Research group

Citizen Science & Biodiversity Change

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Contacts Projects Partner Publications

Short description

The Citizen Science Working Group embraces a transdisciplinary approach linking biodiversity with people through citizen science. We conduct biodiversity research projects using citizen science approaches. We are also interested in the effects of citizen science and assess how learning and science communication can be enhanced through 'learning-by-doing' in citizen science projects. Further, we investigate the citizen science impact on pro-environmental behaviour and well-being. Futhermore, we assess policy development through citizen science and developed the Greenpaper for the Citizen science strategy 2020 for Germany through the ‘BürGEr Schaffen WISSen’ GEWISS study.

Biodiversity change is one of the biggest challenges facing mankind. To understand the complex patterns of this change, ecologists are dependent on the availability of monitoring data and the development of statistical tools to analyse these data. For most organisms, the available data that can inform on past trends are a heterogeneous mix of data types of varying accessibility.
In the Biodiversity Change working group, we compile community datasets from heterogeneous data sources from agencies, natural history societies and citizen science projects on various taxa and develop and apply statistical methods to analyze them. Our questions are focused on species long-term population trends and community turnover; the geographic patterns of change and links to environmental variation, and the predictive ability of response and effect traits, and species co-occurrence patterns. Moreover, we use simulation models to assess how much (and what type of) data are needed to detect population and community changes over time as well as the ability of different analytical approaches to account for the different sorts of biases within unstructured biodiversity data.


Dr. Thora Martina Herrmann

Phone: +49 (0)341 97 33175

Dr. Diana Bowler

Phone: +49 (0)341 97 33199


Dr. David Eichenberg

Phone: +49 (0)341 97 33176



  • VielFalterGarten
  • sMon - Trend analyses of biodiversity data in Germany
  • InsektenMobil - Mobile citizen science observatory for insects: This project works with volunteers across Germany to record insects using car nets to assess the impact of land use intensity and fragmentation of insect populations. DNA-metabarcoding and automated image classification methods are developed with partners to aid insect identification. In addition, we analyse motivation in conservation-based citizen science.
  • FLOW: Fließgewässer erforschen – gemeinsam Wissen schaffen (Freshwater Monitoring Citizen Science project)
  • Coolspots! Schülerinnen und Schüler erforschen Leipziger Naturräume: This project investigates the effects of citizen science as an intervention regarding learning outcomes for biodiversity with high school students 
  • Israeli Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (BMS-IL)
  • PhenObs: PhenObs is a global network of botanical gardens bringing together researchers, students and citizen scientists to learn more about the impacts of climate change on the phenology of herbaceous plant species.
  • PolDiv - Automated high throughput pollen diversity monitoring to study the ecosystem services air quality and pollination (wind and insect pollination): This projects develops automated pollen sampling tools and applies citizen science as a tool to map pollen diversity in the surroundings of Leipzig.

Former Projects

  • Living Atlas Germany - Feasibility Study
  • Citizen Science - Capacity Building for Germany: The UFZ led the “GEWISS” (BürGEr schaffen WISSen, or “Citizens create knowledge” 2014-2017) national capacity building program to help strengthen existing partnerships and to identify gaps and capacity needs for citizen science in Germany. As key output, the “Citizen Science Strategy 2020 for Germany” was developed in collaboration with >700 participants from 350 organisations through a series of dialogue forums and an online consultation with over 1000 website visitors, 400 comments and 53 formal position papers submitted on the draft Strategy paper. Furthermore, citizen science guides and films were developed to strengthen citizen science capacities. The Strategy Paper resulted in the establishment of the first funding scheme for Cititzen Science in Germany by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
  • With DFG funding, we organised the first European Citizen Science conference (ECSA 2016) in Berlin, May 2016, with more than 360 participants from 30 countries, globally. Funded by the Federal Ministry of Environment (BMUB) we developed recommendations for a new citizen science funding scheme with experts from NGOs, agencies and microfinancing organisations in January 2018.


  • Dr. Anders P. Tøttrup, Associate Professor, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen
  • Cecilie Skræp Svenningsen, Natural History Museum of Denmark, University of Copenhagen
  • Prof Nicole van Dam, iDiv, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena
  • Prof. Joachim Denzler, Computer Vision Group, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena
  • Prof. Rob Dunn, Department of Biological Sciences, North Carolina State University
  • Prof. Jens Dauber, Thuenen-Institut
  • Dr. Anett Richter, Thuenen-Institut (guest scientist)
  • Prof. Joachim Denzler, Computer Vision Group, Friedrich-Schiller University Jena
  • Dr. Andreas Stark, Zentralmagazin Naturwissenschaftlicher Sammlungen, Halle

Publications (selection)

  • Bonn, A., Hecker, S., Bowser, A., Makuch, Z., Vogel, J. & Haklay, M. (2018) Citizen science to foster innovation in open science, society and policy. In: Hecker, S. et al. (eds.), Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London, 465-484.
  • Bonn, A., A. Richter, K. Vohland, L. Pettibone, M. Brandt, R. Feldmann, C. Goebel, C. Grefe, S. Hecker, L. Hennen, H. Hofer, S. Kiefer, S. Klotz, T. Kluttig, J. Krause, K. Küsel, C. Liedtke, A. Mahla, V. Neumeier, M. Premke-Kraus, M. C. Rillig, O. Röller, L. Schäffler, B. Schmalzbauer, U. Schneidewind, A. Schumann, J. Settele, K. Tochtermann, K. Tockner, J. Vogel, W. Volkmann, H. von Unger, D. Walther, M. Weisskopf, C. Wirth, T. Witt, D. Wolst & D. Ziegler (2016) Greenpaper Citizen Science Strategy 2020 for Germany. Leipzig & Berlin.
  • Bruelheide, H., Jansen, F., Jandt, U., Bernhard-Römermann, M., Bonn, A., Bowler, D., Dengler, J., Eichenberg, D., Grescho, V., Harter, D., Jugelt, M., Kellner, S., Ludwig, M., Wesche, K. & Lütt, S. (in review) Using incomplete floristic monitoring data from habitat mapping programmes to detect species trends.
  • Eichenberg, D., Bowler, D., Bruelheide, H., Jansen, F., Jandt, U., Bernhard-Römermann, M., Dengler, J., Harter, D., Henle, K., Hofmann, S., Isaac, N.J., Kamp, J., König-Ries, B., Kraemer, R., Ludwig, M., Lueg, H., Ronnenberg, K., Schiffers, K.H., Schulte, U., Sperle, J., Stab, S., Wirth, C. & Bonn, A. (in review) Langfristige Biodiversitätsveränderungen in Deutschland erkennen - Mit Hilfe der Vergangenheit in die Zukunft schauen.
  • Eisenhauer, N., Bonn, A. & Guerra, C.A. (2019) Recognizing the quiet extinction of invertebrates. Nature communications, 10, 50.
  • Frigerio, D., et al. & Richter, A. (2018) Citizen science and behavioural biology: synergies and challenges. Ethology, 124, 365-377.
  • Hecker, S., Wicke, N., Haklay, M. & Bonn, A. (in press). How Does Policy Conceptualise Citizen Science? A Qualitative Content Analysis of International Policy Documents. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 4 (1), 1-17.
  • Hecker, S. & Wicke, N. (2019), Roles of actors in citizen science in international policy documents. In: Bartoschek T, Nüst D and Pesch M (eds) Forum Citizen Science 2019 - Die Zukunft der Bürgerforschung. Münster, 1-10. DOI: 10.17605/OSF.IO/68UWN.
  • Hecker S., Garbe L., Bonn A. (2018) The European citizen science landscape – a snapshot. In: Hecker, S. et al. (eds.), Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London, 190-200.
  • Hecker, S., R. Bonney, M. Haklay, F. Hölker, H. Hofer, C. Goebel, M. Gold, Z. Makuch, M. Ponti, A. Richter, L. Robinson, J. R. Iglesias, R. Owen, T. Peltola, A. Sforzi, J. Shirk, J. Vogel, K. Vohland, T. Witt & A. Bonn (2018) Innovation in Citizen Science – Perspectives on Science-Policy Advances. Citizen Science: Theory and Practice 3(1).
  • Hecker, S., Haklay, M., Bowser, A., Makuch, Z., Vogel, J. & Bonn, A. (2018) Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London.
  • Hecker S., Haklay M., Bowser A., Makuch Z., Vogel J., Bonn A. (2018) Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy – Setting the Agenda for Citizen Science. In: Hecker, S. et al. (eds.), Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London, 1-24.
  • Jansen F., Bonn A., Bowler D.E., Bruelheide H., Eichenberg, D. (2019): Moderately common plants show highest relative losses. Conservation Letters: doi: 10.1111/conl.12674
  • Kelling, S., Johnston, A., Bonn, A., Ruiz-Gutierrez, V., Bonney, R., Fink, D., Julliard, R., Hochachka, W.M., Fernandez, M., Kraemer, R. & Guralnick, R. (2019) Using Semi-Structured Surveys to Improve Citizen Science Data for Monitoring Biodiversity. Bioscience, 69, 170-179.
  • Kelly, R., Fleming, A., Pecl, G., Richter, A. & Bonn, A. (2019) Social licence through citizen science: A tool for marine conservation. Ecology & Society, 14, 16.
  • Kühl, H.S., Bowler, D., Bruelheide, H., Eichenberg, D., Eisenhauer, N., Guerra, C., Henle, K., Isaac, N.J.B., Jansen, F., König-Ries, B., Pe’er, G., Richter, A., Voigt, M., Wirth, C. & Bonn, A. (in prep) Effective biodiversity monitoring needs integration.
  • Richter, A. (2019) Digitale Medien und Techniken im ehrenamtlichen Naturschutz. Natur und Landschaft, 94, 103-111.
  • Richter, A., D. Dörler, D., Hecker, S., Heigl, F., Pettibone, L., Serrano Sanz, F., Vohland, K., & Bonn, A. (2018) Capacity building in citizen science. In: Hecker, S. et al. (eds.), Citizen Science – Innovation in Open Science, Society and Policy. UCL Press, London, 269-283.
  • Richter, A., Hauck, J., Feldmann, R., Kühn, E., Harpke, A., Hirneisen, N., Mahla, A., Settele, J. & Bonn, A. (2018) The social fabric of citizen science—drivers for long-term engagement in the German butterfly monitoring scheme. Journal of Insect Conservation, 22, 731–743.
  • Richter, A., Singer-Brodowski, M., Hecker, S., Trénel, M., Letz, B. & Bonn, A. (2018) Positionspapier: Handlungsbedarfe und Maßnahmen für die Förderung von Citizen Science in der Umweltbildung und Umweltkommunikation. UFZ-Diskussionspapiere 2/2018. Helmholtz-Zentrum für Umweltforschung. Leipzig.
  • Richter, A., Siebert, A., Hecker, S., et al (in press) Storytelling for narrative approaches in citizen science: towards a generalized model. Science Communication.
  • Turrini, T., Dörler, D., Richter, A., Heigl, F. & Bonn, A. (2018) The threefold potential of environmental citizen science - Generating knowledge, creating learning opportunities and enabling civic participation. Biological Conservation, 225, 176-186.