National Marine Sanctuaries
  40 Years of Sanctuaries - Top 40 Accomplishments 

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#31 1993
The Citizen as Scientist: Helping Sanctuary Research and Protection

In 1993, Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary established the Beach Watch Program, one of the first citizen-science monitoring projects within NOAA and one that continues today. Approximately 100 highly trained, citizen-scientists conduct monthly surveys. The data collected help inform sanctuary management by identifying animals vulnerable to stressors such as oil pollution, disturbance, entanglement and marine debris, and helping track the health and trends of key species.

Beach Watch has inspired similar efforts in the Sanctuary System. In 1996, 140 volunteers took to the shorelines of Oahu to count Hawaii’s endangered whale population. Jump ahead to 2012 and now over 2,300 volunteers across three islands participate annually. Over 31 Washington beaches are monitored monthly by citizen scientists for dead birds through the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team (COASST), providing important insights in trends in seabird populations and mortality events. In 2007, baseline data from the environmental monitoring program called LiMPETS for teachers, students, and citizen scientists were requested to help assess the damage caused by the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay. Sanctuaries also benefit from fish survey data collected by recreational divers through the REEF (Reef Environmental Education Foundation) Fish Survey Project.

Participate in citizen science projects that help monitor the environment. Count fish, test water quality, remove trash, or even count plankton. The more data we collect, the better we can understand and protect our planet, and ultimately ourselves. Join one of the programs in the Sanctuary System, or find your project.

citizen scientists at work
More about the Beach Watch Program
More about the Ocean Count
More about Team Ocean - Florida Keys
More about Team Ocean - Monterey Bay
More information about REEF's Fish Survey project