South Atlantic Fishery Management Council

Program Development

The Citizen Science Program was created between 2015 and 2018 using a deliberative and iterative process involving a host of stakeholders and partners. Check out the timeline below to learn more about how the program was developed. 


March 2015: The Council created a Citizen Science Organizing Committee. As a first step towards building a program, the committee began planning for a workshop where interested fishermen, scientists, managers, and citizen science practitioners would gather to discuss recommendations for designing such a program. 

SAFMC Citizen Science Organizing Committee 

  • Council staff: John Carmichael, Amber Von Harten, and Julia Byrd 
  • Council members: Dr. Michelle Duval (NC representative and chair), Ben Hartig (FL representative), and Mark Brown (SC representative) 
  • NMFS Southeast Fisheries Science Center: Dr. Bonnie Ponwith 
  • The Pew Charitable Trusts: Leda Cunningham 
  • Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Rick Bonney and Dr. Jennifer Shirk 


January 2016: Citizen Science Program Design Workshop – The committee organized and held the Citizen Science Program Design Workshop on January 19-21, 2016 in Charleston, SC. Over 65 invited participants from across the South Atlantic region 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, NOAA, and other federal agencies; and representatives of academic institutions and non-governmental organizations. 

Workshop Goals 

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

SAFMC Citizen Science Program Blueprint 

The workshop deliverable was a ‘blueprint’ that laid out the framework for developing a citizen science program in the South Atlantic. In addition to establishing a governance structure for operations and program oversight, the plan called for developing five action teams to focus on core areas needed for program success:  

  • Volunteers 
  • Data management 
  • Projects and topics management 
  • Communication, outreach and education 
  • Finance and infrastructure 

The plan also sought 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 resolve long-standing data needs. 


June 2017: The Council created a Citizen Science Advisory Panel Pool. The pool is made up of members with diverse backgrounds and expertise who were interested in becoming involved in the development of the Council’s Program. To help develop program policies, the members of the AP pool were appointed to five Action Teams: 

  • Volunteers 
  • Data management 
  • Projects and topics management 
  • Communication, outreach and education 
  • Finance and infrastructure 

The Action Teams were tasked with developing program policies and recommendations related to their topical area to be reviewed and adopted by the Citizen Science Committee and the Council. 

July 2017 – May 2018: The five Citizen Science Action Teams began meeting in July 2017 with the charge of developing recommendations for the operation of the Council’s Citizen Science Program considering all facets of a program that will support, solicit, and develop fishery citizen science projects. The Council also pursued and secured funding for an initial citizen science pilot project to test the programmatic framework developed by the Action Teams. 

June 2018: The Council appointed a Citizen Science Operation Committee made up of members of the Action Teams and agency partners to draft Standard Operating Policies and Procedures (SOPPs) for the Citizen Science Program. 

December 2018: The Council reviewed and adopted the SOPPs.