COVID-19 impacts on participation in large scale biodiversity-themed community science projects in the United States

Theresa M. Crimmins, Erin Posthumus, Sara Schaffer, Kathleen L. Prudic

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Shutdowns associated with the COVID-19 pandemic have had extensive impacts on professional and volunteer-based biodiversity and conservation efforts. We evaluated the impact of the widespread pandemic-related closures in the spring of 2020 on participation patterns and rates on a national and a state-by-state basis in the United States in four biodiversity-themed community science programs: eBird, eButterfly, iNaturalist, and Nature's Notebook. We compared the number of participants, observations submitted, and proportion of observations collected in urban environments in spring 2020 to the expected values for these metrics based on activity in the previous five years (2015–2019), which in many cases exhibited underlying growth. At the national scale, eButterfly and Nature's Notebook exhibited declines in the number of participants and number of observations submitted during the spring of 2020 and iNaturalist and eBird showed growth in both measures. On a state-by-state basis, the patterns varied geographically and by program. The more popular programs – iNaturalist and eBird – exhibited increases in the Eastern U.S. in both the number of observations and participants and slight declines in the West. Further, there was a widespread increase in observations originating from urban areas, particularly in iNaturalist and eBird. Understanding the impacts of lockdowns on participation patterns in these programs is crucial for proper interpretation of the data. The data generated by these programs are highly valuable for documenting impacts of pandemic-related closures on wildlife and plants and may suggest patterns seen in other community science programs and in other countries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109017
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • Citizen science
  • Conservation
  • Coronavirus
  • Nature's Notebook
  • Pandemic
  • eBird
  • eButterfly
  • iNaturalist

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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