Download a copy of Citizen Science and Ocean Resource Management in California: Guidance for forming productive partnerships. This document brings together our findings from the California Citizen Science Initiative, and helps to inform ongoing dialog among citizen science practitioners, scientists, and natural resource managers.



Linking citizen science with adaptive management

Along the California coast, individuals, groups and organizations are collecting scientific data. This citizen science takes many forms, from spontaneous observations of seabirds to organized fishing surveys of nearshore reefs. The California Citizen Science Initiative explores ways that citizen science links effectively with managers and decision-makers for California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

Each citizen science program has a set of priorities that begin with scientific inquiry and add outreach and education, community-building, inspiring stewardship activities in volunteers, and informing natural resource management. In the Central Coast region of California we have an opportunity to engage with citizen science groups, and explore the potential for partnerships.

California has the largest statewide network of MPAs in the nation. Scientific monitoring is essential to evaluate the effects of MPAs and inform ocean management. We and partners at the Department of Fish and Wildlife developed a framework for MPA monitoring that incorporates broad partnerships with academic institutions, state and federal agencies, fishing communities and citizen scientists. Monitoring in the Central Coast stands at a unique moment in time – transitioning from baseline data collection to long-term monitoring. This transition marks an opportunity to think through the partnerships and initiatives that will most effectively support monitoring and adaptive management over the coming years.

Organizations and groups such as Reef Check, LiMPETS and California Collaborative Fisheries offer examples of local citizens already participating in MPA monitoring. By learning from these and the other Central Coast groups, we are working to broaden and deepen citizen participation in California’s MPA monitoring. 

Advisory Group

The CCSI advisory group provides ongoing guidance and support to the project based on a broad range of research and practical experience related to citizen science, monitoring, and adaptive management. In particular, the advisory group members help to frame research and assessment questions, provide feedback on key products, and evaluate ourselves over the course of this year-long project. Find out more about who they are by clicking on them under “Collaborators” on the right-hand side.

Join The Community!

Add your organization to the growing citizen science community on OceanSpaces. Once you do, you can contribute news items, blog posts, and share your ideas.

Browse the members of the citizen science group to find opportunities to get involved in a local citizen science program.

Email us directly if you have questions or want more information on the research side of this initiative at

Read the Results!

We post our lessons from the initiative on the blog and welcome your comments and feedback - it's a way to maintain an ongoing conversation about these topics. And don't forget to check out Citizen Science and Ocean Resource Management in California: Guidance for forming productive partnerships. 


Project leaders

Ryan Meyer / California Ocean Science Trust
Liz Whiteman / California Ocean Science Trust
Amy Freitag / Virginia Sea Grant, NOAA Chesapeake Bay Office
Marisa Villarreal / California Ocean Science Trust

Project collaborators

Heidi Ballard / UC Davis School of Education
Owen Boyle / Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources
Louise Fortmann / UC Berkeley Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management
Jan Freiwald / Reef Check
Madeleine Hall-Arber / MIT Sea Grant
Fraser Shilling / UC Davis Department of Environmnetal Science and Policy