KEY LARGO, FLA. – In a new study published this week in journal Conservation Letters, researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego, and Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) demonstrate that fish taxonomy data collected by volunteer scuba divers (i.e. citizen scientists) provide a powerful and accurate tool to track species trends and biodiversity.

Led by Dr. Dan Greenberg and Professor Brice Semmens, the study focused on evaluating the effectiveness of citizen science data in monitoring the population trends of coral reef fishes in Key Largo, Florida, over a span of 25 years. Using both citizen science scuba diver observations, and a rigorous, federally-funded survey, the researchers analyzed data from approximately 90 species to determine the level of correlation between the two methods.

Despite the unstructured nature of citizen science surveys, the findings were overwhelmingly positive. "The large majority of species exhibited strong temporal correlations between the two data sets," explained Professor Semmens. "Our findings clearly indicate that citizen scientists can produce high quality ecosystem monitoring data that are on par with data from a long-term, statistically designed survey carried out by professional scientists."

The state of biodiversity worldwide has long been shrouded in mystery, primarily due to the lack of comprehensive, long-term population monitoring data. However, this new research suggests that citizen science initiatives could be one of the keys to unlocking crucial insights into ecological trends.

"This research underscores the invaluable contributions that citizen scientists can make to our understanding of biodiversity," said Dr. Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Co-Executive Director of the REEF. "By engaging the thousands of scuba divers in marine life observing and reporting, we have harnessed a vast network of observers to track ecological changes and inform marine conservation." For more information about the study, please refer to the full article published in Conservation Letters. The open-access article is available here:

About Scripps Oceanography
Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego is one of the world’s most important centers for global earth science research and education. In its second century of discovery, Scripps scientists work to understand and protect the planet, and investigate our oceans, Earth, and atmosphere to find solutions to our greatest environmental challenges. Scripps offers unparalleled education and training for the next generation of scientific and environmental leaders through its undergraduate, master’s and doctoral programs. The institution also operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels, and is home to Birch Aquarium at Scripps, the public exploration center that welcomes 500,000 visitors each year.

About REEF
Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF) conserves marine environments worldwide. Our mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community. For more information, visit