Citizen Science in the Gulf of Mexico

What is a Citizen Scientist?

Advances in mobile phone technology have made it possible for citizens to contribute valuable data for ecological monitoring and scientific investigation. Citizen Scientist initiatives harness the massive numbers of people who are sportsmen and women, amateur naturalists and even the casual observer of nature, to submit observations and data that accumulate in a parallel database.  These initiatives have broadened opportunities for public participation in science and have served to “demystify” the scientific process for the average citizen. Thanks to the internet and smart phones, data can be acquired, uploaded, evaluated, and accessed with amazing rapidity. Worldwide access to these data has served to encourage public participation in biological monitoring and has provided unprecedented opportunities for collaboration among scientists.

Who Can Participate?

Anyone with a cell phone that is a regular beach-goer, nature-walker, bird-watcher, sport-fisher, commercial-fisher, boater, grade schooler and college student, retiree, etc. etc. etc.

How Does The Program Work?

A central component of this initiative is the development of the Mobile App for Marine Assessment (MAMA) which will be free to download to your mobile device. This app will provide the opportunity for scientists, both citizens and otherwise, to document marine resource issues in the Gulf of Mexico. For example, citizen scientists will be able to document via image and data entry, fish kills, invasive species, turtle/marine mammal strandings, bird entanglements, oil spills, etc. etc. Once a photo is taken, the image and data will be transmitted to a central data-base where scientists will view the data, make identifications and provide feed-back to the user. We anticipate creating a long-term data base that will be useful in documenting natural resource trends that resource managers can use to track changes in the Gulf of Mexico and make recommendations to safe-guard those natural resources. This app is currently under development and is described in more detail on the next page.

How Can I Be A Part Of This Exciting Program?

We are presently recruiting citizen scientists and participation is quite simple. Point your cell phone camera at the image below, visit the site, and fill out the requested information. We will soon need participants to test the new app and we will be in touch about program updates and when the app will be available.

Why Should I Participate?

You should participate for a number of reasons:

  1. To help protect our coastal resources.
  2. You will be an important part of a research project.
  3. You could potentially make a discovery new to science.
  4. You may win exciting prizes.
  5. It’s the right thing to do.

This project is a partnership between The University of Mississippi, The Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Research, The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality and the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources.

This project was paid for [in part] with federal funding from the RESTORE Council and the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality under the Resources and Ecosystems Sustainability, Tourist Opportunities, and Revived Economies of the Gulf Coasts Act of 2012 (RESTORE Act). The data, statements, findings, conclusion, and recommendations are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect any determinations, views, or policies of the RESTORE Council of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality.