The flip side of citizen science

  • Although community participation in conservation schemes is often actively encouraged, there are concerns about internet wildlife enthusiasts inadvertently affecting the agricultural industry.
  • Biosecurity scientists have raised the issue of online miss-identification of agricultural pest species and the potential trade implications.
  • The concern is websites where people can post photos of insects that they have found and ask ‘the internet’ what they are. If it is a new pest is misidentified as an unwanted quarantine pest, this can be picked up by other countries who then shut trade before the country with the potential infestation can respond, which has huge implications for the agricultural industry.
  • The apple pathogen fireblight (Erwinia amylovora) which stopped trade of New Zealand apples into Australia for years is an example of the trade implications resulting from a contested pathogen distribution.

Conveying risk information accurately is a difficult task and the internet is a medium in which it is impossible to control information flow. For this reason the only realistic way to manage this potential issue is by having strict, universally agreed guidelines in place for when to block trade with a country that has an outbreak of an unwanted pest.

For more information, visit:; CRCNPB Science Exchange February 2012.

About annaarathe

Research fellow, horizon scanning
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