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Twelve Years of Migratory Fish Counting: Evolving Information Strategies for Citizen Science Robert D. Stevenson University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston,

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Presentation on theme: "Twelve Years of Migratory Fish Counting: Evolving Information Strategies for Citizen Science Robert D. Stevenson University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston,"— Presentation transcript:

1 Twelve Years of Migratory Fish Counting: Evolving Information Strategies for Citizen Science Robert D. Stevenson University of Massachusetts Boston, Boston, MA, U.S.A. Introduction Information Needs of a Citizen Science Project Acknowledgements For the last12 years in April and May, the Parker River Clean Watershed Association (PRCWA) has coordinated a survey of the migratory adult alewives (Alosa pseudoharengus, a herring species) using citizen volunteers. Alewives enter the Parker River in 2-6 bursts each lasting 1-3 days to reproduce. Each burst is called a run. Alewife runs occur in many rivers along the Atlantic Coast of the United States and Canada. The Parker is a small watershed (60 km 2 ) with relatively small runs (maximum 10 minute counts of 80 fish, maximum annual run size from 500 to 30,000). Counting Context For a small, mostly volunteer organization such as the PRCWA, the key to increasing the use of digital communications to monitor the fish migrations, whether it be YouTube videos to help with training or twitter feeds to report a run has started, is the availability of open source or ubiquitous digital tools and a volunteer group that has learned how to use the technology. Increasing the Use of Digital Tools Fish are counted visually as they move through fish ladders built to allow passage around dams. Volunteers sign up for one to several hour-long observation slots each week during the migration season. Every year 15 to 40 people take part. I Traditional Estimate number of adult alewives returning to spawn in the Parker River from 1972 to 1978 and then again from 1998 to The size of the reproductive migration has been much smaller in the last six years. Many people in the Parker River Clean Water Association have helped over the years and many citizens in the community have been part of the continued effort. Group - Byfield Water District, Essex County Sportsmen, Trout Unlimited, Massachusetts Audubon Society, Essex County Greenbelt Association, Mass Department of Marine Fisheries, NOAA, Parker River Watershed is located north of Boston, Massachusetts on the Coast Gloucester, MA Great Marsh 8,000 ha Gulf of Maine The information exchange needs for the Alewife count are similar to those needed by other citizen science projects: These include 1) project management, 2) working with volunteers (recruitment, training, coordination of observation effort, feedback on the project), 3) generation of data and results (data recording and reporting, data formatting and checking, data plotting and statistical analysis, summarizing results) and 4) communication of survey results with volunteers, partners and the press. There are a diverse range of people and organizations with whom information is exchanged including the management team, (PRCWA leader, site coordinators, data manager), the PRCWA board, local landowners, volunteers, several local and state conservation groups, local, state and federal government agencies, academic scientists and the press. Alewife in the river From Tidewater – Under Bridge to Mill Pond Around the Dam in a Fishway Top of Fishway - Counting board Fish Counting I. From 1998 to 2003 most of the communication was by traditional means including person to person meetings, mail, news papers, and telephone although already some aspects of all four of our information exchange needs were accomplished using . Data organization and analysis was done using spreadsheet software on personal computers. Evolution of Information Exchange Approaches II Web Site III Traditional + IV Google Docs Communication methods have gone through four distinct four phases during project’s history. I. Traditional approaches, II. Database-backed web site, III. Traditional methods augmented by , and IV. Google Documents. During the 2004 season we tried using a database backed website designed by a graduate student team of software engineers from UMass Boston. The software had the capability to help with all of our information exchange needs. (See Front page in center panel and the site map below.) In addition the software could be used to scale up monitor projects across sites within a river and across watersheds by giving local coordinators the ability to describe site characteristics and control scheduling and analyze data. However, the resources needed to debug the software, improve the user interface, and refine the data analysis could not be sustained. Since the 2008 season, the project has used Google Docs as a way for observers to report their observations. Using the internet significantly reduces the work of the data coordinator. The advancement has been made possible because of the availability of Google software and the increasing savvy of the volunteers about the internet. From 2005 to 2007 we went back to the older methods but with the distinct improvement that most of the volunteers sent in their results by . Web site Front page


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