We're excited to share another story about the power of REEF citizen science data. Last month, researchers from University of Miami published a new paper in the scientific journal Fisheries Management and Ecology, which used REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project (VFSP) data to help model population trends in coral reef fish species. In this study, the authors used simulations as well as REEF data collected in The Bahamas and Turks and Caicos from 1994-2020 to identify model approaches that were able to predict trends in species presence and abundance as function of survey duration, location, and other variables. The models showed a significant decline in Queen Triggerfish, which was used as a model organism for this study, and the authors concluded that management interventions may be required to reverse the decline.

Citizen science data, like the surveys conducted by REEF volunteers, are growing increasingly important for conservation, and have the potential to provide much-needed information about the health of the oceans. The VFSP is an accessible way for snorkelers and divers to contribute to a large database of information. There are some challenges associated with analyzing these types of datasets, but these challenges can be addressed by creating analytical models that can help standardize the data. This helps to account for varying numbers of surveys conducted at different times and locations.

This work opens the door for further research on other understudied coral reef species, allows for higher-resolution modeling of predictors of presence and abundance, and expands the set of tools available for researchers using REEF data, ultimately leading to more information that can be used to protect our changing oceans. More than 100 scientific publications have been published to date using the REEF data. Visit www.REEF.org/db/publications to learn more.