Conducting conservation social science surveys online

Chloe B. Wardropper, Ashley A. Dayer, Madeline S. Goebel, Victoria Y. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting the environment and conservation research in fundamental ways. Many conservation social scientists are now administering survey questionnaires online, but they must do so while ensuring rigor in data collection. Further, they must address a suite of unique challenges, such as the increasing use of mobile devices by participants and avoiding bots or other survey fraud. We reviewed recent literature on online survey methods to examine the state of the field related to online data collection and dissemination. We illustrate the review with examples of key methodological decisions made during a recent national study of people who feed wild birds, in which survey respondents were recruited through an online panel and a sample generated via a project participant list. Conducting surveys online affords new opportunities for participant recruitment, design, and pilot testing. For instance, online survey panels can provide quick access to large and diverse samples of people. Based on the literature review and our own experiences, we suggest that to ensure high-quality online surveys one should account for potential sampling and nonresponse error, design survey instruments for use on multiple devices, test the instrument, and use multiple protocols to identify data quality problems. We also suggest that research funders, journal editors, and policy makers can all play a role in ensuring high-quality survey data are used to inform effective conservation programs and policies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1650-1658
Number of pages9
JournalConservation Biology
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • ciencias sociales de la conservación
  • conservation social science
  • COVID-19 pandemic
  • cuestionarios
  • dimensiones humanas
  • encuestas basadas en la red
  • human dimensions
  • methods
  • métodos
  • pandemia de COVID-19
  • questionnaires
  • web-based surveys

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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