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Marine diversity study proves value of citizen science
Date:3/12/2013

Citizen science surveys compare well with traditional scientific methods when it comes to monitoring species biodiversity according to new research from the University of East Anglia.

Research published today in the journal Methods in Ecology and Evolution shows that methods to record marine diversity used by amateurs returned results consistent with techniques favoured by peer-reviewed science.

The findings give weight to the growing phenomenon of citizen science, which sees data crowd-sourced from an army of avid twitchers, divers, walkers and other wildlife enthusiasts.

The field study compared methods used by 'citizen' SCUBA divers with those used by professional scientists, to measure the variety of fish species in three Caribbean sites.

The divers surveyed the sites using two methods the 'belt transect', used in peer reviewed fish diversity studies, and the 'roving diver technique', used by the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) volunteer fish survey project.

Two teams of 12 divers made 144 separate underwater surveys across the sites over four weeks.

While the traditional scientific survey revealed sightings of 106 different types of fish, the volunteer technique detected greater marine diversity with a total of 137 in the same waters.

Dr Ben Holt, from UEA's school of Biology, led the research in partnership with the Centre for Marine Resource Studies in the Caribbean and the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.

He said: "The results of this study are important for the future of citizen science and the use of data collected by these programs. Allowing volunteers to use flexible and less standardised methods has important consequences for the long term success of citizen science programs. Amateur enthusiasts typically do not have the resources or training to use professional methodology. Our study demonstrates the quality of data collected using a volunteer me
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Contact: Lisa Horton
l.horton@uea.ac.uk
01-603-592-764
University of East Anglia
Source:Eurekalert

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