**This blog entry orginally appeared on the website oceanspaces.org.**/p>

As part of a trio of Ocean Science Trust delegates to the International Marine Conservation Congress that happened recently in Glasgow, Scotland, I had the opportunity to meet with many other marine-conservation minded people from around the world. Conversations happened in the halls of the convention center, but also over haggis and scotch at local eateries and with the online community on twitter’s #imcc3 hashtag. We all shared stories from our home countries of marine protected areas, ocean zoning, fishing turfs, community-based conservation, and other strategies to help our ocean ecosystems. These stories helped maintain an ethic of optimism, and working toward solutions, throughout the conference.

Every whale shark’s spot pattern is unique.
photo from stokes rx

One of these sources of optimism and an emergent theme throughout many conference activities is the rise of citizen science. Ryan and I helped coordinate a day full of thinking about citizen science in a marine context, with examples of citizen science meeting successful outcomes and time to create some toolkits for best practices so others can meet the same successful outcome. I learned tons during these sessions, even from my co-organizers with whom I’ve had many conversations in the past. For example, did you know that you can identify whale shark individuals the same way we identify star patterns, using the spots on their skin?

During our more interactive workshop time, we learned from the broader marine conservation community that there is a large and growing demand for citizen science programs. Many people attended our workshop to help develop their brand-new programs and get some advice from veterans in the room. We had great turnout, with about 100 people attending some portion of our day and contributing to our final product. We’re still polishing that final product, so keep a look out here on OceanSpaces for when we share our citizen science toolkits.

But it wasn’t just us thinking about and utilizing citizen science. The conference kicked off with four plenary speakers, two of which feature citizen science prominantly in their work. The first was from the team at Marine Conservation Society UK, which runs a trash-tracking program known as Beach Watch and hosts a reporting platform for sightings of basking sharks, turtles, and jellyfish. These data will help them evaluate their efforts to implement new marine protected areas across the UK as they continue to engage a population who the want to work towards ocean health. The second was Amanda Vincent, director of Project Seahorse, who urged the audience to not just study the ocean but to do something about it. One way in which her organization is simultaneously learning about ocean and protecting one of its arguably cutest residents is through their new citizen science program, iSeahorse. The program is tailored to the culture of each area seahorses live to help connect nature and culture in hopes of preserving both.

Between this welcoming introduction, our day-long thinktank, and talks from other programs like ReefCheck California and REEF, citizen science occupied a large proportion of the conversation on how to save our oceans. Personally, I’m excited to see such an inclusive, optimistic approach to marine conservation and hope this trend continues into the future.

 

UPDATE

Here’s a list of all the talks from our symposium (find abstracts here)

Public Participation in Marine and Coastal Research and Monitoring: Linking Citizen Science with Conservation Outcomes. Heidi L. Ballard *, University of California, Davis; Tina Phillips Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Making Citizen Science Matter for California’s Marine Protected Areas: engaging diverse knowledge producers in monitoring for adaptive management. Ryan Meyer , California Ocean Science Trust; Amy Freitag *California Ocean Science Trust

Making citizen science matter for queen conch (Strombus gigas) in Belize. Cigliano, John A. *, CEDAR CREST COLLEGE; Kliman, Richard M. Cedar Crest College

Flukebook: Connecting stakeholders in cetacean conservation science through powerful web-based tools and social media. Levenson, J *, United States Department of Interior, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, USA; Gero, S Aarhus University, Denmark; Harris, E Caribbean Association of Whale Watch Operators, Dominica WI; Huber, R Organization of American States, USA; Holmberg, J Wild Me, USA

Lessons from a Decade of Collaborative Research for Whale Sharks. Holmberg, Jason *, Wild Me; Arzoumanian, Zaven Wild Me

LiMPETS- Engaging Youth in Citizen Science, Connecting Students to Their Coastal Resources through the Scientific Process. Wasser, Ann *, Pacific Grove Museum of Natural History; Dean, Amy Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association; Nickels, Abby Farallones Marine Sanctuary Association