Citizen science is an innovative approach that relies on non-specialists to monitor species and ecosystems over long time periods and vast geographical areas. Citizen science has been used extensively in marine science to monitor endangered species such as sharks and marine turtles, coral reefs and their associated fish species, marine mammals, invasive species and, more recently, coral bleaching and marine litter. Engaging people over the long term can be challenging but using social media, gamification, and emphasizing the value of volunteer contributions through data sharing, can help to keep communities motivated. In the Red Sea, there is enormous potential for using citizen science in monitoring endangered species and ecosystems due to the presence of a fleet of safari boats and dive centres going to sea daily. Engaging with this sector and creating long lasting partnerships for data collection through simple protocols could be a winning approach to obtain important information from remote areas and/or on rare species. In this chapter, we present the preliminary results of a citizen science program targeting marine turtles in their feeding grounds in the Egyptian Red Sea waters that was conducted from 2011 to 2013. During the study period 2,448 surveys were completed at 157 sites and included a total of 1,038 sightings of turtles. The most commonly observed species were hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) and green (Chelonia mydas) turtles; however, rarer species, such as loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) turtles were also recorded. Among the sites that were monitored, some were considered as important for turtles (i.e., had a high probability of observing a turtle), while in others, turtles were not observed despite carrying out multiple surveys. Participants reported turtles of various sizes and ages with adults and sub-adults being the predominant observed age class. The presence of adults seemed to be related to the nesting season (May–September), which was also when the survey effort was higher. Adult male turtles were observed on various occasions, providing important input on their whereabouts during nesting and non-nesting seasons. Finally, participants detected behaviour that had not been previously described in the region, such as courting and mating. Results from TurtleWatch Egypt provided new insight in our knowledge of marine turtles in the Red Sea, especially from the largely under-studied feeding grounds.
Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
Increased plastic consumption and poor waste management have resulted in litter representing an ever-increasing threat to the marine environment. To identify sources and evaluate mitigation measures, beach litter has been monitored. Using data from two citizen science protocols (CSPs) and OSPAR monitoring of Norwegian beaches, this study 1) identifies the most abundant litter types, 2) compares OSPAR to citizen science data, and 3) examines how to improve the management relevance of beach litter data. The dominant litter types were; food and drink- and fishery related items, and unidentifiable plastic pieces. Data from CSPs are consistent with OSPAR data in abundance and diversity, although few OSPAR beaches limit verification of CSP data. In contrast to OSPAR, the CSPs estimate the weight of the litter. CSPs lack important variables which could explain why some litter types are abundant in some particular areas. The latter could be improved by recording GPS positions.
A seafood fraud campaign was launched by an ocean conservation group to increase transparency in global seafood supply chains by enacting policies on full chain boat-to-plate traceability for all seafood sold in the U.S. As part of this campaign, online members of the group were recruited to document and collect commercial seafood samples as part of a large investigation of U.S. seafood mislabeling, specifically species substitution. Following an iterative project design including several rounds of pilot testing of sample preservation methods and outreach materials, 1058 of the more than 55,000 members solicited signed up to be a “seafood sleuth” and were mailed seafood testing kits, containing supplies to submit two fish samples of their choice. On average, 33.4% (353/1058) of these citizen scientists in 11 metropolitan areas returned kits that contained 631 samples, or nearly half of the 1263 samples collected in the overall study. Assessment of the quality of citizen science data revealed comparable rates of sample integrity, data completeness and mislabeling compared to samples and data collected by trained scientists. Citizen science outreach provided a more informed and engaged online member population, who continued to take actions to advance seafood traceability policies with their decision makers. Citizen science outreach was an integral part of a successful campaign that included science, communication strategies to garner mass media attention and advocacy to promote seafood traceability which resulted in the first seafood traceability regulation in the U.S.
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.
Citizen Science (CS) strengthens the relationship between society and science through education and engagement, with win-win benefits. Marine Citizen Science (MCS) is increasingly popular, thanks to society’s growing interest in marine environments and marine issues. Scuba diving significantly increases the potential of MCS, thanks to the skills and behavioural properties of people who participate in the sport. To be able to exploit this potential, however, MCS needs to face challenges related to CS, to scuba diving activities and to the broader scuba diving industry. In particular, engagement and recruitment of potential volunteers, as well as retention of active participants, represent key milestones. In order to reach these milestones, information is required on current participation levels of scuba divers in MCS, as well as the motivations behind participation, and the opinions held by potential participants in MCS. This study explored different case studies and methods of data collection to provide an overview of actual and potential participation in MCS by the scuba diving community. The results show that scuba divers, whether active or potential marine citizen scientists, are well disposed towards MCS. Some barriers, however, prevent the full participation of scuba divers as marine citizen scientists. Certain barriers extend beyond the control of both divers and MCS projects, while others, such as limited access to MCS projects and poor feedback after participation, can and should be addressed. The recommendations of this research provide strategic direction to MCS, so that the broad scuba diving community can be successfully integrated into MCS. These recommendations acknowledge the important role played by stakeholders in the scuba diving industry, as well as professional intermediaries and hired experts.
Citizen science observations represent a significant and growing source of species and ecosystem knowledge. These data have potential to support traditional surveys. Databases of citizen observations of wildlife are growing, but how to use this information for scientific purposes is less clear owing to uncertainty in sampling distribution and data quality. In this study, we demonstrate how mapping cetacean patterns using citizen observations and systematic surveys generate consistent and different understandings of cetacean distributions and densities, and evaluate potential risk by assessing cumulative human effects in British Columbia, Canada. We used GIS-based map comparison methods that quantified differences and similarities between geographic datasets to locate where cetacean distributions and densities had spatially unique or spatially analogous representation. Where spatial clusters in both data sources are congruent, we interpret with a higher level of confidence that species occur, and mapped patterns accurately reflect distribution and density. In areas where datasets exhibit dissimilar species densities and distributions, we acknowledge lower confidence and advise further sampling. Regions of agreement were primarily in the central-western portion of the study area (off the southeastern coast of Haida Gwaii); areas of disagreement were heterogeneously distributed across the study area. Spatial clusters from citizen data exhibited significantly higher cumulative human effect scores than from systematic surveys, despite previous data adjustments for human effort. We demonstrate the use of citizen observations as a confirmatory dataset to broaden ecological exploration by augmenting scientific survey datasets and identifying strategic areas for future data collection efforts.Gwaii); areas of disagreement were heterogeneously distributed across the study area. Spatial clusters from citizen data exhibited significantly higher cumulative human effect scores than from systematic surveys, despite previous data adjustments for human effort. We demonstrate the use of citizen observations as a confirmatory dataset to broaden ecological exploration by augmenting scientific survey datasets and identifying strategic areas for future data collection efforts.
The prevalence of marine debris in global oceans is negatively impacting the marine environment. In Australia, marine debris has been an increasing concern for sensitive marine environments, such as coral reefs. Citizen science can contribute data to explore patterns of subtidal marine debris loads. This study uses data from Reef Check Australia to describe patterns of debris abundance on reef tourism sites in two Queensland regions, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) and Southeast Queensland (SEQ). Debris was categorized into three groups, fishing line, fishing net, and general rubbish. Overall, debris abundance across reefs was relatively low (average 0.5–3.3 items per survey (400 m2)), but not absent on remote reefs surveyed in the GBR region. Highest debris loads were recorded in SEQ near cities and high use areas. These results indicate the presence of marine debris on remote and urban reefs, and the applicability of using citizen science to monitor debris abundance.
Citizen science projects can empower students as science learners and practitioners by enhancing students’ understanding of science content and process, exposing them to science careers, and increasing their awareness of environmental issues on local and global scales. A citizen science program invites members of the public to collaborate with professional scientists on scientific research. Citizen science offers a highly motivating project for many marine science students. Both in a formal and informal educational environment, citizen science can yield benefits to teachers and students. By examining the successful youth-based citizen science program LiMPETS (Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students), this chapter discusses why and how to incorporate citizen science into marine science learning.
Engaging ocean users, including fishing fleets, in oceanographic and ecological research is a valuable method for collecting high-quality data, improving cost efficiency, and increasing societal appreciation for scientific research. As research partners, fishing fleets provide broad access to and knowledge of the ocean, and fishers are highly motivated to use the data collected to better understand the ecosystems in which they harvest. Here, we discuss recent trends in collaborative research that have increased the capacity of and access to scientific data collection. We also describe common elements of successful collaborative research programs, including definition of a scientific problem and goals, choice of technology, data collection and sampling design, data management and dissemination, and data analysis and communication. Finally, we review four case studies that demonstrate the general principles of effective collaborative research as well as the utility of citizen-collected data for academic research and fisheries management. We also discuss the challenge of funding, particularly as it relates to maintaining collaborative research programs in the long term. We conclude with a discussion of likely future trends. Ultimately, we predict that collaborative research will continue to grow in importance as climate change increasingly impacts ocean ecosystems, commercial fisheries, and the global food supply.
Small-scale fishers on Caribbean coral reefs have exploited fish spawning aggregations (FSAs) for generations, but intense fishing has led to the loss of traditional aggregation sites. In many areas, the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) of fishers has contributed greatly to the characterization of spawning aggregations and implementation of local conservation initiatives. TEK has identified more than 40 potential FSA sites along the coast of the Mexican Mesoamerican Reef. These sites have been characterised and scientifically validated, in some cases with traditional western science and in others, with a participatory citizen-science approach. The objective of this work is to compare the science and conservation outcomes at these FSA sites. We report that those FSA sites where scientific surveys were conducted without community participation remain unprotected. By contrast, the FSAs where local fishers were engaged in characterization and subsequent monitoring are now protected at the behest of the fishers themselves. Conservation initiatives to protect FSAs can be more effective through a combination of TEK, western science, and participatory citizen science involving local fishers.