COVID-19 Pandemic Turns Life-Science Students into “Citizen Scientists”: Data Indicate Multiple Negative Effects of Urbanization on Biota

Schirmel J. (2021). “COVID-19 Pandemic Turns Life-Science Students into “Citizen Scientists”: Data Indicate Multiple Negative Effects of Urbanization on Biota.” Sustainability 13(5), 2992. https://doi.org/10.3390/su13052992

Abstract: The COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions strongly affect the higher education community and require diverse teaching strategies. We designed a course where we combined online teaching with independently conducted ecological data collections by students using a “citizen science” approach. The aim was to analyze the impact of urbanization on biota by comparing urban and rural grasslands. Seventy-five students successfully conducted the data collections and the results provide evidence for prevailing negative effects of urbanization. Individual numbers of ground-dwelling invertebrates (−25%) and pollinating insects (−33%) were generally lower in urban sites. Moreover, animal and seed predation were reduced in urban grasslands, indicating the potential of urbanization to alter ecosystem functions. Despite the general limitations of online teaching and citizen science approaches, outcomes of this course showed this combination can be a useful teaching strategy, which is why this approach could be used to more actively involve students in scientific research. 

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