Citizen-Scientist Monitoring of Rocky Reefs and Kelp Forests: Creating a Baseline for the South Coast MPAs

Start/End: January, 2012 to June, 2015

Volunteers are core to this project, but these are not just any volunteers. All are skilled divers who have been trained and certified through the non-profit Reef Check program to conduct scientific surveys of rocky reef and kelp forest ecosystems. This unusual citizen-science monitoring program has been collecting data in California since 2006, and for the baseline monitoring project is being tailored to document and compare ecosystems inside and outside the new MPAs. In the first two years of baseline monitoring, divers completed 105 surveys in the study region. Each survey consists of eighteen 30-meter transects, along which divers count and estimate lengths of key fishes (35 species), invertebrates (32 species) and algae (9 species). Reef Check scientists have also trained or re-certified more than 250 divers each year state-wide, creating invaluable human capital for continued MPA monitoring and support for marine conservation. These divers have continued to monitor Reef Check’s site in the south coast study region after the baseline monitoring was completed. Long-term monitoring data from 2006 to 2014 are available for these and all other Reef Check sites at Reef Check’s new online data portal at: These data will be presented in the final report of the project that is being developed over the third year of the baseline monitoring program.

Co-principal Investigators