Thanks, volunteers!

Posted by Carolina Lara @carislaris

A quick summary of some of the amazing things achieved in the second year of my PhD: leaf samples of 350 trees collected, processed and stored at -80˚C, 500 hours of birds´ visitations to New Zealand native plants video recordings analysed and 162 hours in the field mistnetting – 232 birds so far. If you think I have done it myself, you´re wrong. Throughout this PhD-year I have worked with great volunteers who have helped me achieved all these things. A special mention to Manon Pulliat, our French intern from Agrocampus Ouest, who spent five months at the Centre of Biodiversity and Biosecurity getting to know how scientific research is conducted in other parts of the world.


Manon after a hard day in the field collecting leaf samples

All of those whose PhD projects involve some sort of fieldwork will agree with me on this: WE NEED VOLUNTEERS. A volunteer is defined as a person who is willing to provide a service without expecting any sort of monetary compensation (quite important if your project is money-limited). They can be classified in three types: 1) casual volunteers whose activity targets specific needs, 2) volunteers who perform more formal types of volunteer service – having a personal commitment and gaining a sense of accomplishment, and 3) volunteers who are required to volunteer by a specific organization. More specifically in the ecology field, there is a relatively new term to refer to those volunteers who participate as field assistants gathering information in scientific studies: “citizen scientists”. Citizen scientists are not necessarily directly involved in the scientific community, some of them are members of the public with a strong desire to understand ecological processes and most importantly, to connect with nature.carola

No volunteer can resist holding a bird while mist netting

Our job as scientists is to provide volunteers with the necessary tools to collect reliable data in the field. This takes time but the end-product will be definitely worth it. Thanks, volunteers for all the help and good moments in the field!



Carolina Lara M. is a PhD Candidate within the Centre for Biodiversity and Biosecurity, School of Biological Sciences, University of Auckland. Her research interests focus on seed dispersal networks within fragmented landscapes. She is supervised by Margaret Stanley,Jason Tylianakis, Karine David, and Anna Santure.

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