Citizen and Community Science plays a special role in efforts to conserve and manage California’s ocean and coastal resources. There is a huge diversity of projects and programming operating up and down the coast, which engage the public in science and monitoring, often with direct connections to policy and management processes.
The monitoring of California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPA), for example, has emphasized public participation and partnerships since its inception. Citizen science has been used as part of monitoring program to cost-effectively collect data as well as explore opportunities to expand and deepen education, outreach, and stewardship activities. During the early “baseline monitoring period” of the MPA network, 14 projects included citizen science activities as a formal part of their monitoring process (summarized recently in Chapter 7 of Faculty Director Heidi Ballard’s edited volume on marine and coastal citizen science).
Sustaining the Commitment
A recent meeting of the California Ocean Protection Council provided a great example of this. On May 23 the OPC approved significant funds for three different citizen science programs, whose work supports ongoing MPA implementation:
- The California Collaborative Fisheries Research Program, involving volunteer anglers in fish surveys;
- Reef Check California, in which volunteer SCUBA divers survey rocky reefs; and
- MPA Watch, a social citizen science program in which volunteers gather data about how people are using ocean and coastal natural resources.
We are excited to be a part of these increasing efforts to support MPA monitoring with citizen and community science. The funds granted by OPC include an 18-month postdoctoral fellowship to analyze data collected by citizen scientists about how people interact with marine and coastal resources along the coast. The postdoc will work with our group, as well as the UC Davis Center for Environmental Policy and Behavior, state partners, and the many nonprofits who collaborate to make MPA Watch a successful statewide effort. Watch this space for more news about our work with MPA Watch, and California’s thriving ocean and coastal citizen science community!