By Reef Check California Director Dr. Jan Freiwald
This month we started full swing into Reef Check California’s training and survey season. As every year, only after successful completion of the recertification are our volunteers allowed to collect data in the new survey season. We are particularly excited about having conducted our first recertification of citizen scientists in Fort Bragg, where we held a community training for the first time last year, and many of last year’s participants became recertified. We also have had recertifications in Los Angeles, Monterey and Moss Landing. More recertifications and trainings will be held state wide over the next few months; click here for the schedule.
We were also able to begin the training season early this year with several new partner institutions and, as such, have many more volunteers ready to survey at this time of year than in the past. Overall, we now have a group of new, as well as seasoned, Reef Checkers ready to survey the reefs along our coastline for the 7th year in a row. In April, we completed our first surveys in Mendocino and Monterey Counties and we are looking forward to a successful survey season in 2012.
We have also been working with the MPA Monitoring Enterprise and the California Department of Fish and Game on the five-year review of the central coast Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). We are collaborating with the other groups that collected the MPA baseline data along the central coast to develop an integrated report on the initial status of the ecosystem at the time of implementation of these MPAs. This will create a benchmark against which future MPA performance can be measured. This work will continue throughout the year and culminate in the presentation of the report at a public symposium in early 2013.
RCCA’s work with the MPA Monitoring Enterprise and California Department of Fish and Game has greatly increased the impact of our volunteers’ data collection efforts, and demonstrates how citizens can participate and contribute to MPA monitoring and eventually, to adaptive management. Bringing the data, collected by community members and volunteers, to bear on the state’s marine management decisions is one of the greatest successes of the Reef Check California program. More about work on the central coast MPA report can be found at the MPA Monitoring Enterprise’s website.