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An evaluation of Sea Search as a citizen science programme in Marine Protected Areas
journal contributionposted on 01.01.2009, 00:00 authored by Rebecca Koss, Kelly MillerKelly Miller, Geoffrey WescottGeoffrey Wescott, Alecia BellgroveAlecia Bellgrove, A Boxshall, J McBurnie, Ashley Bunce, Patrick Gilmour, Daniel IerodiaconouDaniel Ierodiaconou
Citizen science involves collaboration between multi-sector agencies and the public to address a natural resource management issue. The Sea Search citizen science programme involves community groups in monitoring and collecting subtidal rocky reef and intertidal rocky shore data in Victorian Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Australia. In this study we compared volunteer and scientifically collected data and the volunteer motivation for participation in the Sea Search programme. Intertidal rocky shore volunteer-collected data was found to be typically comparable to data collected by scientists for species richness and diversity measures. For subtidal monitoring there was also no significant difference for species richness recorded by scientists and volunteers. However, low statistical power suggest only large changes could be detected due to reduced data replication. Generally volunteers recorded lower species diversity for biological groups compared to scientists, albeit not significant. Species abundance measures for algae species were significantly different between volunteers and scientists. These results suggest difficulty in identification and abundance measurements by volunteers and the need for additional training requirements necessary for surveying algae assemblages. The subtidal monitoring results also highlight the difficulties of collecting data in exposed rocky reef habitats with weather conditions and volunteer diver availability constraining sampling effort. The prime motivation for volunteer participation in Sea Search was to assist with scientific research followed closely by wanting to work close to nature. This study revealed two important themes for volunteer engagement in Sea Search: 1) volunteer training and participation and, 2) usability of volunteer collected data for MPA managers. Volunteer-collected data through the Sea Search citizen science programme has the potential to provide useable data to assist in informed management practices of Victoria’s MPAs, but requires the support and commitment from all partners involved.