USING CITIZEN SCIENCE
Citizen science is the systematic collection of data for a specific purpose by community volunteers. Citizen science is now a widely accepted method of collecting information across large areas and over long time periods that cannot be done by formal science. It can also be really useful for collecting data on uncommon species that are hard to find. Furthermore, there is growing interest in exploring citizen science in terms of local ecological knowledge - the knowledge people have about species and the environment drawn from years of experience. Going further, many Indigenous Peoples have whole knowledge systems built around observing and interpreting environmental data. In a vast oceanic region like the Indo-Pacific, citizen science may hold the key to documenting the occurrence and distribution of species.
There are many examples of citizen science being used in
environmental monitoring and management (click here to
see a special series of scientific papers on citizen science projects).
Citizen science is in action everywhere. In fact, most fisheries
around the world rely on a form of citizen science - the fisheries catch
logbooks that commercial fishers complete. However, citizen science
projects need to have ways to ensure that the data collected are
reliable and accurate. That's why in many fisheries, commercial
logbooks are validated by specially trained independent observers.
This is also why SharkSearch Indo-Pacific has its clear quality checks
that include verifying photographs, and review by in-country experts,
taxonomists and scientists.
Citizen science in shark and ray research
There have been several citizen science projects on sharks and rays,
and citizen scientists have been involved in various stages of the
research, from collecting data to analyzing it.
In vast ocean areas like the Indo-Pacific, citizen science can be extremely valuable in helping scientists log the occurrence and distribution of species
The Great Porcupine Ray Hunt in Australia was a pilot study to collect
information on the biology, behavior and distribution of the porcupine
ray (Urogymnus asperrimus), a little known ray covered in thorny spikes.
In order to find out more about the species, the research team
advertised the project through social media and the dive industry
calling for divers to submit information, photos and videos of
porcupine ray sightings.
Shark Search Indo-Pacific is built upon the idea of the Great Porcupine
Ray Hunt, but its being done at a much grander scale . . .
In the Great Porcupine Ray Hunt, the photos and records divers sent in extended the southern range of the species to Lady Elliott Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef, provided a depth range, and identified new hotspots for where the species can be found. These records more than doubled the number of records scientists had of the species and was very important in understanding this unusual ray. In fact, the project enabled scientists to mount an expedition funded by the Save Or Seas Foundation to find and track these animals in the southern Great Barrier Reef.
There are many more examples of citizen scientists involved in shark and ray research, such as:
Tracking whale sharks, basking sharks, and manta rays by photographs of the animal's spots and patterns
Monitoring sharks at Shark Reef in Fiji through the Great Fiji Shark Count
Global observations of sharks through SharkBase
The Great Egg Case Hunt (collecting the egg cases of skates)
SharkSearch Indo-Pacific needs citizen scientists - diving photographers - to dig into their SD cards and hard drives to help us complete shark and ray checklists for every country and territory in the Indo-Pacific