Case Study of Aquatic Macroinvertebrates Training in Identification Using Macroinvertebrates.org

Date: 
Tuesday, June 30, 2020
Resource Type:
Evaluation Reports
Environment Type: 
Media and Technology, Websites, Mobile Apps, and Online Media, Public Programs, Citizen Science Programs
Audience: 
Museum/ISE Professionals | Evaluators | Learning Researchers
Discipline: 
Ecology, forestry, and agriculture | Life science | Technology
Organization:
Rockman et al
Description: 

Learning to See, Seeing to Learn is a National Science Foundation-funded project to develop www.macroinvertebrates.org, a digital observation tool and set of informational resources that can supplement volunteer biomonitoring trainings and improve aquatic macroinvertebrates identification. Project researchers are interested in how trainers and volunteers use the tool, as well as how training that incorporates the tool impacts volunteers’ confidence in and accuracy around aquatic macroinvertebrates identification. In November 2018, project partner, Stroud Water Research Center, conducted a three-hour aquatic macroinvertebrates identification pilot workshop at the family level that incorporated the macroinvertebrates.org website.

To explore the impacts of and experiences with the training and the website for volunteers and trainers, Rockman et al, an independent research and evaluation company, conducted trainer interviews and volunteer focus groups, and surveyed trainers and volunteers, and assessed volunteers accuracy during a macroinvertebrate identification task. Two trainers and nineteen volunteers participated in the study.

The family level pilot training that incorporated the macroinvertebrates.org website was successful on a number of metrics. After the training, volunteers felt significantly more confident in conducting family level IDs than they had beforehand. They were more accurate at identifying aquatic macroinvertebrates to the order and family level than they had been before the training.

Most volunteers thought that the website was easy to use and had increased their confidence in conducting IDs, accuracy in IDs, and the quality of the data they produced. Almost all volunteers indicated that the website had made it easier for them to see macroinvertebrates' relevant features and the differences between insect groups. All volunteers planned to use the website in the future to ID macroinvertebrates or learn more about freshwater insects, in general.

After the training, participating trainers felt more confident in IDing to family and genus level, and in training volunteers to ID to order. Trainers also felt that the website was easy to use and felt comfortable incorporating the website into trainings.

Future trainings sessions could be planned to ensure that both trainers and volunteers have plenty of opportunities to leverage the website and its features to practice doing macroinvertebrate identification. Since volunteers wanted more time experience IDing specimens, trainers might consider introducing the website before a training to increase comfort with the ID process, incorporating the website during trainings to solidify information, and encouraging the use of the website after training as a review.

Funder(s): 
NSF
Funding Program: 
AISL
Award Number: 
1623969
Funding Amount: 
$1,773,478

Team Members

Camellia Sanford-DollyCamellia Sanford-DollyEvaluator

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