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Changes in participant behaviour and attitudes are associated with knowledge and skills gained by using a turtle conservation citizen science app


Santori, Claudia et al. (2021), Changes in participant behaviour and attitudes are associated with knowledge and skills gained by using a turtle conservation citizen science app, Dryad, Dataset,


Citizen science has become a popular way to collect biodiversity data and engage the wider public in scientific research. It has the potential to improve the knowledge and skills of participants, and positively change their behaviour and attitude towards the environment. Citizen science outcomes are particularly valuable for wildlife conservation, as they could help alleviate human impacts on the environment. We used an online questionnaire to investigate the consequences of participating in an Australian turtle mapping app, TurtleSAT, on skills and knowledge gain, and test for any association between these gains with behavioural or attitudinal changes reported by the participants. 148 citizen scientists completed our questionnaire, mostly from the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Participants listed TurtleSAT as the third most common source of knowledge about turtle ecology and conservation, after a talk about turtles and personal observations/research. Citizen scientists who participated more often were more knowledgeable about turtles than infrequent users. Self-reported gains in knowledge and skills were positively linked to attitudinal and behavioural changes, such as being more aware of turtles on roads. However, behaviour and attitude changes were not related to participation rate. Respondents also reported that after learning about the current decline in turtle populations, they adopted several turtle-friendly practices, such as habitat restoration or moving turtles out of harm’s way, underlining the importance of increasing people’s awareness on species declines. The reported changes in attitudes and behaviours are likely to positively impact the conservation of Australian freshwater turtles. Engagement with citizen science projects like TurtleSAT may result in participants being more interested in the natural world, by learning more about it and being more exposed to it, and therefore contribute more actively to its protection.


The dataset was collected through an online questionnaire. We built our questionnaire on the REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture) online system (Harris et al. 2009), which was hosted by The University of Sydney. Anyone who uploaded at least one sighting to TurtleSAT was invited to answer our questionnaire. We recruited respondents by advertising our questionnaire on the TurtleSAT social media channels, and by sending two e-mails to all TurtleSAT participants that provided their e-mail address upon registration to the project (University of Sydney Human Ethics approval 2017/981). The two e-mails were sent 11 months apart to maximise recruitment. Informed consent was obtained from all participants. The questionnaire was available online from the 7th of June 2018 to the 11th September 2019, and was anonymous.

The dataset has been cleaned up and processed using MS Excel, and any identifiers or variables not used in this study were removed. 

Usage Notes

Questionnaire sheet:

Missing values are represented by "NA". 

Obs_type = type of observation (live turtle, dead turtle, nest, dr = don't recall).

N_obs = number of observations uploaded.

N_obs_noDR = number of observations uploaded, with any "don't recall" answer changed to NA.

Knowledge_skills_turtlesat_score = s-k gain score

Knowledge_sum = Number of correct answers from the knowledge test

Knowledge_sum_turtlesat = Number of correct answers from the knowledge test coming from TurtleSAT

Responses coded as 1 for strongly disagree to 5 for strongly agree:

Learned_more = Using TurtleSAT I learned more about turtles

Ability_to_ID = Participating in TurtleSAT has improved my ability to identify freshwater turtle species

Ability_find_nest = Participating in TurtleSAT has improved my ability to find turtle nests

New_skills = Using TurtleSAT I developed new skills

Attitude_change = Have your attitudes towards turtles changed since you started participating in TurtleSAT? (binary 0-1)

More_interested_nature = After using TurtleSAT I am more interested in the natural world

Feel_like_helping = By participating in TurtleSAT I feel like I am helping turtles

More_aware_roads = Participating in TurtleSAT made me more aware of turtles on roads

Inspire_to_participate = TurtleSAT inspired me to participate in other citizen science / volunteering projects to help wildlife

More_worried = After participating in TurtleSAT, I am more worried about Australian freshwater turtles than I was before

Learned_more_01 (and all other _01 variables) = Scores turned into binary 0-1

N_actions = What practices have you adopted since learning about the current freshwater turtles' decline? (number of actions ticked)

Read_info_web = Have you read information about Australian freshwater turtles and their decline on the TurtleSAT website? (Yes/No/I didn't know there was such information on the website)

Aware_decline_before_join = Were you aware of an Australian freshwater turtle decline before joining TurtleSAT? (yes/no/This is the first time I hear about it)

Causes_decline_before_join = Did you know what causes Australian freshwater turtle deaths before joining TurtleSAT? (yes/no/I still don't know)

Source of correct answer sheet: if answered correctly asked the source of the information.

Spring = Do you know when the Eastern long-necked turtle (Chelodina longicollis) nesting season is?

Rainfall = Can weather trigger freshwater turtle nesting?

Decline = How much have populations of common species of freshwater turtles declined in the last 40 years along the Murray River?

Foxes = How many turtle nests do foxes destroy along the River Murray?

Turtle friendly practices sheet:

1 = adopted the practice

0 = did not


Australian Research Council, Award: LP140100011

The Field Naturalists Society of South Australia

Fish Fuel Co.

Barbara Hardy Institute, University of South Australia

University of Sydney

Western Sydney University

Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Center

NSW Department of Primary Industries

The Field Naturalists Society of South Australia

Fish Fuel Co.

Barbara Hardy Institute, University of South Australia

Invasive Animals Cooperative Research Center