Kitizen Science's first validation study tested our approach's most basic assumption: whether online volunteers can correctly identify and match individual free-roaming cats in smartphone photos. In comparing a group of volunteers drawn from the cat advocacy sphere to a reference group of life science college students (who are often trusted to do photo identification in traditional academic research), the cat advocate group performed significantly better both in terms of quality and quantity of work. We also explored factors related to what makes a volunteer more accurate at identifying cats and what makes some cat photos more identifiable than others. This validation work is important because it adds transparency to our research methods, demonstrates that cat-loving volunteers in our citizen science program can perform a key task at a high level of accuracy, and gives us insights into what type of volunteers we should focus on recruiting to the online side of our research.

In 2021, we presented a poster on this at the International Urban Wildlife Conference and CitSciVirtual. In 2022, it was published in the open access peer-reviewed journal Citizen Science: Theory and Practice. Read the full article here.