In 2016 the Naturpark Ötztal participated in the Citizen Science Award with the project “Search for the Swedish Narrow-Headed Ant”. The aim was to investigate the distribution of the rare Swedish narrow-headed ant (Formica suecica), which usually occurs in Scandinavia, in Western Siberia and in the Tyrolean Oetz Valley. By means of the Award around 90 people – youngsters and adults – participated. They were trained and supervised during five organised search missions by the team of the Naturpark Ötztal. Overall more than 200 anthills were found, measured and sampled. Results showed that 50% of them belonged to the rare ant species.
A gain for everyone
In the course of the award and the project presentation on the website of the Center for Citizen Science the project became better known to a wider circle of interested people. Not only individuals but also groups and school classes were addressed and prizes were provided for all categories. Thanks to one of these prizes a school class was substantially supported in creating a “Nature park corner”. The rest of the winners received books and other material prizes and donated their prize money to the Naturpark Ötztal for further development of the project. The money was then invested in the purchase of equipment, which will be used during the search missions in 2017.
Moreover, the project’s participation in the Citizen Science Award 2016 significantly contributed to the one-year prolongation of the project. Initially the project was only funded for 2015 and 2016 by the Environmental Protection Department of the Amt der Tiroler Landesregierung. The participation in the award had another positive effect for the Naturpark Ötztal: in the future more projects are planned involving citizen scientists and new cooperation partners will be easier to find. Besides, smartphone apps shall be used in new projects and essential ideas could already be collected in the course of three workshops organised by the Center for Citizen Science.