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Emphasis on Quality in iNaturalist Plant Collections Enhances Learning and Research Utility

Journal of College Science Teaching—Fall 2023 (Volume 52, Issue 7)

By Mason C. McNair, Chelsea M. Sexton, and Mark Zenoble

Following the switch to remote online teaching in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the plant taxonomy course at the University of Georgia (UGA) switched to iNaturalist for the specimen collection portion of the course requirements. Building off extant rubrics, the instructors designed project guidelines for a fully online plant collection experience to alleviate plant awareness disparity. Researchers collected stratified samples from the UGA iNaturalist project along with four other institutions’ projects to determine if rubrics and project guidelines could improve the quality of observations to make them useful in plant science research. The specific rubric was shown to improve quality of iNaturalist observations. Researchers found that iNaturalist increased engagement as a student-centered tool but did not enhance students’ manual keying skills, as the app uses automatic identification. Instructors recommend continuing to use iNaturalist to supplement physical collection and keying along with a detailed rubric and guidelines for collection.

Biology Citizen Science Preservice Science Education

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