Skip to main content

Master of Environmental Science and Management: Master's Group Project

Improving Citizen Science Data Management for Resource Protection

A student group poses with faculty and PhD advisors with an ocean backdrop

Group Members: Rae Fuhrman, Sean Goral, Charlene Kormondy, Jasmine Vazin, Molly Williams

Faculty Advisors: James Frew

Client: Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary


Final Report


The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary (CINMS) has 20 years of marine mammal sighting data collected almost daily by citizen scientist volunteers in their Naturalist Corps program. The trained Naturalists record observations on smart phone apps aboard whale watching boats in the Santa Barbara Channel. This data has influenced local resource protection policy, but has greater potential to be used by researchers, conservation managers, and decision makers. This project team outlines CINMS’ current citizen science data management system and identify improvements that will maximize the usability of this rich dataset. We created an open-source Python application to collate sightings data into a serverless SQL database that is structured to comply with international data quality standards and open repository requirements. We analyzed the quality differences between sightings collected by Naturalists and the general public, and found that trained users had a significantly lower percentage of potentially inaccurate sightings. We recommend that our client incorporate tools to filter these inaccuracies in the app interface, and follow data management best practices to maximize the impact of their citizen science program.

arrow up icon