100…One hundred women who have shaped Australia”, marking the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day. In 2010 she received the UTS Chancellors Award for Excellence and was named a Luminary at the University of Technology, Sydney. She has a BA (Communications) from UTS.

Kim was appointed to the Australian Museum Trust in January 2012. She resigned in February 2014 when she was appointed Director and CEO of the Australian Museum, commencing in April 2014.

Dr Rebecca Johnson, Director, Australian Museum Research Institute, Science & Learning
@DrRebeccaJ

Rebecca joined the museum in 2002 and has over 18 years’ experience as a molecular geneticist, in Australia and the USA, and has an honours from the University of Sydney and PhD from La Trobe University Melbourne in the field of molecular evolutionary genetics.

She has established the Museum as one of the global leaders in the field of wildlife forensics and conservation genomics through the ISO17025 accreditation of the Australian Centre for Wildlife Genomics facilities (one of the only fully accredited wildlife forensics laboratories in the Australasian region) and through her work as co-leader of the Koala Genome Consortium, an Australian led group carrying out sequencing of the koala genome and it’s genes for direct conservation application.

She is a certified as a wildlife forensic scientist by the international society, and is one of only two experts appointed by the Federal Environment Minister as an examiner in wildlife forensics under the EPBC commonwealth legislation section 303GS(1). In 2014 she was admitted into the Australian Academy of Forensic Sciences and in April 2015 she became Director, Australian Museum Research Institute, Science & Learning.

Rebecca represents the Australian Museum Research Institute on a range of government and industry committees in her area of expertise and has published her case work and conservation genetics work in the scientific literature. She has been invited to present her research both in Australia and overseas and also regularly presents to students and the public on the importance of wildlife forensic science and the key roles and museums and herbaria can play in making a difference to the wider community through contemporary applied science.