Long-term environmental records are among the most valuable assets for understanding the trajectory and consequences of climate change. Here we report on a newly recovered time-series from Project Oceanology, a non-profit ocean science organization serving New England schools (USA) since 1972. As part of its educational mission, Project Oceanology has routinely and consistently recorded water temperature, pH, and oxygen as well as invertebrate and fish abundance in nearshore waters of the Thames River estuary in eastern Long Island Sound (LIS). We digitized these long-term records to test for decadal trends in abiotic and biotic variables including shifts in species abundance, richness, and diversity. Consistent with previous studies, the data revealed an above-average warming rate of eastern LIS waters over the past four decades (+0.45 °C decade−1), a non-linear acidification trend twice the global average (−0.04 pH units decade−1), and a notable decline in whole water-column dissolved oxygen concentrations (−0.29 mg L−1 decade−1). Trawl catches between 1997 and 2016 suggested a significant decrease in overall species diversity and richness, declines in cold-water adapted species such as American lobster (Homarus americanus), rock crab (Cancer irroratus), and winter flounder (Pseudopleuronectes americanus), but concurrent increases in the warm-water decapod Libinia emarginata (spider crab). Our study confirmed that Long Island Sound is a rapidly changing urban estuary, while demonstrating the value of long-term observations made by citizen-scientists, educators, and other stakeholders.
Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
This study measured spatial distribution of marine debris stranded on beaches in South Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Citizen science, fetch modeling, relative exposure index and predictive mapping were used to determine marine debris source and abundance. Citizen scientists quantified debris type and abundance on 16 beaches within three coastal exposures (The Atlantic Ocean, Great Bahama Bank and The Exuma Sound) in South Eleuthera. Marine debris, (~2.5 cm or larger) on each beach was monitored twice between March–May and September–November 2013 at the same locations using GPS. Approximately, 93% of all debris items were plastic with plastic fragments (≤2.5 cm) being the most common. There were spatial differences (p ≤ 0.0001) in plastic debris abundance between coastal exposures. Atlantic Ocean beaches had larger quantities of plastic debris by weight and by meter (m) of shoreline. Stranded plastic may be associated with Atlantic Ocean currents associated with leakage from the North Atlantic sub-tropical gyre.
Central to appropriate wildlife management is an effective monitoring program. Monitoring wildlife in urban environments offers unique challenges in the form of barriers, prohibited access and crime. It also, however, provides a unique opportunity to enlist residential communities in collecting data on distribution of a number of species. Opportunistic sightings data has its flaws, including the lack of data on species absences, and unequal sampling effort. Yet these data may still provide reliable information on the distribution of species and complement localized, hypothesis driven research. Where possible opportunistic sightings data should be validated against traditional methods to determine their value for long term monitoring programmes. We use Maxent to model citizen-reported sightings to determine whether sightings of Cape clawless otters (Aonyx capensis) can complement standardized river occupancy surveys to monitor an elusive, widely distributed species living within a fragmented urban/natural matrix. The drivers of otter presence and the predicted distribution of otters modelled from citizen sightings mirrored that provided by previously published results based on occupancy models in the same system, and highlighted further areas of suitable otter habitat and routes for dispersal. Involving citizens in the monitoring of the urban otter population complemented standardized occupancy surveys and provided additional benefits. In addition to alleviating the pressure on local authorities to allocate resources to routine monitoring, citizen involvement provides an opportunity to gather supplementary data on behaviour and/or threats to the species; shed light on the potential dispersal routes, and promote awareness and encourage coexistence with urban adapted wildlife.
This paper provides a quantitative assessment of students' attitude and behaviors towards marine litter before and after their participation to SEACleaner, an educational and citizen science project devoted to monitor macro- and micro-litter in an Area belonging to “Pelagos Sanctuary” (Mediterranean Sea). This approach produced interesting outcomes both for the research sector of marine pollution and environmental monitoring, as well for the scientific and environmental education. Here we focus on citizen science as an effective vector for raising young people awareness of marine litter and fostering sound behaviors. A specially designed questionnaire was administered to 87 High School students, to test the validity of such approach. The results state that the students change quantitatively their perception of beach-litter causes and derived problems, and they improved their knowledge about the main marine litter sources and the role of the sea in the waste transport and deposition along the coast.
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.
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.