Citizen Science


Citizen scientists are providing an increasingly valuable role in the collection of data, program planning, education, research and stewardship activities.

The term citizen science refers to scientific research carried out, either in whole or in part, by amateur or nonprofessional scientists, and is sometimes called “public participation in scientific research”.

This role is taking on greater importance as scientists and resource agencies continue to require information but often lack sufficient resources to gather it. Well-designed volunteer programs, with adequate training and protocols, are increasingly filling the gap.

We include data from citizen science organizations within the Strait of Georgia Data Centre, and some of this information takes the form of “Community Perspectives”, a videography project in which interested citizens, volunteers and persons involved in local community and stewardship groups are interviewed. These interviews are being placed on the Google Map on the Search Data/ Data Sets page.

In the Strait of Georgia, there are numerous citizen science/volunteer-based programs. These include the following:



The Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) Volunteer Survey Project is one such citizen science program. The Reef Environmental Education Foundation is a grass-roots organization that seeks to conserve marine ecosystems by educating, enlisting and enabling divers and other marine enthusiasts to become active ocean stewards and citizen scientists. REEF volunteers collect distribution and abundance data on all marine fishes and a sub-set of invertebrates using a standardized visual method during diving and snorkeling activities.

This citizen science program has generated one of the largest marine life databases inthe world, with over 150,000 surveys conducted to date at thousands of sites throughout the coastal waters of North and Central America, Caribbean, Hawaii, and the South Pacific.

The Project, which started in the Florida Keys in 1993, was launched in the Pacific Northwest in 1998. Since then, over 700 divers have conducted 12,307 surveys over 800 sites in the Salish Sea. The program has resulted in a collaborative enterprise in which the general public engages in inquiry and investigation that results in practical management solutions. Data generated through the program have been used in a variety of conservation and management applications, including the development of the stock assessments, the assessment of marine reserve effects, and the assessment of at-risk species.

You can contact the REEF organization at this email:

SeaChange Marine Conservation Society

SeaChange is a community-based non-profit society dedicated to the conservation and restoration of marine ecosystems in British Columbia. Their mission is to protect and rehabilitate marine environments in coordination with local communities through education and advocacy. In addition, their mandate involves engaging and involving youth and communities.

SeaChange focuses on conserving and protecting eelgrass, which is among the richest, most productive of all marine communities. These emerald green undersea meadows provide habitat for a diversity of marine life, such as 80% of commercially important fish such as salmon and Pacific herring, and other marine life, such as birds, crabs and clams. These vital habitats are threatened by industrial, residential and recreational development.

Some of the mapping data can be viewed on the Community Mapping web site:

Nikki Wright is the Executive Director of the SeaChange Marine Conservation Society and can be contacted at:

The Georgia Strait Alliance

Since 1990, the Georgia Strait Alliance has been the only citizen’s group focused on protecting the marine environment in and around the whole Strait of Georgia. They are a non-profit charitable organization that focuses work to protect the marine environment, restore the area’s water and air quality, promote sustainable communities and foster stewardship of the marine environment. They have recently developed the Georgia Strait Communities Atlas in which they provide information on community values in and around the Strait of Georgia. This includes information on conservation and sustainability, human use, communities, and the natural riches of the region.

Christianne Wilhelmson is the Executive Director of the Georgia Strait Alliance and can be contacted at:

B.C. Shore Spawners Alliance

The BC Shore Spawners Alliance is an alliance of community groups working to document and protect the intertidal spawning habitat of forage fish (surf smelt and Pacific sand lance). The BCSSA provides presentations, educational resources, protocols, training and equipment to allow for the collection of scientifically credible data.  In British Columbia scientific and stewardship efforts to manage and protect shoreline forage fish spawning habitats have been minimal. The goal of the BCSSA is to address these issues through science, education, community stewardship, and habitat restoration

Ramona de Graaf is a marine biologist, forage fish specialist, marine educator, and researcher who has been studying and surveying forage fish habitats since 2000.  She has studied marine systems from the deep sea to eelgrass, marine population genetics, cetaceans, and plankton. She is the BC Shore Spawners Alliance Coordinator and can be contacted at:

British Columbia Community Mapping Network and Western Canada Coastal Geospatial Data Management

The main objective of the CMN is to promote planning sustainable communities. Many sensitive habitats such as urban and smaller rural watercourses, eelgrass beds, riparian areas and wetlands remain unknown, poorly understood, and suffer from impacts of human development. Methods provided through CMN reflect a novel set of tools to explore and promote awareness of these habitats by mapping their location and inventorying their attributes. The awareness and commitment to local watercourses and other sensitive habitats is an important process created through co-operation of local communities, First Nations, municipalities, planners, and managers. Community mapping methods comprise a set of tools and methods that can be used to help conserve fisheries, wildlife and aquatic habitat resources throughout British Columbia.

Mapping projects

Selected information and thematic maps are available at a scale of 1:5,000 for the Georgia Basin and Central Okanagan. Province-wide coverage is available for watercourses, fish distribution, coastal resources and other themes. Four types of projects can be accessed through the CMN including: Community mapping projects: Inner Coast Natural Resource Centre, Comox Valley Project Watershed and Upper Skeena Streamkeepers, and The Georgia Strait Alliance.

British Columbia mapping projects include Sensitive Habitat Inventory and Mapping, FrogWatch, BC Wetlands, Wildlife Observations, Coastal Resources, Natural Resources Information Network, Vancouver Island Wildlife Trees, Sensitive Ecosystems Inventory, BC Watersheds, and South Coast Cutthroat.

Some details of key mapping projects are below:

i. Community Mapping Network streamlines the collection and dissemination of marine data.

ii.  contains cultural data and multimedia products.  An example of a data product is a depiction of changes in logging, wildlife populations, temperature and rainfall over time.

iii. British Columbia Marine Conservation Analysis contains ecological and human use data. This provides static maps of species distributions and habitats, and provides a richness map of combined ecological data, some downloadable data sets as well as highlighting where data are lacking.

iv. Other tools include: Burrard Inlet Environmental Action Program and the Fraser River Estuary Management Plan Atlas, Forage Fish Atlas and Data System , Eelgrass Inventory Application, Shorekeepers Monitoring Atlas, Spartina Invasive Species Mapping, and Pacific Region Contaminants Atlas.

CMN has a current proposal for a FVRD Watershed Atlas proposal.  This proposal is to consolidate water information for the Fraser River watershed, including information for some sockeye lakes.  Currently, much of this information exists as disconnected data sets that remain with government and the municipalities. The FVRD is working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Fraser Valley Watersheds Coalition to form the Fraser Valley Watersheds Program.

Another atlas being developed is being done through the Fraser River Institute to compile instream information within the gravel reaches of the Fraser Watershed- the Heart of the Fraser. Other atlases with information about sockeye include the Cowichan Valley Watershed Atlas and the Chilliwack Lake Watershed Atlas.

Key contacts for the CMN are:

Rob Knight

Director, Community Mapping Network


Brad Mason M.R.M.

Director, Community Mapping Network


Digital Fishers

Digital Fishers represents a joint project of NEPTUNE Canada and the Centre for Global Studies (both at the University of Victoria, with additional support from to use the power of crowdsourcing to help filter and annotate the large volume of video data being collected from the NEPTUNE Canada seafloor observatory. This video data is not currently amenable to machine processing, and thus, in the absence of outside assistance, NEPTUNE’s capacity would be overwhelmed. A Digital Fishers crowdsourcing option provides the possibility of using the Internet-based volunteer efforts of a large number of non-expert participants as a firstpass alternative to machine processing or analysis by experts.

Contact: Justin Longo, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria

B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network

Wild Whales is the home of the B.C. Cetacean Sightings Network, a conservation and research program of the Coastal Ocean Research Institute, an Ocean Wise Initiative, in partnership with Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). They collect sightings of all cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises) and sea turtles from British Columbia and surrounding waters.

Other useful links:

Burrard Inlet Estuary Management Program:

Fraser River Estuary Management Program:

Salish Sea Humpback Census

Pacific Rocky Intertidal Monitoring

Ruby Lake Lagoon Society

The Avid Anglers