Pelagic seabirds are elusive species which are difficult to observe, thus determining their spatial distribution during the migration period is a difficult task. Here we undertook the first long-term study on the distribution of migrating shearwaters from data gathered within the framework of citizen science projects. Specifically, we collected daily abundance (only abundance given presence) of Balearic shearwaters from 2005 to 2017 from the online databases Trektellen and eBird. We applied machine-learning techniques, specifically Random Forest regression models, to predict shearwater abundance during migration using 15 environmental predictors. We built separated models for pre-breeding and post-breeding migration. When evaluated for the total data sample, the models explained more than 52% of the variation in shearwater abundance. The models also showed good ability to predict shearwater distributions for both migration periods (correlation between observed and predicted abundance was about 70%). However, relative variable importance and variation among the models built with different training data subsamples differed between migration periods. Our results showed that data gathered in citizen science initiatives together with recently available high-resolution satellite imagery, can be successfully applied to describe the migratory spatio-temporal patterns of seabird species accurately. We show that a predictive modelling approach may offer a powerful and cost-effective tool for the long-term monitoring of the migratory patterns in sensitive marine species, as well as to identify at sea areas relevant for their protection. Modelling approaches can also be essential tools to detect the impacts of climate and other global changes in this and other species within the range of the training data.
Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
Subtropical reefs are important habitats for many marine species and for tourism and recreation. Yet, subtropical reefs are understudied, and detailed habitat maps are seldom available. Citizen science can help fill this gap, while fostering community engagement and education. In this study, 44 trained volunteers conducted an ecological assessment of subtropical Flinders Reef using established Reef Check and CoralWatch protocols. In 2017, 10 sites were monitored to provide comprehensive information on reef communities and to estimate potential local drivers of coral community structure. A detailed habitat map was produced by integrating underwater photos, depth measurements, wave-exposure modelling and satellite imagery. Surveys showed that coral cover ranged from 14% to 67%. Site location and wave exposure explained 47% and 16% respectively, of the variability in coral community composition. Butterflyfishes were the most abundant fish group, with few invertebrates being observed during the surveys. Reef impacts were three times lower than on other nearby subtropical reefs. These findings can be used to provide local information to spatial management and Marine Park planning. To increase the conservation benefits and to maintain the health of Flinders Reef, we recommend expanding the current protection zone from 500- to a 1000-m radius.
Marine litter is a major global challenge, even in the remote reaches of the Arctic. Monitoring temporal trends in litter loadings and composition is key to designing effective preventative and mitigative measures, and to assess their impact. Few data are available, however, by which to do this in the Arctic region. Citizen science data organised by the local waste management company in the Lofoten archipelago in the Norwegian Sea is an exception to this. We analysed volunteer cleanup data (total weight and counts of select litter types, standardised to density per 100 m) from over 200 locations from 2011 to 2018. Results indicate a general decline in beach litter in the region, and particularly in litter types related to private use, such as beverage bottles. These declines are most likely the combined result of extensive cleanup activities and a considerable reduction in local litter inputs.
The biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea is rapidly changing due to anthropogenic activity and the recent increase of seawater temperature. Citizen science is escalating as an important contributor in the inventory of rare and data-limited species. In this study, we present several records of five data-limited native fish species from the eastern Mediterranean Sea: Alectis alexandrina(Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, 1817), Ranzania laevis (Pennant, 1776), Dalatias licha (Bonnaterre, 1788), Lophotus lacepede (Giorna, 1809), and Sudis hyalina (Rafinesque, 1810). All of the records were collected by a participatory process involving fishers and validated by associated taxonomic experts of the citizen science programme “Is it Alien to you? Share it!!!”. This study fills an important gap for the distribution of the reported species and signifies the important role of citizen participation as a tool for extending marine biodiversity knowledge and fisheries management in an area with several gaps of knowledge on targeted and non-targeted species.
China is the largest plastic consumer in the world. Despite its plastic waste import ban in 2017, this populous economy inevitably generates a large amount of waste, including plastic waste, a considerable part of which has become marine litter. Data from the 2018 National Coastal Cleanup and Monitoring Project, the largest beach litter monitoring activities using the citizen science approach in China, have been retrieved and analyzed to understand spatial patterns, composition, and original usage of marine litter. Within this project, 24 beaches were surveyed every two months. As a result, the mean density was 3.85 ± 5.39 items m−2, much higher than that reported by previous studies in China. There were great differences in the spatial distribution of litter. The highest densities appeared in the runoff-affected area of the Yangtze River, which was another difference from previous studies. Low-density, easy-to-transport foamed plastics were the major contributor to marine litter in these areas. Along China's coast, approximately 90% of litter was from land-based sources, and over half of that originated from domestic sources. Including foamed plastic products, plastic litter with low recycling value dominated. Both natural and human factors influencing the spatiotemporal distribution and composition of litter are discussed. Socioeconomic factors, such as the lifestyle and consumption levels of citizens and local waste management systems, are possible explanations for the low-value characteristic of marine litter. The deviation between previous data and citizen science data in this study may be caused by many factors. Based on the discussion on these factors, some suggestions for citizen science research in China are also put forward.
Numerous organisations collect data in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR), but they are rarely analysed together due to different program objectives, methods, and data quality. We developed a weighted spatio-temporal Bayesian model and used it to integrate image-based hard-coral data collected by professional and citizen scientists, who captured and/or classified underwater images. We used the model to predict coral cover across the GBR with estimates of uncertainty; thus filling gaps in space and time where no data exist. Additional data increased the model's predictive ability by 43%, but did not affect model inferences about pressures (e.g. bleaching and cyclone damage). Thus, effective integration of professional and high-volume citizen data could enhance the capacity and cost-efficiency of monitoring programs. This general approach is equally viable for other variables collected in the marine environment or other ecosystems; opening up new opportunities to integrate data and provide pathways for community engagement/stewardship.
Population studies of marine mammals are costly and time-consuming. Nevertheless, many people are happy to use their own resources to apply similar procedures to those necessary to evaluate dolphin populations in dolphin watching tourism. This offers a unique opportunity to collect sufficient data on dolphins to allow for conservation status evaluation by means of Citizen Science, a trending method. Here we crossed information on which species are targeted by tourism and which were lacking important population and ecology data, returning a list of 16 dolphin species which could benefit from dolphin watching tourism to assemble population data with conservation value. We make the case for engaging tourists and tourism agencies in a citizen science effort to raise data on dolphin species. For that, we offer suggestions for dolphin population analyses applicable by non-scientist personal.
YOUMARES 9, a conference from and for YOUng MArine RESearchers, is well-established and an format to present current research topics to early career scientists. This international conference represented a platform for early career scientists in Germany, Europe, and worldwide to build up a scientific network. At large congresses, young scientists often do not have the opportunity to present themselves. YOUMARES 9 was important, giving young researchers a place to discuss their research and engage in discussions on important research questions early in their scientific career. YOUMARES 9 was organized by master’s students and doctoral candidates as a bottom-up conference. The bottom-up concept of YOUMARES 9 was professionalized by a core organizational team and a local team provided by the host. The participants of the organizational team learned to organize conferences, communicate with different stakeholders, and moderate sessions or lead workshops. As a result, the team learned self-confidence and strengthened their key competencies besides their scientific work. These kinds of conferences are indeed a very good way of supporting young researchers in their starting careers. Young researchers learn to present their work and discuss it with peers and network. To sum up, all participants learn the parts of “how to do research” that take place outside of the lab. During the conference, there is a spirit of curiosity, interest, and energy of young researchers and an open-minded atmosphere. It was great to be the host of YOUMARES 9 under the theme “The oceans: our research, our future” from 11 to 14 September 2018 at the Carl von Ossietzky University of Oldenburg, ICBM. It was a pleasure to welcome over 300 participants to Oldenburg. Originally, YOUMARES 9 started with a zero budget, but with support from various sponsors from science and industry, it ended up being a prestigious conference. As a future perspective, such conferences would be an essential link between industry, institutions, and universities to provide young scientists the best possibilities for future careers inside and outside the universities. These proceedings, which include a peer-reviewed process, are an excellent summary of the research activities of young marine scientists and document the actual challenges in marine and social sciences. This book is the second that was published open access with Springer in the context of YOUMARES.
The current development of citizen science is an opportunity for marine biodiversity surveys to use recreational SCUBA diver data. In France, the DORIS project is extensively used for marine species identification, while many initiatives offer volunteer divers the means to record their observations. Thanks to the scientific synergy generated by the flagship project of the artificial reefs (ARs) of Prado Bay, located off the coast of Marseille (France), a multi-annual biodiversity survey was performed by a team of recreational divers certified by the French Federation for Submarine Sports and Education (FFESSM). The analysis of their observations with other citizen science data showed a good taxonomic coverage for fishes and mollusks. These observations also allowed (1) to follow AR colonization over the study period, with the increasing number of taxa and the growing occurrence of large fishes, and (2) to characterize taxa distribution between the different AR types, revealing the inefficiency of one type of AR which failed to provide the results expected from its design. This example demonstrates that the transition from species identification to ecologically relevant observation is perfectly feasible using volunteer naturalist SCUBA divers, on condition that both the protocols and the data are validated by professional scientists.
Marine fauna in the California Current System is susceptible to entanglement in anthropogenic debris. We examined beach survey data from six California counties to describe trends of entangled marine birds and mammals (1997–2017). Surveyors reported 357 cases of entanglements among 65,604 carcasses. Monterey County had the greatest average entanglement rate (0.007) of surveyed counties, however, was not statistically different from Santa Cruz (p > 0.05). Twenty-six seabird species (97%) and three marine mammal species (3%), and three non-marine birds were affected. Numerically, Common Murre (23%), Brandt's Cormorant (13%), Western Gull (9.6%), Sooty Shearwater (8%) and Brown Pelican (7%) were the most affected due to abundance, but their entanglement rates were not statistically different (p > 0.05). The most vulnerable species were those frequently documented as entanglement despite low deposition numbers (Merganser spp. 25%). Entangling material consisted primarily of monofilament line (some hooks/lures), but other entanglement items were reported.