Missouri Botanical Garden Open Conference Systems, TDWG 2014 ANNUAL CONFERENCE

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Making Dives That Count: ocean citizen science monitoring
Christy V Pattengill-Semmens

Building: Elmia Congress Centre, Jönköping
Room: Rydbergsalen
Date: 2014-10-30 02:15 PM – 02:30 PM
Last modified: 2014-10-03


Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) has coordinated an ongoing sub-tidal ocean monitoring program called the Volunteer Fish Survey Project since 1993. REEF volunteers use the Roving Diver Technique, a non-point survey where the surveyors swim freely around the dive site. REEF surveyors record all fish species positively identified and estimates categorical abundance for each species: Single (S) -1; Few (F) - 2-10; Many (M) - 11-100; Abundant (A) - >100. A companion invertebrate and algae monitoring program is part of REEF’s programs in temperate areas. Over 13,000 volunteer divers and snorkelers have participated, and collectively they have submitted over 7.8 million records of fish, invertebrate, and algae sightings from 11,353 sites worldwide. The database includes sightings information on over 3,400 marine species. REEF receives an average of 862 surveys per month, with peak submissions exceeding 1,200 in the summer months. This effort has resulted in an extensive database of marine life distribution and trends. All REEF data are made available to the public. Summary reports of species distributions and geographic areas can be generated via the REEF website. REEF also provides raw data files upon request. Government agencies, conservation organizations, and scientists increasingly use the REEF database to address key management and conservation issues, including fisheries stock assessments, evaluation of trends of fish and invertebrate species, understanding ecological patterns, the identification and removal of non-native species, and in the identification of new species. To date, forty scientific publications have included REEF data. REEF has implemented data management systems and recruitment programs that are relatively simple but effective. To ensure a high level of accuracy, REEF staff have incorporated many layers of quality assurance in the program, including rated surveyor experience levels, automated error checking during data submission, and an extensive debugging process conducted by REEF staff. In order to make the most of the its citizen science outputs, REEF strives to foster partnerships with individuals and groups capable of analyzing, interpreting, scientific publishing, and public communicating. One of the biggest challenges faced by REEF staff and users of REEF data is to identify (and execute) appropriate analysis tools that capitalize on the power of the data collected while adequately addressing uncertainty. Several recently published papers describe new analytic techniques that explicitly address the error structure of the data within models of species trends and abundance. Another challenge is the limited tools available for spanning the intersection of data, interpretation, and public messaging. The REEF database is currently not linked to any external databases or programs, but the organization is interested developing the infrastructure necessary for collaboration.