Monitoring Marine Protected Areas Using Citizen Science Data

Citizen science can generate biodiversity data at scales intractable for other approaches. We are building the capacity to use citizen science observations to monitor Marine Protected Areas across California.

Since 2012, the Citizen Science team at the Academy has been developing a community of naturalists working together to document biodiversity, connecting people to their local nature and simultaneously collecting data critical to science and management. This has been accomplished through a variety of programs including community bioblitzes, long-term intertidal monitoring, City Nature Challenge, and Snapshot Cal Coast, which scaffold collecting biodiversity observations using the iNaturalist platform with in-person citizen science field experiences.

This project - a collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences, the California Ocean Protection Council (OPC), and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) - aims to design innovative approaches and tools to make use of the Academy’s citizen science efforts in support of the State of California’s long-term MPA monitoring Action Plan. First, this project will result in recommendations for increasing the usefulness of ongoing citizen science data collection, as well as help determine best practices for incorporating iNaturalist data into MPA monitoring to inform MPA management. Second, the project will generate knowledge of California coastal ecology and changing ocean conditions, for instance, by investigating patterns in community structure and diversity, and documenting and understanding implications of species range shifts.