Belgium: The European Research Council has awarded a highly competitive Consolidator Grant to Steffen Fritz, leader and creator of the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis’ (IIASA) citizen science project, Geo-Wiki. The €1.4 million grant will build upon work conducted as part of IIASA's Geo-Wiki project, an interactive online project which involves citizen scientists in global land cover research. It will take the team's research from the computer to the real world, building a global network of citizen scientists to provide on-the-ground data such as photographs and land-cover and land-use classifications.
"It is extremely difficult to distinguish between cropland and natural vegetation in some parts of the world based on coarse resolution satellite data, which is what most current land cover data products are based on,” said Fritz, a researcher in IIASA's Ecosystems Services and Management Program. The new project will focus on two pilot areas in Austria and Kenya. In Austria the researchers will focus on collecting on-the-ground data along the lines of the Eurostat's Land Use Change Analysis System (LUCAS) surveys, by building and engaging a local network of citizen scientists to collect the data. By using the same protocol and designing smartphone applications, the crowdsourced data collection would produce data that could be compared. The team will engage volunteers by working with existing communities such as OpenStreetMap as well as geocaching groups, local and national governments, and NGOs.