Citizen science is public participation in scientific research that aims to address real-world problems.
Citizen science aims to answer big science questions under the guidance of professional scientists, usually involving lots of data and a scale that researchers could not manage alone.
Citizen scientists are usually members of the public volunteering their time by:
- Contributing to data collection by submitting their findings, or;
- Analyzing and interpreting existing data.
- Some citizen scientists will assist in other areas too, including marketing and promotions, fundraising, or even basic admin work.
Depending on the project, citizen scientists do not need any particular skills or knowledge, just a degree of commitment – which can range from a one-off to a long-term dedication. In the case of marine citizen science, our diving qualifications afford us the skills to engage in large-scale underwater citizen science projects and initiatives.
This ability is something totally unique to the diving community – no other community on the planet has ever been better equipped than we are today to build a realistic picture of what’s going on beneath the surface. This realistic picture of – for example – coral health, marine debris, or species sightings – is exactly what’s needed by policymakers to implement proper protection measures for our blue planet.
Some examples of leading citizen science projects that PADI Divers are already championing include:
- Dive Against Debris – the world’s largest ever marine debris citizen science project
- Coral Watch – coral reef monitoring spread over 75+ countries
- Manta Matcher – an international database of manta ray sightings
- Wildbook for Whale Sharks – an international database of whale shark sightings
- The Great Reef Census – community-led imaging and analysis to understand the health of the Great Barrier Reef
What is the value of Citizen Science?
Citizen science is all about informing. It’s the one research approach that can educate members of the public while progressing research and informing policy changes which then creates even greater awareness! This is because citizen science projects are open to anybody willing to take part. Another benefit of citizen science is that it allows for experiments to run continuously and on a larger scale – providing a scope that may have otherwise been unavailable.
Not only can research involving citizen scientists provide large and diverse data sets but often are invaluable when it comes to addressing a wide range of ecological research questions.
How does citizen science support marine research?
Participating in marine citizen science allows communities to develop their understanding and connection with the ocean while increasing their understanding of the local and global issues facing the marine environment.
Our flagship marine conservation program, Dive Against Debris® does just that. Scuba divers are in a unique position to witness the destruction that our litter is doing to the underwater environment firsthand, every time we go below the surface. Cleaning up our underwater sanctuaries immediately improves the health of the local ecosystems, but contributing these findings to our global citizen science database has far bigger implications in informing policy changes at local, national and international levels.
How To Get Involved
Here are a few ideas of ways you can get involved…
- Start by asking friends and family – it sounds obvious but they may be involved in something you are not aware of!!
- Contact your local PADI Dive Centre and ask about any upcoming Dives Against Debris. If you are planning a dive trip, check with your tour leader.
- If you live in a coastal area, contact your local Coast Guard and ask if they know of any local projects.
- If you are visiting countries that are known to have manta rays, familiarise yourself with Manta Matcher before you travel.
- Check searches online for local conservation NGO’s or other nonprofit research based initiatives.
- Look for groups on social media and put a shout-out for information on your own accounts too!