Year of Award


Document Type

Professional Paper

Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Environmental Science and Natural Resource Journalism

Department or School/College

School of Journalism

Committee Chair

Nadia White

Commitee Members

Jeremy Lurgio, Laurie Yung


lynx, citizen science, wolverine


University of Montana


Citizen science has gained a strong foothold in wildlife research in recent years. The quest for information about wildlife existing at the most extreme locations at the lowest densities requires more people than most research projects can pay for. Using volunteers for everything from wilderness monitoring to aquatic studies has become common practice in the face of budget short falls and efforts to gain public support. While reporting on citizen science used in small carnivore studies, I found a group of volunteers poised to help researchers learn about animals like wolverines, lynx, fishers, marten and wolves. Compelling people chasing captivating wildlife across some of the harshest winter climates on earth reveals much about the human spirit. Their stories will both inspire readers, and also question the sanity of the researchers and volunteers. But what limitations and problems come with using citizen scientists? A system based on paid wildlife technicians with years of education in wildlife research has largely shifted to volunteers with a few hours of training. Volunteers often overestimate their abilities, resulting in compromised data collection. Coordinating volunteers takes away field time from those organizing research projects. Finally, those working for free are often less reliable than paid researchers.

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© Copyright 2014 Thomas Charles Kuglin