How citizens can encourage scientific research: The case study of bottlenose dolphins monitoring
Citizen science projects are an advantageous method to carry out research in the marine environmental field, especially concerning high mobile and often elusive species like cetaceans, allowing the collection of data in wide spatial-temporal scale. This project aims to validate the feasibility and accuracy of cetacean monitoring program through the citizen science approach and to test the efficiency of this method to large scale study area. In this work data obtained by researchers monitoring were compared with data coming from citizen, which followed specifically developed protocol. Data collected were used to investigate the presence and distribution of bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) in the Sicilian Channel and to evaluate the contribution of citizen scientist to improve knowledge about species, in this case for bottlenose dolphin a vulnerable species listed in the Annex II of Habitat Directive (92/43 CE). The results show that citizen dataset contributes to increase the distribution map of the 22% more than only research data were considered. Citizen science programme results useful to gain information in small areas not monitored by scientific programs, such as in this study, and they would be very useful if applied at large-scale. The promotion of citizen science programs in specified small areas could be helpful to cover unmonitored zones, to gain preliminary results and bridge the gap of knowledge about species occurrence and distribution. For this reason, citizen support might help competent authorities to answer to the environmental policies as Habitat Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive. This study is a demonstration of how citizen can encourage scientists to start long-term research project in not regularly monitored areas.