The OPAL bugs count survey: exploring the effects of urbanisation and habitat characteristics using citizen science

Adam J. Bates*, Poppy Lakeman Fraser, Lucy Robinson, John C. Tweddle, Jon P. Sadler, Sarah E. West, Simon Norman, Martin Batson, Linda Davies

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Citations (Scopus)


Citizen science projects can gather datasets with observation counts and spatiotemporal coverage far in excess of what can easily be achieved using only professional scientists. However, there exists a potential trade-off between the number of participants and the quality of data gathered. The Bugs Count citizen science project had thousands of participants because of its few barriers to taking part, allowing participation by anyone in England with access to any area of outdoor space. It was designed to scope for both the effects of variation in local habitat and urbanisation on broad taxonomic groups of invertebrates, and the responses of six target ‘Species Quest’ species (Adalia bipunctata, Ocypus olens, Aglais urticae, Palomena prasina, Limax maximus, and Bombus hypnorum) to urbanisation. Participants were asked to search for invertebrates in three areas: ‘soft ground surfaces’, ‘human-made hard surfaces’, and ‘plants’ for 15 min per search. Participants recorded counts of taxa found and a range of environmental information about the survey area. Data samples were weighted according to identification experience and participant age and analysed using canonical correspondence analysis, and tests of observation homogeneity. Species Quest species showed species-specific relationships with urbanisation, but broad taxonomic groups did not show significant relationships with urbanisation. The latter were instead influenced by habitat type and microhabitat availability. The approach used demonstrates that citizen science projects with few barriers to entry can gather viable datasets for scoping broad trends, providing that the projects are carefully designed and analysed to ensure data quality.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1477-1497
Number of pages21
JournalUrban Ecosystems
Issue number4
Early online date1 May 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


  • Data quality
  • Environmental education
  • Open air laboratories
  • Public participation in scientific research
  • Scientific literacy
  • Urban–rural gradient

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Urban Studies
  • Ecology


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