Science Caching: Applying Geocaching to Mobile Citizen Science

Matthew A. Dunlap. (2013). Science Caching: Applying Geocaching to Mobile Citizen Science.


Citizen science occurs in part when scientists work with volunteers to collect science data in particular field locations. The benefit is that citizen science eases and lessens the cost of collecting such information. Yet it has a variety of known problems. This document focuses on four specific citizen science problems concerning difficulties in data collection, data validation, volunteer training and volunteer coordination. The thesis is that these problems can be mitigated by applying aspects from another thriving location-based activity: the geocaching treasure hunt as enabled by mobile devices. Citizen science can exploit geocaching‘s location-based design, its use of physical objects, and its user maintained content. To explore and critique this thesis, a prototype mobile system called Science Caching was developed, along with various scenarios that describe how it addresses issues in collection, validation, training and coordination. The system and scenarios – which serve as a working sketch – were shown to citizen science experts via an interview-based design critique. In particular, they provided feedback on the choice of the problems addressed by the system, the approach to the problems as realized by Science Caching, how those approaches could be extended, and what other areas in citizen science they could be applied to. The results were analyzed via affinity diagramming, which uncovered various overarching themes. Generally, the combination of geocaching and mobility was received quite positively, where participants indicated various areas where it would be applicable. Problems and improvements were also suggested, giving insight into future iterations of the method and the system.


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  author = {Dunlap, Matthew A.},
  title = {Science Caching: Applying Geocaching to Mobile Citizen Science},
  school = {University of Calgary},
  year = {2013},
  month = may,
  pdfurl = {},
  type = {thesis}