Citizen Science Program

SAFMC Citizen Science Program


More Collaboration + More Data + More Trust = Better Management”


Improve fisheries management through collaborative science

Program Contact:
Amber Von Harten
Fishery Citizen Science Program Manager,
843-302-8443 (direct line)

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science is a growing field in which trained members of the public collaborate and engage with scientists in the inquiry and discovery of new knowledge. Public participation in scientific research advances science, research, and policy and fosters an informed and engaged citizenship.

Why is the Council Considering Citizen Science?

For many years the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) has grappled with the challenge of ensuring adequate and timely science to support management despite limited resources, a multitude of species to manage, and a complex and highly diverse ecosystem. Discussions of data shortcomings and the resulting scientific uncertainties often lead to offers from fishermen to provide their vessels as research platforms, collect samples and record their own observations to help increase scientific knowledge and ‘fill the gaps'. The Council recognizes the desire of constituents to get involved and the need to have a well-designed program and accompanying sampling protocols to ensure that information collected through such efforts is useful. To meet this growing need, the Council intends to develop a comprehensive Fishery Citizen Science Program.

March 2015 - The Council created a Citizen Science organizing committee. As a first step towards building a program, the committee convened a workshop where interested citizens, fisheries managers and scientists, and citizen science practitioners gathered to develop recommendations for designing such a program.

SAFMC Citizen Science Organizing Committee

John Carmichael - SAFMC staff

Amber Von Harten - SAFMC staff

Dr. Michelle Duval -
SAFMC Council Chair
(NC representative)

Ben Hartig -
SAFMC Council member
(FL representative)

Mark Brown -
SAFMC member
(SC representative)

Dr. Bonnie Ponwith -
NMFS, Southeast Fisheries Science Center

Leda Dunmire -
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Rick Bonney -
Cornell Lab of Ornithology

Dr.Jennifer Shirk -
Cornell Lab of Ornithology














January 2016 - The committee organized the January 2016 Citizen Science Program Design Workshop and drafted the Citizen Science Program Blueprint document outlining the framework recommended by workshop participants for building a Citizen Science Program for the Council.

September 2016 - The Council formed a Council-level Citizen Science Committee to provide guidance for development of the program.

December 2016 - The Council committed to using existing internal resources to support a full-time Council staff position to manage the SAFMC Citizen Science Program. For program information, contact:

June 2017 - The Council created a Citizen Science Advisory Panel Pool. Members of the AP Pool have broad expertise and interest in five key areas for program development. The areas include Communication/Outreach/Education, Data Management, Finance, Projects/Topics Management, and Volunteers. To help develop program policies, the members of the AP Pool were appointed to Action Teams in these five areas.

2017-2018 - The five, Citizen Science Action Teams began meeting in July 2017 with the charge of developing recommendations for how the Council's Citizen Science Program will operate considering all facets of a program that will support, solicit, and develop fishery citizen science projects. The Council will also pursue funding for an initial pilot citizen science project to test the programmatic framework developed by the Action Teams. Stay tuned for more details on the progress being made by the Action Teams and on the pilot project.

The workshop was held January 19-21, 2016 in Charleston, SC. More than 65 invited participants took part, including commercial, for-hire, and private recreational fishermen; partners from each of the four state Sea Grant programs; data managers and scientists from state agencies and NOAA and other federal agencies; and representatives of academic institutions and non-governmental organizations.

Workshop Goals

  1. Learn about the field and applications of citizen science;
  2. Document and evaluate existing citizen science and cooperative research experiences and examples;
  3. Learn about components needed to develop a citizen science initiative.
  4. Develop objectives for the South Atlantic Fishery Citizen Science Program;
  5. Develop recommendations for a framework for achieving program objectives, considering:
    1. Research and monitoring activities appropriate for citizen science;
    2. Funded and unfunded opportunities and avenues to support citizen science;
    3. The full range of data needs (fishery, biological, research, assess, socio-econ, etc);
    4. Potential web-based platforms;
    5. Outreach and education needs, short and long term; and
    6. Governance, including ongoing staff support, management, and oversight.

Workshop Content and Proceedings

Workshop Content: See the January 2016 Citizen Science Workshop page for the agenda, meeting materials, and other resources.

Proceedings: Proceedings - January 2016 Citizen Science Program Design Workshop 


Appendix A – Participant List - January 2016 SAFMC Citizen Science Program Design Workshop

Appendix B – Pre-Workshop Survey Results

Appendix C – Workshop Introduction Presentations

  • Keynote: Fish are Just Like Birds! - Rick Bonney, Public Engagement in Science, Cornell Lab of Ornithology
  • Making Dives That Count – Ocean Citizen Science Monitoring - REEF Volunteer Fish Survey Project - Christy Pattengill-Semmens, Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF)
  • Learned: Use of text message reporting to quantify catch and effort at NC king mackerel tournaments - Scott Baker, North Carolina Sea Grant
  • Building Partnerships for Success: A collaboration to design a solution to safely release fishes that experience barotrauma – Sara Mirabilio, North Carolina Sea Grant
  • Citizen Science Project Design - Jennifer Shirk, Cornell Lab of Ornithology/Citizen Science Association

Appendix D – Expert Group Plenary and Notes – Communication

Appendix E – Expert Group Plenary and Notes – Data Management

Appendix F – Expert Group Plenary and Notes – Governance

Appendix G – Expert Group Plenary and Notes – Participants

Appendix H - Expert Group Plenary and Notes – Researchers

Appendix I - Expert Group Plenary and Notes – Science Standards

Appendix J – Post-Workshop Survey Results

Appendix K – List of Suggested Citizen Science Projects

Appendix L – Agenda - SAFMC Citizen Science Program Design Workshop

The workshop deliverable was a “blueprint” plan for a citizen science program. In addition to establishing a governance structure for operations and program oversight, the plan calls for developing five essential program action teams to focus on volunteers; data management; projects and topics management; communication, outreach, and education; and finance. The plan also seeks to establish multiple partnerships with existing programs and agencies to mutually identify research and data needs; improve constituent knowledge, involvement, and buy-in; collect better data to address management issues; increase data gathering capacity; and help to resolve long-standing data needs.

Read the SAFMC Citizen Science Program Blueprint-

Organization & Process of the Citizen Science Advisory Panel and Action Teams

Citizen Science Advisory Panel Pool - Purpose
The Citizen Science Advisory Panel Pool is made up of members with interest in becoming involved with the development of the Council's Program and/or have expertise in one of the five key areas of program development. The five areas are,

  1. Communication/Outreach/Education
  2. Data Management
  3. Finance
  4. Project/Topics Management
  5. Volunteers

Members of the AP Pool are appointed to Action Teams, as needed, in these five areas.

See the members of the Citizen Science Advisory Panel Pool - click here

Action Teams - Purpose
As part of the Citizen Science Advisory Panel, the five Action Teams (Communication/Outreach/Education; Data Management; Finance; Project/Topics Management; Volunteers) will develop program policies and recommendations related to the focus area of their Action Team to be reviewed and adopted by the Citizen Science Committee and the Council.

See the members of the five Action Teams - click here

Interested in applying to the Citizen Science AP Pool? Contact Amber Von Harten at or 843-302-8443.

Click the links below to learn more about each Action Team, their work plan, schedule of webinar meetings, and meeting summaries.

All-Hands Action Team Meeting -
January 31, 2018, 9:00 AM to 12:00 PM
Meeting Materials
Meeting Summary - available soon!
This is a meeting of all five Action Teams to discuss work to date on program development activities and to prepare for developing the initial program recommendations for review by the Council.


Data Management


Projects/Topics Management


Citizen Science Action Team Introduction Webinar - Presentation

Interested in applying to the Citizen Science AP Pool? Contact Amber Von Harten for the link to the online application at or 843-302-8443.

Action Team Resources

All products and materials produced to date by the Action Teams are available at the following links.

Communication/Outreach/Education A-Team –

Google Drive Main folder:

Finance & Infrastructure –

Google Drive Main folder:

Data Management –

Projects/Topics Management –

Google Drive Main folder:

Volunteers –

Google Drive Main Folder:

Literature Review on Citizen Science Volunteers:

Publications - coming soon

Websites - coming soon

Organizations - coming soon

Example Projects - coming soon