A group of California divers is helping save California’s reefs.
A vast underwater world lives in the rocky reefs that stretch off California's 11-hundred miles of shoreline.
For the last two years dive teams have been collecting data on the quality of life at those reefs.
Long-time diver Claudette Dorsey says every time she goes underwater she counts and measures 100 different species of invertebrates, seaweed and fish. But Dorsey isn’t a scientist, or even a government worker. She’s a sport-diver who also volunteers with "Reef Check California" - a non-profit agency established to protect and conserve California's unique rocky reef ecosystems.
Reef Check’s program manager Fiona Nagle says the organization’s goal was, “to scientifically train local divers on how to monitor their local reefs, which hadn't been done before." Nagle says California's 300-thousand divers have become a ready source of citizen scientists who are helping to document the effects of over-fishing, pollution and temperature changes in those fragile environments.
Nagle says she calls them citizen scientists because, “they are trained in scientific methodology that is sound and rigorous and scientifically robust."
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The training includes learning how to recognize every organism that's part of a reef's ecosystem., then learning how to take accurate counts and measurements of what they see.
The data the citizen scientists collect will be used to help inform the people who make decisions and policy on managing marine areas for the short and long-term.
Since the program began in 2006, the citizen scientists have surveyed 48 reef sites from Mendocino to San Diego.
Their ocean lab will increase this year by 12 sites, stretching up the coast to Eureka.