Blog Post
by Amy Freitag / Virginia Sea Grant, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office

Citizen Science in the MPA Monitoring Plan

May 12, 2014

Now that baseline monitoring in the Central Coast is complete, the we are working closely with the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Ocean Protection Council to design and implement the next phase of MPA Monitoring. This includes updating the monitoring plan, and conducting a survey of research and monitoring activities throughout the region (see here for more about this process). photos by Jim Wicker

During our recent workshop bringing citizen science groups of the Central Coast together, we wanted to know how these groups see their activities fitting into MPA monitoring. A simple mapping exercise, matching programs with the broad categories (Ecosystem Features) that are covered by the MPA monitoring framework, is useful in a couple of ways. First, it can help to illuminate the true breadth of activities represented by these citizen science programs. And second, it is an opportunity for the programs themselves to think through potential synergies between their activities and MPA monitoring (in contrast to my categorizations).

So, in how many of the ten Ecosystem Features our Central Coast citizen science workshop participants see a match? In short: you’d be surprised. It’s all of them.

consumptive uses

  • CCFRP
  • Beach Watch
  • MPA Watch/Otter Project
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries - marine mammal disturbances
  • Seabird Protection Network - disturbances

nonconsumptive uses

  • Surfrider Blue Water Task Force
  • REEF
  • Grunion Greeters
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Seabird Protection Network
  • Beachwatch

estuarine and wetland ecosystems

  • Surfrider Blue Water Task Force
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
  • Beach Watch
  • marine debris tracker
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Grunion Greeters
  • Jellywatch

deep ecosystems and canyons

  • Jellywatch (a little)
  • REEF (canyons within dive depths)
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

rocky intertidal ecosystems

  • LiMPETS
  • Surfrider Blue Water Task Force
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
  • Beach Watch
  • Marine Debris Tracker
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Jellywatch
  • Seabird Monitoring (black oystercatcher)

kelp and shallow rock ecosystems

  • seabird monitoring
  • ReefCheck
  • CCFRP
  • REEF
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife
  • Marine Debris Tracker
  • Jellywatch
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries

mid-depth rocky ecosystems

  • CCFRP
  • REEF
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

nearshore pelagic ecosystems

  • Jellywatch
  • Seabird monitoring
  • BeachCOMBERS
  • BeachWatch
  • Marine Debris Tracker
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

soft bottom subtidal ecosystems

  • Seabird Monitoring
  • REEF
  • Marine Debris Tracker
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

soft bottom intertidal and beach

  • LiMPETS
  • Jellywatch
  • BeachCOMBERS
  • Surfrider Blue Water Task Force
  • Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuaries
  • Beach Watch
  • Marine Debris Tracker
  • Grunion Greeters
  • CA Department of Fish and Wildlife

If this looks different from the way we categorized programs early last fall, that’s primarily because not everyone chose to participate in this activity. That makes the fact that all the Ecosystem Features were matched even more remarkable. It’s important to note that this mapping took place at a high level. There was no consideration of the specific metrics and focal species that will be covered in the updated Central Coast MPA Monitoring Plan, because the document has yet to be released.

The lesson for us was that these programs gather a much broader array of data than we recognized before. For example, groups that monitor birds and marine mammals also end up taking data on human disturbances. And since REEF volunteers can take data wherever they normally like to dive, their data can also document the most popular diving locations.

However, thanks to the Department of Fish and Wildlife for participating! They emphasized by putting their name under each category that their activities, through both DFW science and partnerships with us and others, they monitor every habitat in the ocean. This will serve as a good model for future partnerships.

And, as the Jellywatchers who recorded observations of deep-sea jellyfish demonstrate, citizens can go to even the most inaccessible parts of our ocean. While most monitor their coasts from shore, there are always some adventurous volunteers. Given such wide a wide range of capacity, how do you think these programs can expand in the future?

Recent blog posts

Blog Post
by Michael Bear / Ocean Sanctuaries
May 26, 2017

Mary Ellen Hannibal is author of the book 'Citizen Scientist: Searching for Heroes and Hope in an Age of Extinction' [https://tinyurl.com/yd6mvqxt] and she gave an excellent talk at the Long Beach Citizen Science Symposium that we attended this year.