Changes in participant behaviour and attitudes are associated with knowledge and skills gained by using a turtle conservation citizen science app.
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 and behavioural or attitudinal changes reported by the participants. One hundred and forty-eight citizen scientists completed our questionnaire, mostly from the states of New South Wales and Victoria. TurtleSAT was the third most common source of correct answers 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 contributing more actively to its protection.