The Orchid Observers project combined identification of orchid photos taken in 2015 with classifications and transcriptions of historical museum specimens to study how orchid flowering times are affected by climate change. The project had over 2000 volunteers taking part, made new observations of wild orchids in around 200 locations where particular species of orchid hadn’t been recorded before, and submitted 50,948 classifications on the Orchid Observers online platform.
1. To get a 180-year time series of flowering dates for 29 species of orchid, so we can map these against climate variables such as the Central England Temperature Record and to investigate how flowering dates may be affected by climate change.
This was the main science question. It has been demonstrated that flowering time is affected by climate variables for one species of orchid - the early spider orchid - and we wanted to see if this was true for a wider selection of species.
2. To better understand the communities of citizen scientists who might take part in a project like this. The project was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, whose interest lies in how expertise is shared, how novice and expert citizen scientists interact, and how 'outdoor' and online citizen scientists behave. We also want to know whether there is scope to encourage 'outdoor' citizen scientists to do transcriptions tasks online, and whether crowdsourcers could be encouraged to go outdoors to look for orchids.