Citizen Science in Lithuania

Development of Citizen Science Approaches in Lithuania

Lithuania is embracing citizen science with the establishment of the Citizen Science Association in April 2020 and the VILNIUS TECH Citizen Science Hub. The association, which includes universities such as Kaunas University of Technology and Mykolas Romeris University, serves as a focal point for scientists, practitioners, and stakeholders. It promotes citizen science projects, organizes science outreach events, and advances research.

In Lithuania, the concept of citizen science is gradually gaining recognition, especially within academic circles. While this participatory approach is still evolving, citizen science projects have begun to proliferate, contributing to increased awareness among the public. Kaunas University of Technology conducted a comprehensive study on citizen science in Lithuania, highlighting that the concept faces several challenges, including limited support from policymakers, scientists’ unfamiliarity with citizen involvement, and citizens’ motivation.

In the Lithuanian citizen science ecosystem, highly engaged scientists and proactive citizens form the central participants. These scientists play a crucial role in educating the public, initiating citizen science projects, and advising other participants. On the citizen side, initiators, shapers of problematic issues, resource collectors and processors, and users of solutions constitute the participation categories. These roles are still developing, but there is a growing interest in international citizen science projects.

While citizen science is relatively new in Lithuania, the country has a history of community research and community-driven initiatives, especially in environmental matters. Collaboration between scientists and communities can lead to professional research and empower communities, with the potential to address various social issues, promote social well-being, and enhance citizen involvement in decision-making processes.

Lithuania’s journey with citizen science is on the rise, with growing awareness and participation. As the benefits of citizen science become more evident, its adoption is expected to expand further in Lithuania.

 

Major Environmental Challenges in LITHUANIA

Air Quality and Pollution
In Lithuania, air quality and pollution are pressing concerns driven by industrial activities, heating systems, and transportation. Urbanization further exacerbates these issues, leading to elevated pollution levels in cities and industrial zones. Airborne pollutants have far-reaching health and environmental implications, making it imperative to actively monitor air quality. Citizen science projects focused on air quality provide crucial data, raise public awareness, and empower communities to address air pollution effectively. These initiatives use state-of-the-art sensors to track pollutant levels, contributing to a comprehensive understanding of air quality trends and sources, which, in turn, aids in formulating targeted policies and behavioral changes to mitigate the impact of air pollution.

 

Biodiversity Conservation
Lithuania boasts diverse ecosystems, but they face considerable threats from habitat degradation and climate change. These challenges place immense pressure on the nation’s unique flora and fauna. To combat these issues, citizen science projects are diligently involved in cataloging and safeguarding Lithuania’s natural heritage. They work in close collaboration with researchers and conservationists to document species diversity, migration patterns, and habitat conditions. By actively participating in data collection, citizens contribute significantly to scientific knowledge about Lithuania’s biodiversity. This collaborative effort not only helps in preserving the nation’s natural treasures but also fosters public engagement and a sense of responsibility for the environment.

 

Climate Change Impacts
Lithuania is experiencing tangible impacts of climate change, characterized by rising temperatures, altered precipitation patterns, and more frequent extreme weather events. To comprehend and adapt to these changes, citizen scientists play a pivotal role in monitoring and researching climate-related shifts. By collecting and analyzing data on temperature, precipitation, and ecological responses, they provide valuable insights for research and adaptation strategies. This data aids in developing policies and measures to address climate change challenges and build a more sustainable and resilient Lithuania.

 

Water Quality and Management
The quality and sustainability of Lithuania’s water resources, including lakes, rivers, and the Baltic Sea coastline, are vital for ecological balance and human well-being. Citizen science projects take the lead in monitoring the health of aquatic ecosystems, addressing concerns like pollution, eutrophication, and the overall water quality. Through regular water sampling and data analysis, these projects offer an in-depth understanding of the state of Lithuania’s waters. Findings reveal contamination sources, nutrient levels, and potential ecological stressors, helping stakeholders make informed decisions about water management, conservation, and pollution prevention.

 

Urbanization and Land Use
Lithuania’s rapid urbanization brings forth complex challenges associated with land development and land use changes. Citizen science initiatives focus on evaluating the impact of construction on local environments, with a particular emphasis on urban green spaces. By engaging in field surveys, mapping, and data collection, citizen scientists provide critical insights into how urbanization affects local ecosystems. Their work enables city planners, policymakers, and communities to make informed decisions about sustainable urban development, green infrastructure, and the preservation of urban biodiversity.

 

Citizen Science Projects iN Lithuania

Rūšių ralis (“Species Rally”)

The “Rūšių ralis” project is an exciting initiative that engages citizens in the documentation of Lithuania’s diverse wildlife. Participants, or “rally-goers,” are encouraged to observe and report their sightings of various species of plants, animals, and fungi. By collecting this valuable data, the project contributes to a comprehensive inventory of Lithuania’s biodiversity. This citizen science approach empowers the public to play an active role in preserving the nation’s natural heritage while enhancing scientific knowledge about the country’s species. For more information, please visit Rūšių ralis.

 

Amber

The “Amber” project focuses on the monitoring and preservation of Lithuania’s iconic Baltic amber. It involves citizens in the collection of data and observations related to amber formation, its occurrence along the Baltic Sea coast, and the various plant and animal inclusions found within. By engaging the public, the project not only enhances knowledge about Lithuania’s natural treasures but also promotes the sustainable management and protection of amber resources. For more information, please visit Amber.

 

Už švarią Lietuvą (“For a Clean Lithuania”)

“Už švarią Lietuvą” is a citizen science project that actively involves the public in environmental monitoring and conservation. Participants are encouraged to report environmental issues, illegal waste dumping, and instances of pollution. The project emphasizes the importance of maintaining a clean and healthy environment and aims to raise public awareness about responsible waste disposal and sustainable practices. By engaging citizens, the initiative promotes a sense of collective responsibility for a cleaner Lithuania. For more information, please visit Už švarią Lietuvą.

 

Bronės Pajiedaitės takais (“On Brone Pajiedaite’s path”)

“Bronės Pajiedaitės takais” encourages citizens to explore and document the rich biodiversity of the Bronė Pajiedaitės Dendrological Path, a designated area of natural significance in Lithuania. Participants can contribute to the project by collecting data on various tree and plant species found in the path. This citizen science approach not only raises awareness about Lithuania’s natural heritage but also aids in the conservation and preservation of this unique environment. For more information, please visit Bronės Pajiedaitės takais.

 

INSIGNIA-EU

The “INSIGNIA-EU” project focuses on the monitoring and protection of aquatic ecosystems, including rivers and lakes, across Lithuania and other European countries. Citizens play an active role in collecting data related to water quality, aquatic habitats, and the presence of invasive species. By participating in this project, citizens contribute to a better understanding of the health of Lithuania’s aquatic ecosystems and help shape conservation and restoration efforts. For more information, please visit INSIGNIA-EU.

 

Už švarią Klaipėdą (“For a clean Klaipėda”)

“Už švarią Klaipėdą” is a citizen science initiative dedicated to maintaining the cleanliness and environmental health of the city of Klaipėda. Citizens are encouraged to report environmental issues and participate in clean-up activities. The project fosters a sense of collective responsibility for the city’s environment, promotes sustainable practices, and raises public awareness about the importance of a clean and healthy urban environment. For more information, please visit Už švarią Klaipėdą.

 

Deforestation Monitoring

The deforestation monitoring project in Lithuania engages citizens in tracking and documenting forest cover changes across the country. Participants are encouraged to report instances of deforestation and changes in forested areas. This citizen science approach is crucial for monitoring the impact of deforestation on Lithuania’s natural landscapes and advocating for sustainable forestry practices. For more information, please visit https://www.zooniverse.org/projects/dallaqua/foresteyes.

 

These citizen science projects exemplify Lithuania’s emerging commitment to public participation in scientific research. As a relatively recent entrant to the world of citizen science, Lithuania is taking significant strides to actively engage its citizens in environmental monitoring and conservation efforts. By embracing citizen science, Lithuania empowers its people to contribute to a growing body of scientific knowledge, igniting environmental awareness, and setting the stage for a more sustainable and ecologically conscious future. 

 

Field Research Findings

The Lithuanian field research delved into local environmental challenges, citizen participation in environmental actions, adult environmental education programs, and citizen science awareness. The research included diverse participants such as adults, disadvantaged adults, adult educators, and citizen science experts. The aim was to comprehend environmental awareness among Lithuanian adults.

 

Low Awareness of Citizen Science

The field research indicates that citizen science is not widely known in Lithuania, with only 10% indicating prior knowledge of the term. Surveyed adults and adult educators displayed limited familiarity with the term, suggesting that there is a need for greater awareness and promotion of this approach among the Lithuanian population. Expert opinions support the potential of citizen science in addressing local environmental challenges.

Social Dimensions and Environmental Challenges

The research suggests a potential connection between environmental challenges and social dimensions. Poverty, while not prominent in survey responses, was acknowledged in focus group discussions as a factor affecting environmental challenges. People in poverty may have other priorities that take precedence over environmental concerns, and tailored approaches are needed to engage and empower marginalized communities.

 

Main Environmental Concerns

A range of environmental concerns were identified in Lithuania, with various factors impacting the local environment. These included the effects of urbanization, deforestation, pollution, and global warming. Participants expressed particular concern over the environmental consequences of wars and conflicts, linking these factors to the global situation and ongoing conflicts. 

 

Limited Awareness of Citizen Science Initiatives

While some participants had a basic understanding of citizen science, knowledge about specific initiatives was limited. While recognizing the potential of citizen science for raising awareness and gathering valuable data, doubts were expressed about the tangible results and impact of such initiatives. These doubts highlight the need for effective communication about the benefits of citizen science.

 

Local Environmental Initiatives

Survey respondents indicated limited opportunities to participate in local environmental actions. The barriers to participation included a lack of awareness, a weak sense of community, and the perception that someone else is responsible for taking action. To increase participation, the research highlights the need for motivational measures, community engagement, and effective communication strategies.

 

Adult Environmental Education

Adult environmental education programs are considered valuable for raising awareness and addressing environmental issues. However, the research reveals that only about a third of adult respondents are aware of available courses on environmental topics. To enhance adult environmental education, improving accessibility, offering tailored courses, and focusing on daily behaviors and recycling are recommended.

 

 

Participation in Citizen Science Projects

The field research suggests that citizen science is not widely practiced in Lithuania. Surveyed adults had limited familiarity with the concept of citizen science projects, but interviewed experts underscore the usefulness of this approach in tackling local environmental challenges.

 

Insights

The Lithuanian Field Research highlights the need for increased awareness of citizen science, especially among the general population. The potential connection between environmental challenges and social dimensions, such as poverty, emphasizes the importance of tailored approaches and effective communication to engage marginalized communities.
Diverse environmental concerns, including global warming, deforestation, and waste and pollution, underscore the need for multifaceted approaches to address these issues. To boost local environmental initiatives and citizen participation, motivational measures and stronger community engagement are recommended.
While adult environmental education is perceived as valuable, there is room for improvement in making courses accessible and tailoring them to individuals’ knowledge levels. Lastly, the promotion and dissemination of information about citizen science can encourage greater participation in such projects.

 

Conclusions

The Lithuanian research thoughtfully combines insights from both desk research and field research, offering a comprehensive perspective on citizen science and environmental awareness among Lithuanian adults. These findings spotlight common themes while also revealing some differences. A notable concern is the limited familiarity among Lithuanian adults with the concept of ‘citizen science,’ underlining the need for awareness campaigns and educational outreach.

This research underscores the relationship between environmental and social challenges. Respondents recognize that local environmental issues are closely tied to social factors such as poverty, urbanization, and demographic changes. Additionally, the studies consistently identify specific local environmental concerns, including air and water quality, waste management, and deforestation. This acknowledgment of the dynamic relationship between environmental and social challenges forms a pivotal aspect of citizen science programs.

Both facets of this research emphasize the pivotal role of adult education in promoting environmental engagement. Recommendations stress the importance of making environmental education accessible, especially for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In summary, to uplift citizen science and environmental awareness in Lithuania, it is imperative to focus on several key recommendations. Initiatives should concentrate on heightening awareness about citizen science, its potential benefits, and how citizens can actively participate. An approach that addresses environmental challenges comprehensively while considering their intricate relationship with social issues is crucial. This approach recognizes the complex dynamic between environmental and social challenges, ultimately empowering Lithuanian adults to play an active role in addressing local environmental issues.