you're reading...


Here’s how non-scientists can help protect marine life

This post is part of a semester-long collaboration with Dr. Michèle LaVigne, a professor at Bowdoin College, who partnered with oceanbites authors to incorporate science communication into her Oceanography classes. This is a guest post co-authored by two of her Oceanography students, Katelyn Cox and Tashi Brundige.

Freiwald, J, Meyer, R, Caselle, JE, et al. Citizen science monitoring of marine protected areas: Case studies and recommendations for integration into monitoring programs. Mar Ecol. 2018; 39:e12470. https://doi.org/10.1111/maec.12470

Have you ever wanted to help do marine science research? Marine protected areas could use your help!

Marine Protected Areas

A Marine Protected Area is similar to wilderness areas or national parks, except that it aims to protect an underwater ecosystem. It is important to monitor marine protected areas to see whether they are successfully preserving the health of sea life, such as sea urchins, starfish, reef-dwelling fish, and shellfish. This monitoring helps ensure the seafood on your dinner table is sustainably harvested and will be available to catch and eat for years to come. Collaboration between scientists and volunteers is increasingly important to these efforts as these marine protected areas cover a wide extent of ocean. For instance, Southern California marine protected areas account for around 356 square miles, an area that is slightly larger than San Diego. If we consider all marine protected areas around the United States, the area quickly becomes difficult to manage by even a large group of scientists and volunteers. So when it comes to monitoring marine protected areas, the more the merrier!

A group of scientists in California recently explored the value of involving everyday citizens in the monitoring of marine protected areas – a concept known as citizen science – in California’s South Coast Study Region. They highlighted a few case studies that involve a diverse group of scientists, fishermen, interested citizens, and students working towards one common goal: to assess the health of marine ecosystems protected by California’s Marine Life Protection Act. These assessments help scientists understand what species are at the highest risk with changing climate conditions. They also inform policymakers who create certain regulations that protect key endangered species. Monitoring large areas like these coastal ecosystems can be a huge undertaking, so scientists are looking for engaged citizens to help.

Case Studies Involving Fishermen, Volunteers, and Students

Citizen volunteers and lobstermen helped scientists study spiny lobsters (pictured) in California. Photo by Meritt Thomas on Unsplash

One case study involved monitoring spiny lobster health off the California South Coast. For three years, a crew of scientists worked with lobstermen who provided equipment and tremendous ecological knowledge about the species, as well as with citizen volunteers who provided extra hands. The team caught lobsters, recorded their size, sex, and reproductive status, and then tagged and released them.  Citizen volunteers were trained how to record all that data, allowing the team of researchers and volunteers to work faster and more efficiently.

Why did lobstermen agree to give up part of their busy workday to help researchers? Because they wanted their local lobster populations to thrive! By helping scientists monitor spiny lobster health, lobstermen learn how data is collected. This data then impacts local fishing regulations, which the lobstermen must follow. Participating in the monitoring process allows lobstermen to advocate for good fishing practices while ensuring their own future employment.

Overfishing and changing climate conditions are growing concerns, so it is important to establish similar monitoring studies elsewhere to ensure sustainable fishing practices in other parts of the world. It is expected that citizen volunteers will play an important monitoring role in other parts of the world as many of the marine protected areas are large and difficult to manage for scientists alone.

Another example outlined in this study was called the Long-term Monitoring Program and Experiential Training for Students. LiMPETS is a hands-on program for 7th-12th graders to go out and collect data on field trips at 68 sites in the state of California about coastal wildlife. Their data is then uploaded to a public database.

This study found that their data collection practices, built for easy use by younger students, left some holes in the monitoring protocol that scientists would need to fill in. However, modifications to the LiMPETS program are underway. Such programs expose students to field science and connect them to the environment, encouraging them to care about its protection – and maybe even to become scientists themselves!

How can you help?

You may be wondering what qualifications citizens need before volunteering to help. Not many! If volunteers are organized and can successfully follow directions, their help is valuable in the data collection process as all necessary training is provided before volunteers start.

Non-scientists are often invaluable in helping with field research. Image by Cara_VSAngel licensed under CC search.creativecommons.org

So why is the potential of citizen science something to pay attention to? Involving non-scientists in monitoring and research gives the public a greater connection to the issues at stake. Opening up the field of scientific research also makes it possible for people who are interested in science and data collection to expand their skills and get hands-on experience.

But it’s not just non-scientists who benefit from this experience. When many people with diverse skills and backgrounds contribute to data collection, scientists do more thorough research and learn how to better communicate their research to non-scientists. This also creates important “buy-in” from stakeholders like fishermen and voting citizens whose involvement could determine the fate of protected areas. Scientists need people who are interested in their work too!

Want to learn more about citizen science opportunities around you? Visit this site [https://www.citizenscience.gov] to find projects that are looking for volunteer citizen scientists near you. Regardless how close you are to the ocean, scientists are currently looking for citizen volunteers for a variety of research topics. So chances are, there is a citizen science opportunity near you!


No comments yet.

Post a Comment


  • by oceanbites 2 months ago
    Happy Earth Day! Take some time today to do something for the planet and appreciate the ocean, which covers 71% of the Earth’s surface.  #EarthDay   #OceanAppreciation   #Oceanbites   #CoastalVibes   #CoastalRI 
  • by oceanbites 3 months ago
    Not all outdoor science is fieldwork. Some of the best days in the lab can be setting up experiments, especially when you get to do it outdoors. It’s an exciting mix of problem solving, precision, preparation, and teamwork. Here is
  • by oceanbites 4 months ago
    Being on a research cruise is a unique experience with the open water, 12-hour working shifts, and close quarters, but there are some familiar practices too. Here Diana is filtering seawater to gather chlorophyll for analysis, the same process on
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #oceanbites  we are featuring Hannah Collins  @hannahh_irene  Hannah works with marine suspension feeding bivalves and microplastics, investigating whether ingesting microplastics causes changes to the gut microbial community or gut tissues. She hopes to keep working
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    Leveling up - did you know that crabs have a larval phase? These are both porcelain crabs, but the one on the right is the earlier stage. It’s massive spine makes it both difficult to eat and quite conspicuous in
  • by oceanbites 5 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Cierra Braga. Cierra works ultraviolet c (UVC) to discover how this light can be used to combat biofouling, or the growth of living things, on the hulls of ships. Here, you
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Elena Gadoutsis  @haysailor  These photos feature her “favorite marine research so far: From surveying tropical coral reefs, photographing dolphins and whales, and growing my own algae to expose it to different
  • by oceanbites 6 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on Oceanbites we are featuring Eliza Oldach. According to Ellie, “I study coastal communities, and try to understand the policies and decisions and interactions and adaptations that communities use to navigate an ever-changing world. Most of
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Jiwoon Park with a little photographic help from Ryan Tabata at the University of Hawaii. When asked about her research, Jiwoon wrote “Just like we need vitamins and minerals to stay
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  on  #Oceanbites  we are featuring  @riley_henning  According to Riley, ”I am interested in studying small things that make a big impact in the ocean. Right now for my master's research at the University of San Diego,
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Gabby Stedman. Gabby is interested in interested in understanding how many species of small-bodied animals there are in the deep-sea and where they live so we can better protect them from
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    This week for  #WriterWednesday  at  #Oceanbites  we are featuring Shawn Wang! Shawn is “an oceanographer that studies ocean conditions of the past. I use everything from microfossils to complex computer models to understand how climate has changed in the past
  • by oceanbites 7 months ago
    Today we are highlighting some of our awesome new authors for  #WriterWednesday  Today we have Daniel Speer! He says, “I am driven to investigate the interface of biology, chemistry, and physics, asking questions about how organisms or biological systems respond
  • by oceanbites 8 months ago
    Here at Oceanbites we love long-term datasets. So much happens in the ocean that sometimes it can be hard to tell if a trend is a part of a natural cycle or actually an anomaly, but as we gather more
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    Have you ever seen a lobster molt? Because lobsters have exoskeletons, every time they grow they have to climb out of their old shell, leaving them soft and vulnerable for a few days until their new shell hardens. Young, small
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    A lot of zooplankton are translucent, making it much easier to hide from predators. This juvenile mantis shrimp was almost impossible to spot floating in the water, but under a dissecting scope it’s features really come into view. See the
  • by oceanbites 9 months ago
    This is a clump of Dead Man’s Fingers, scientific name Codium fragile. It’s native to the Pacific Ocean and is invasive where I found it on the east coast of the US. It’s a bit velvety, and the coolest thing
  • by oceanbites 10 months ago
    You’ve probably heard of jellyfish, but have you heard of salps? These gelatinous sea creatures band together to form long chains, but they can also fall apart and will wash up onshore like tiny gemstones that squish. Have you seen
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Check out what’s happening on a cool summer research cruise! On the  #neslter  summer transect cruise, we deployed a tow sled called the In Situ Icthyoplankton Imaging System. This can take pictures of gelatinous zooplankton (like jellyfish) that would be
  • by oceanbites 11 months ago
    Did you know horseshoe crabs have more than just two eyes? In these juveniles you can see another set in the middle of the shell. Check out our website to learn about some awesome horseshoe crab research.  #oceanbites   #plankton   #horseshoecrabs 
WP2Social Auto Publish Powered By : XYZScripts.com