CitSci Program

The PSF Citizen Science Program

Overview of the PSF CitSci Program

The Pacific Salmon Foundation's Citizen Science Oceanography program was funded by the Pacific Salmon Foundation (PSF) starting in 2015.  The PSF CitSci program is currently composed of 7 “patrols” (individual boats with associated sampling areas) geographically spread over the entire strait, although in earlier years 10 patrols were in operation.

These patrols sample about 80 stations, about 20 times a year according to a predefined schedule, for a variety of oceanographic parameters. Sampling usually begins in March or April, and continues until October, at roughly two week intervals. In recent years a single "winter" sampling date in January has also been scheduled in order to better understand conditions before the spring phytoplankton bloom.

Oceanographic stations in the Strait of Georgia from the CitSci and other programs


Track plans for each patrol are shown in red on the map at left. At all stations along tracks (circular markers), hydrographic profiles using a conductivity-temperature-depth (CTD) probe are obtained. "Full" stations  include water sampling for nutrients as well as CTD profiling, and "busy" stations  include water sampling for nutrients, chlorophyll, and phytoplankton community structure as well as CTD profiling.



CTD and Tablet (note downrigger reel at right)

Each CitSci patrol consists of a vessel equipped with a downrigger "reel" providing the capability of lowering sampling equipment to 150m, a CTD with a tablet containing a custom app for data downloading and transmission, sampling bottles, Secchi disks, filters, log sheets, and a team of 2-5 "citizen scientists", who receive training in the use of the equipment.

Sampling by all patrols occurs within ±1 day of a scheduled set of dates, so that nearly "instantaneous" views of the Strait can be generated.


Data Flow for PSF Citizen Science Program

The efforts of CitSci patrols in the field are backed up by several full-time technicians providing both “real-time” support and periodic in-person visits to all teams to monitor their activities and collect stored water samples, as well as a project manager and well over a dozen other lab analysts on a part-time basis, specializing in nutrient and chlorophyll analysis, plankton enumeration, CTD data processing and archiving, and quality control.


The CitSci Program Station Plan

In 2015, the Program started with 10 patrols, including one off Victoria (not strictly within the Strait of Georgia). In addition to patrols run directly by the PSF, some data was acquired in the Ladysmith area by members of the Stz’uminus First Nation along with a trained technician, and in Cowichan Bay from an observational program run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

The Victoria patrol  was abandoned the following year in favour of a Galiano patrol in the southern Strait. There was also some adjustment of station numbers and locations; in particular several stations were added offshore of the north Arm of the Fraser to sample an inflowing mid-depth boundary current there.

In 2019 the scope of the program was reduced to 7 patrols: Powell River, Baynes Sound, Malaspina, Sunshine Coast, Steveston, Galiano, and Cowichan. The Sunshine Coast patrol in particular provided coverage in the central Strait that had been lacking. A number of stations in the far northern Strait were abandoned as this area is now being regularly sampled by the Hakai Institute's observational program; integration of their data into this atlas began in 2020.  In 2022, we also began adding stations in Burrard Inlet/Indian Arm, gathered by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation as part of their ocean monitoring activities, to the Atlas, and in 2023 other stations near Nanaimo, acquired by the Snuneymux Nation as part of their ocean monitoring activities, hav e also been added.

Station names and locations for PSF and other stations for each year are shown below.

Not included  in this atlas is information from Salish Sea surveys carried out 3 or 4 times a year by Fisheries and Oceans Canada scientists at the Institute of Ocean Sciences. These surveys consists of about 40 stations each in the Strait, and provide information on water properties down to the bottom (i.e. at depths greater than the 150m limit for the CitSci program). Water column temperatures and salinities only, over all depths, are also measured weekly since 1969 in the central Strait at the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges (CFMETR) in exercise area WG north of Nanaimo. That data is publicly available, but only after about a year or so after the time of observation. Further information on surface water properties at daily time scales is available from systems installed by Ocean Networks Canada on vessels of the BC ferries fleet and from observers at some BC lighthouses.

The CitSci Program Sampling Plan

The sampling plan for each patrol consists of a set of sampling locations or stations to be revisited in each survey, and a schedule of about 20 sampling dates from March through to October (a winter sampling date, meant to provide a baseline for comparison with the summer conditions, began in the 2018/2019 winter).

The following figures show the degree to which this synoptic sampling pattern has been carried out. Gaps occur for many reasons, including but not limited to equipment breakdown!