Fact sheet

File type: PDF

NESP Marine and Coastal Hub (2023). Citizen science: reef monitoring for management. Project 3.18 Information sheet. Reef and Rainforest Research Centre, Cairns, Queensland.



‘Citizen science’ is research conducted by enthusiastic community members. It is a very economical way of collecting data sets from reef systems as it often uses existing tourism vessels and expeditions. Also, thousands of volunteers are available to participate.

Many different types of information are needed to manage reefs well. Traditionally, monitoring has been conducted by scientists at relatively small subsets of locations. However, large-scale field observations are also useful for making many management action decisions, and it is this scientific survey methodology that best suits citizen science.

The Great Reef Census, an initiative of Citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, is large-scale citizen science in action. Over 3 years community members have taken more than 80,000 seascape photos across the Great Barrier Reef, and uploaded them to the Census’ web portal for analysis. Whilst some reef managers use such citizen science data, others question its worth.

This project will refine and improve the Great Reef Census data collection processes, site selection, and analysis methods, to increase the usefulness and relevance of the data for scientists and managers.