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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2020

On the merits and pitfalls of introducing a digital platform to aid conservation management: Volunteer data submission and the mediating role of volunteer coordinators

Arts, Koen; Melero, Yolanda; Webster, Gemma; Sharma, Nirwan; Tintarev, Nava; Tait, Elizabeth; Mellish, Christopher; Sripada, Somayajulu; MacMaster, Ann-Marie; Sutherland, Hollie; Horrill, Chris; Lambin, Xavier; van der Wal, Rene


Against a backdrop of accelerating digital innovation in nature conservation and environmental management, a real-world experiment was conducted with the research aims of assessing: 1) the effects of introducing a digital data-entry platform on volunteer data submission; and 2) the extent to which coordinators influence digital platform use by their volunteers. We focussed on a large-scale volunteer-based initiative aimed at eradicating the non-native American mink (Neovison vison) from northern Scotland. This geographically dispersed conservation initiative adopted a digital platform that allowed volunteers to submit records to a central database. We found that the platform had a direct and positive effect on volunteer data submission behaviour, increasing both the number and frequency of submissions. However, our analysis revealed striking differences in coordinator engagement with the platform, which in turn influenced the engagement of volunteers with this centrally introduced digital innovation. As a consequence, the intended organisation-wide rolling out of a digital platform translated into a diversely-implemented innovation, limiting the efficacy of the tool and revealing key challenges for digital innovation in geographically-dispersed conservation initiatives.


Volunteer-based management; Technological innovation; Environmental citizen science; Human-computer interaction; Invasive species control; Volunteer coordination

Published in

Journal of Environmental Management
2020, Volume: 265, article number: 110497

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

    Publication Identifiers


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