Reef Check is a non-profit, citizen-science conservation organization that teaches and certifies experienced divers to survey species found in rocky reefs and kelp forests along California. Its volunteers have contributed to baseline monitoring of MPAs throughout California since 2006. In the past, four monitoring sites have been surveyed along the North Coast Study Region (NCSR), an effort that will now expand to 11 sites. Volunteers will survey sites inside and outside the new MPAs for two years, documenting abundances of about 70 rocky reef indicator species. In the third year, data will be analyzed to characterize reef ecosystems in NCSR and document any initial changes inside the MPAs. In addition to the baseline characterizations of rocky reef and kelp forest ecosystems, Reef Check engages and educates the public about the value of and need for science-based marine management. By training volunteers as citizen scientist and involving them in the baseline monitoring the program builds capacity for long-term MPA monitoring and continued stakeholder involvement. Reef Check scientists will integrate Reef Check’s survey data with other baseline monitoring projects to produce a more complete assessment of the region’s nearshore ecosystems and to provide recommendations for improving long-term monitoring, management and community involvement with marine ecosystems in California.
Citizen-scientist Monitoring of Rocky Reefs and Kelp Forests: Creating a Baseline for California’s North Coast MPAs