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.
Citizen Science and Crowdsourcing
There has been a marked increase in the number of artificial reefs being deployed around the world, many of which are designed to increase catches of recreationally-targeted fish species. As artificial reef deployments should be accompanied by clear and measurable goals and thus subsequent environmental impact monitoring and performance evaluation, there is a need to develop cost-effective monitoring programs. This study provides proof of concept for a citizen science approach to monitoring the fish faunas of artificial reefs (Reef Vision). Recreational fishers were recruited to collect video samples using Baited Remote Underwater Video systems and submit the resultant footage for analysis and interpretation by professional scientists. Reef Vision volunteers were able to collect enough data of sufficient quality to monitor the Bunbury and Dunsborough artificial reefs in Geographe Bay, south-western Australia. Data were extracted from the footage and used in robust univariate and multivariate analyses, which determined that a soak time of 45 min was sufficient to capture ≥ 95% of the number of species, abundance, diversity and composition of the fish fauna. The potential for these data to detect differences in the characteristics of the fish fauna between reefs and seasons was also investigated and confirmed. With the continuing deployment of artificial reefs around the world, the use of similar cost-effective citizen science monitoring approaches can help determine the effectiveness of these structures in achieving their aims and goals and provide valuable data for researchers, managers and decision makers. Projects such as Reef Vision can also benefit volunteers and communities by enhancing social values, creating ownership over research projects and fostering stewardship of aquatic resources.
Ecosystem‐based management and conservation approaches such as marine protected areas (MPAs) require large amounts of ecological data to be implemented and adaptively managed. Recently, many citizen science programs have endeavored to help provide these much‐needed data. Implementation of MPAs under the Marine Life Protection Act (MLPA) Initiative in Southern California was followed by a monitoring program to establish a comprehensive baseline of the ecological conditions of several marine ecosystems at the time of MPA implementation. This baseline monitoring consortium involved several citizen science monitoring programs alongside more traditional academic monitoring programs, creating an opportunity to evaluate the potential for citizen scientists to become more involved in future long‐term monitoring efforts. We investigated different citizen science models, their program goals, and contributions to MPA baseline monitoring, including their respective monitoring protocols and data quality assurance measures, in the context of the goals of the MLPA baseline monitoring program. We focused on three very different case studies: (i) commercial fishermen and other volunteers collaborating with researchers to study the California spiny lobster, (ii) volunteer divers monitoring rocky reefs with the Reef Check California (RCCA) program and (iii) middle and high school students monitoring the inter‐tidal life of rocky shore and sandy beach ecosystems with the National Marine Sanctuaries’ Long‐term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students (LiMPETS) program. We elucidate capacities and potential of citizen science approaches for MPA baseline monitoring and for building capacity towards sustainable long‐term monitoring of MPAs. Results from this study will be relevant and timely as the monitoring of California's MPAs transitions from baseline to long‐term monitoring, and as citizen science continues to become more prevalent in California and elsewhere.
Various methods have been adopted for monitoring marine megafauna and cetaceans in particular. Most of them rely on direct observation and have strong limitations: they are expensive and time-consuming; they allow monitoring only at small spatial and temporal scales; they require specialised technical staff. Satellite imagery to detect and count marine mammals from the space has become feasible. In the last years, the spectral, spatial and temporal accuracy of very high resolution satellites have improved, allowing to conduct censuses and to produce valid population estimates for some species. With the appearance of Web 2.0, ubiquitous computing and the related technological advancements, the different networks enable the general public to contribute, disseminate and exchange information. The use of data collected by citizen science projects is now ubiquitous, but still presents some challenges that need to be addressed. A major issue is that data collected by the public must be validated. We present a model for real-time monitoring of cetaceans by combining the citizen science and satellite image processing with the main link defined as location–time.
Citizen Science projects involve ordinary people in scientific research, providing new insights and perspectives. Interested members of the public may contribute valuable information as they learn about wildlife in their local communities. This study investigates the spatiotemporal occurrence and distribution of cetaceans off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, based on data obtained by citizen scientists (opportunistic observations - 2013/2016) and by cetacean researchers (dedicated observations - 2011/2016). The citizen scientists recorded 178 sightings of eight cetacean species along the whole Rio de Janeiro coast. Boat surveys (N = 118) were conducted by the authors in two Marine Protected Areas (MPA) and adjacent waters, resulting in a total of 77 records of four cetaceans species. Within the same area surveyed, citizen scientists contributed 98 reports of these four species. There was a high degree of information overlap, although the citizen scientists also expanded the database on the occurrence and distribution of cetaceans. The citizen scientists also confirmed the occurrence in the study area of four additional cetacean species, not recorded during the surveys. Opportunistic observations obtained from citizen scientists are thus a fundamentally important complementary tool for this type of investigation. The distribution records of the two datasets were also broadly compatible, in particular for the inshore sightings and the seasonal distribution of three of the four principal species. Overall, then, the data provided by from citizen scientists off the coast of Rio de Janeiro were validated by the boat surveys, which focused specifically on the area of the MPAs and adjacencies. The information provided by the combined dataset provides important insights for the creation of a buffer zone, which provide an additional layer of protection for the region's marine biota.
The protection of marine megafauna within Europe is rather fragmented. Developing conservation measures for highly mobile species presents definite challenges, particularly due to the many knowledge gaps. Recent studies have shown that these gaps can be filled in by Platforms of Opportunity (PO) which create low-cost approaches. However, the number of wildlife tour operators actively collecting PO data related to distribution and relative abundance of marine fauna remains limited. In this study, we investigated whether effort-corrected data on marine megafauna facilitated by a wildlife tour operator afforded robust long temporal data (2011-2015). Sightings data, collected in the wider Mount’s Bay area (southwest Cornwall, UK), along with a GPS application, were collected to accurately record survey effort. In addition, radial sighting distances and detection curves were computed to explore the robustness of the data. Density maps of marine megafauna indicated that encounters occurred throughout the area in all three seasons but the temporal distribution was significantly different with numbers peaking in autumn. Odontocetes were mostly recorded during autumn, basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and ocean sunfish (Mola mola) were more abundant during summer and leatherback turtles (Dermochelys coriacea) were recorded occasionally. Our data showed that this shallow coastal environment is particularly important as a nursing area for harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena). Risso’s dolphins (Grampus griseus) showed a high semi-residency pattern for adults with calves within one core-habitat. As such, the study provides important spatial and temporal baseline data that are essential for the protection of marine megafauna through the development of an ecological network of marine protected areas within UK waters. Although, data facilitated by wildlife operators have certain shortcomings we highlight that the protocols developed here secured efficient and precise data. Such collection protocols can be implemented on a larger scale, ultimately enhancing research monitoring efforts and marine ecosystem management.
The oceans’ phytoplankton that underpin the marine food chain appear to be changing in abundance due to global climate change. Here, we compare the first four years of data from a citizen science ocean transparency study, conducted by seafarers using home-made Secchi Disks and a free Smartphone application called Secchi, with contemporaneous satellite ocean colour measurements. Our results show seafarers collect useful Secchi Disk measurements of ocean transparency that could help future assessments of climate-induced changes in the phytoplankton when used to extend historical Secchi Disk data.
Resource monitoring is a key issue in ecosystem management especially for marine protected areas (MPAs), where information on the composition and structure of fish assemblages is crucial to design a suitable management process. Data on fish assemblage are usually collected using underwater visual censuses (UVC). However, fish assemblages monitoring in MPAs usually calls for considerable resources in terms of costs, time and technical/scientific skills. Financial resources and trained scientific divers may, however, not be available in certain geographical areas, that are thus understudied. Therefore, involving citizen volunteer divers in fish assemblage monitoring and adopting easy-to-use underwater visual census methods could be an effective way to collect crucial data. Citizen science can be used only if it can provide information that is consistent with that collected using standard scientific monitoring. Here, we aim: 1) to compare the consistency of results from a Standard scientific UVC (S-UVC) and an Easy-to-use UVC (E-UVC) method in assessing fish assemblage spatial variability, and 2) to test the consistency of data collected by Scientific Divers (SD) and Scientifically-Trained Volunteer divers (STV), using E-UVC. We used, in two consecutive years, three Tunisian future Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and adjacent areas as case studies. E-UVC and S-UVC data were consistent. Both methods reported the same spatial patterns for the three MPAs (between MPAs and, inside and outside each one), highlighting the consistency between S-UVC and E-UVC. No significant difference was recorded between data collected by SD or STV. Our results suggest that E-UVC can provide information representing simplified proxies for describing fish assemblages and can therefore be a valuable tool for fish monitoring by citizen divers in understudied areas. This evidence could foster citizen science as an effective tool to raise environmental awareness and involve stakeholders in resource management.
Citizen Science is an approach which involves members of the public in gathering scienti c data and, in more advanced cases, also involves them in the analysis of such data and in the design of scienti c research. Bene ts of this approach include enhancing monitoring capabilities, empowering citizens and increasing Ocean Literacy, which can itself lead to the development of environmentally-friendly behaviours. There is a long history of citizen participation in science as a general concept. However, the process of studying and understanding the best ways to develop, implement, and evaluate Citizen Science is just beginning and it has recently been proposed that the study of the process and outcomes of Citizen Science merits acknowledgement as a distinct discipline in its own right.
Considering the vastness of the ocean, the extensiveness of the world’s coastlines, and the diversity of habitats, communities and species, a full scienti c exploration and understanding of this realm requires intensive research and observation activities over time and space. Citizen Science is a potentially powerful tool for the generation of scienti c knowledge to a level that would not be possible for the scienti c community alone. Additionally, Citizen Science initiatives should be promoted because of their bene ts in creating awareness of the challenges facing the world’s ocean and increasing Ocean Literacy.
Responding to this, the European Marine Board convened a Working Group on Citizen Science, whose main aim was to provide new ideas and directions to further the development of Marine Citizen Science, with particular consideration for the European context.
This position paper introduces the concept and rationale of Citizen Science, in particular regarding its relationship to marine research. The paper then explores European experiences of Marine Citizen Science, presenting common factors of success for European initiatives as examples of good practice. The types of data amenable to Citizen Science are outlined, along with concerns and measures relating to ensuring the scienti c quality of those data. The paper further explores the social aspects of participation in Marine Citizen Science, outlining the societal bene ts in terms of impact and education. The current and potential future role of technology in Marine Citizen Science projects is also addressed including, the relationship between citizens and earth observations, and the relevance of progress in the area of unmanned observing systems. The paper nally presents proposals for the improved integration and management of Marine Citizen Science on a European scale. This leads to a detailed discussion on Marine Citizen Science informing Marine Policy, taking into account the requirements of the Aarhus Convention as well as the myriad of EU marine and environmental policies.
The paper concludes with the presentation of eight Strategic Action Areas for Marine Citizen Science in Europe (see summary below with details in Chapter 4). These action areas, which are aimed not only at the marine research community, but also at scientists from multiple disciplines (including non-marine), higher education institutions, funding bodies and policy makers, should together enable coherent future Europe-wide application of Marine Citizen Science for the bene t of all.
To meet collective obligations towards biodiversity conservation and monitoring, it is essential that the world's governments and non-governmental organisations as well as the research community tap all possible sources of data and information, including new, fast-growing sources such as citizen science (CS), in which volunteers participate in some or all aspects of environmental assessments. Through compilation of a database on CS and community-based monitoring (CBM, a subset of CS) programs, we assess where contributions from CS and CBM are significant and where opportunities for growth exist. We use the Essential Biodiversity Variable framework to describe the range of biodiversity data needed to track progress towards global biodiversity targets, and we assess strengths and gaps in geographical and taxonomic coverage. Our results show that existing CS and CBM data particularly provide large-scale data on species distribution and population abundance, species traits such as phenology, and ecosystem function variables such as primary and secondary productivity. Only birds, Lepidoptera and plants are monitored at scale. Most CS schemes are found in Europe, North America, South Africa, India, and Australia. We then explore what can be learned from successful CS/CBM programs that would facilitate the scaling up of current efforts, how existing strengths in data coverage can be better exploited, and the strategies that could maximise the synergies between CS/CBM and other approaches for monitoring biodiversity, in particular from remote sensing. More and better targeted funding will be needed, if CS/CBM programs are to contribute further to international biodiversity monitoring.