Cheli Sinclair


I became involved with ICCS through my work on #ConservationOptimism. I used my background in digital media to help in the lead up to the Conservation Optimism Summit, and then helped EJ and the rest of the team from ICCS to harness the enthusiasm generated by the event to convert a one-time conference into an ongoing movement. I am also a DPhil student in Oxford's School of Geography and the Environment.

My biggest passion, both intellectually and professionally, is the power of modern communications technology to empower, educate, and inspire people to make a positive impact for nature and wildlife. I'm really interested in how it's possible to move away from traditional top-down power structures to democratize and localize conservation policy and practice through the use of social media and citizen science. Related to this, I want to develop a deeper understanding of the complex relationships between the institutions and individuals who develop and use conservation citizen science projects, and investigate potential new and innovative ways to improve the efficacy of conservation citizen science initiatives as we move into an ever more digitally mediated future.


cheliMy current work looks at the history of citizen science in conservation, and how that has evolved over nearly the last 120 years, as well as what its potentials are. I look at the technologies that have shaped the ways in which 'citizen scientists' have related to conservation projects, from simply contributing data records, to becoming engaged in the analysis of big data, to actively co-creating research projects alongside project leaders and making use of the data independently. I further attempt to unpack the 'information geographies' of conservation citizen science and ask questions about who is creating these projects, who is engaging with them, and who is ultimately making use of the outputs.

Finally, I am exploring the untapped potentials I have identified and providing some suggestions on how we might harness the affordances of smartphone technology to transformatively improve the ability of members of the general public to contribute to conservation in a meaningful way.