Using Citizen Science to Monitor Ecosystem Responses to Habitat Restoration

Sunday, 15 February 2015
Exhibit Hall (San Jose Convention Center)
Chelle King, Patricia and Phillip Frost Museum of Science, Miami, FL
Virginia Key North Point is a 17 acre restoration site, unique both in its location in central Miami, as well as in the diversity of habitats within the site. Museum Volunteers for the Environment (MUVE) and its partners are creating considerable environmental change through volunteer-led coastal habitat restoration. This poster presents an overview of new tools being deployed to volunteers to determine the ecosystem level success of the ongoing restoration effort. MUVE is testing multiple citizen science protocols at a site that features four unique habitats: a sea turtle nesting beach, a dune, a freshwater wetland, and a tropical hardwood forest. A NASA-funded buoy equipped with a digital datalogger is being deployed to collect water quality data, along with corresponding meterological data. Photo stations encourage casual visitors to snap a photo with their smart phones and deliver it to MUVE via social media to visually track progress of recent plantings. Volunteers are also assessing vegetative cover through photography and transects. Citizen scientists also conduct faunal surveys (birds, sea turtles, butterflies, reptiles) using guides available both in booklet format and as Pinterest boards, photographing animals, and delivering to project staff via iNaturalist and/or social media. To complement these scientific protocols, volunteers are also encouraged to engage with the habitat restoration in other ways: through oral history projects, through eco-art installations, and through storytelling projects, completing the picture of this natural treasure. Citizen science has proven an effective tool not only to document the effectiveness of environmental change, but to enhance stewardship of an uninhabited barrier island off the coast of downtown Miami.