Science for the Future: The Use of Citizen Science in Marine Research and Conservation

Hannah Earp, Arianna Liconti

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Over the last decade, significant advances in citizen science have occurred, allowing projects to extend in scope from the ocean floor to the Milky Way and cover almost everything in between. These projects have provided cost-effective means to collect extensive data sets covering vast spatio-temporal scales that can be used in scientific research, to develop conservation policy and to promote environmental awareness. This review explores the current status of marine citizen science by examining 120 marine citizen science projects. Trends in geographic locations, focal taxa, participant demographics, tasks undertaken and data directionality (i.e. storage and publication) are highlighted, and the challenges and benefits of citizen science to marine research and conservation are reviewed. Marine citizen science projects act primarily at national levels (53.3%) and mainly focus on coastal ocean environments (49.2%) with chordates as the most popular focus taxa (40%). Some form of methodological training for participants is provided by 64.2% of projects, and the most popular tasks undertaken are field surveys (35.8%) and reporting of opportunistic sightings (34.2%). Data quality and participant motivation are among the most common challenges facing projects, but identified strengths include enhanced marine policy, increased scientific knowledge and environmental stewardship. In conclusion, marine citizen science lies at a crossroads of unresolved challenges, demonstrated successes and unrealized potential. However, should the challenges be addressed, the unique capacity of citizen science to broaden the scope of investigations may be the key to the future of marine research and conservation in times of global change and financial hardship.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationYOUMARES 9 - The Oceans: Our Research, Our Future
EditorsSimon Jungblut, Viola Liebich, Maya Bode-Dalby
ISBN (Electronic)9783030203894
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2019


  • volunteer
  • public participation
  • community-based monitoring
  • environmental policy
  • ecological surveying


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