"Being in touch with the natural world is crucial." David Attenborough

How Citizen Scientists Can Help Whales, Interconnected Species & Organisms

We as humans need activities that benefit whales instead of posing more threats to whales, their populations and other species. While citizens are not marine biologists, citizens can act as citizen scientists to track whale locations, injuries, strandings and deaths reporting to appropriate organizations listed below. While doing citizen science for whales, other species may also be discovered that need assistance or can be tracked for conservation. Spending time in nature, by being sustainable so as to not harm it, will give humans a greater appreciation and desire to protect nature and the many species and organisms on this planet.

While the definition of “citizen science” is not clear in relation to policy, the concept of citizen science has been gaining momentum over the last decade (Kullenberg & Kasperowski, 2016).

Citizens now have technology with satellites to navigate and use cameras, sensors and the ability to share information easily, including:

  • identification of whale songs
  • reporting litter
  • invasion of species (Rise of the citizen scientist, 2015).

Citizen Science is mainly used in research for “biology, conservation and ecology” to collect and classify data and while publications were low in the past, the emergence of digital platforms has been increasing citizen science (Kullenberg & Kasperowski, 2016).

Citizen Science And Biodiversity

It is from our loss of nature appreciation that we have forgotten how much life on our planet is deeply gratifying when spending time in natural environments. When we enter nature and experience the spirituality of nature, we realize nature is not just there to be there, it is enlivened with its substance and grace allowing us to wander through it at our own pace, teaching us as we go how wondrous and beautiful it is. Humans spend so much time being captivated by the blue light of technology that it robs us of the experience of being human in the natural sense where we can use our senses to taste, touch, hear, smell and see the nature environment. We need to step away from the blue light to recharge, rejuvenate and reinvent our original selves to let our thoughts, creativity and health uplift us out of the stressful situations of life. The less time we spend in nature, the less we learn about nature to pass along to future generations. The loss of our natural ways of being have led to a crisis of biodiversity.

Creating proactive conservation policies, including support from the public to empower governments to act, can isolate humans from establishing personal connections with nature leading to the “extinction of experience”, which is one of the greatest causes of the biodiversity crisis (Schuttler et al, 2018).

Schuttler et al (2018) suggests this is further negatively intensified by a fostering of estrangement from nature, including urbanization and its lifestyle resulting in:

  • loss of natural spaces
  • fewer experiences with nature
  • people spending more time indoors
  • limited opportunities to interact with nature daily.

To reverse extinction of experience, people need to take the time to recognize the elements of nature to develop an appreciation of it, such as through nature based citizen science (Schuttler et al, 2018).

An increase of knowledge of nature can change behaviour to protect nature, including cleaning beaches while collecting data for citizen science (Schuttler et al, 2018).

According to Schuttler et al (2018), a development of environmental empathy, a deep concern for the ecosystem or species, includes a cognitive awareness and emotional connection with moral strengthening resulting in positive emotional and mental feeling, stemming from a sense of achievement from preserving and improving the environment, including local marine protected areas, and a strong:

  • sense of belonging
  • sense of place
  • community building
  • confidence
  • positive conservation outcomes
  • positive feedback for future conservation behaviors.
Proposed model of how nature‐based citizen science (NBCS) can reduce the extinction of experience (EOE). Expanding urbanization reduces the availability and experience of nature in people's daily lives, which collectively leads to the EOE phenomenon. The emphasis of parents encouraging their children to spend time outdoors depends on their own nature‐based experiences during childhood, and this influences their children's motivation to experience nature. EOE in turn encourages an urban lifestyle, thereby continuing the pervasive cycle, which reduces emotional connections between people and nature, and subsequently the commitments to protect nature. The impacts of NBCS (represented in light green) have the potential to disrupt this negative cycle by increasing access to, time spent in, and knowledge about nature, important components for increasing the availability of nature experiences and for creating experiences in nature. Ultimately, this can increase emotional connections to nature and a commitment to protect nature. (Credit: Schuttler et al, 2018)

Citizen Science Supply Checklist

Check with your local organization for supplies they suggest you take with you. I have listed some organizations below for examples.

Supplies I take with me usually include:

  1. Backpack
  2. Phone (charged up prior) for pictures and video of finding from all angles and to find your GPS location to report in for your finding
  3. Notebook and pencil (pens can dry out) to take notes, ie date, time, weather, finding, any visible signs of injury on finding, any interesting information
  4. Measuring tape to provide size of finding
  5. Pocketknife to be able to cut rope or string from wildlife
  6. Appropriate clothing for season and area visiting
  7. Layers of clothing for changing weather, ie windbreaker
  8. Extra clothing to have in your vehicle, ie socks, shirt, pants, jacket
  9. Hat, cap or head covering to avoid sun stroke
  10. Sun glasses and/or goggles for wind
  11. Water shoes or tall boots (sand gets in shorter boots)
  12. Towel and dog drying cloth
  13. Reusable water bottles with water or Vitamin Water (no sugar)
  14. Snacks ie lunch, orange, apple, nuts, dog food and treats
  15. Gloves to keep warm and pick up any trash found
  16. Bag/s to pick up trash found in nature (ie 4Ocean are the ones I use)

Remember what you pack in to take back home with you. No trash of any kind should be left in nature, pick up what you see or can lift when you are there.

Travel with a partner especially in unknown areas and when taking your dog along know which areas are dog friendly and are on and off leash areas.

Stay safe!

Citizen Science For Marine Mammals

Being a citizen scientist can be exciting, not just to experience nature but also having many organizations to provide reports, videos and pictures to of marine mammals.

The Marine Mammal Centre (n.d.) advises people to stay at least 50 feet away from marine mammals and to keep dogs away from them. Some of the organizations to provide reports, videos and pictures for marine mammal strandings, injuries and deaths include:

1. Flukebook. An identification system using photos of marine mammal flukes (Levenson et al, 2015).

2. The Marine Mammal Centre. The Marine Mammal Centre is a "critical first responder" for conservation through "marine mammal rescue, veterinary medicine, science, and education" through "a network of scientists and stewards" for the protection of the oceans (The Marine Mammal Centre, n.d.).

The global stranding network reaches “more than 75 countries and territories” and includes an interactive map to locate your global area and organization to report marine mammal:

  • locations
  • injuries
  • strandings
  • deaths

for cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals, fur seals, walruses and sea lions), otters, and sirenians (manatees and dugongs). Additional information can also be obtained from the agency in your local area (The Marine Mammal Centre, n.d.).

Click this link to find your global location and marine mammal centre on this interactive map:

Blue Whale on Collingdale Beach near Port Hood, Nova Scotia, 2019 (top left), Dolphin near Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, 2019 (top right), Whale fall washed ashore in storm on Dominion Beach, Nova Scotia, 2019 (bottom) (Credit: Maria Lisa Polegatto)
Whale Fall: Winging Point, near Framboise, Nova Scotia, May 1985 (Photo Credit: Angela Polegatto)

Citizen Science For Interconnected Species & Organisms

The more time a citizen scientist spends in nature for one species, they will most often cross into the area of other species and can become a citizen scientist for other organizations too, some of which are listed below. This can increase human awareness, knowledge and gratitude toward natural environments.
Great Egret


1. Bird Studies Canada. This network helps track the habitats and populations of wild birds in Canada for conservation (Bird Studies Canada, n.d.).

2. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is suggested the planet has lost “nearly 3 billion birds”. Help track birds on the ebird site (bce_admin_user., n.d.).

Coral Reef

Coral Reef

1. Eyes of the Reef Hawai’i (EOR). A coral reef network for reporting corals, invasive species, seastars and disease of corals and fish (Eyes of the Reef., n.d.).


1. Project Seahorse (iSeahorse). Both a "website and smartphone app" that citizen scientists can use globally by sharing "wild seahorse sightings, helping to identify seahorse species, and advocating for new protections."

Sea Otters

Sea Otters

1. The Marine Mammal Centre. As listed above (The Marine Mammal Centre, n.d.).

Sea Turtles

Sea Turtles

1. Canadian Sea Turtle Network (CSTN). The CSTN Sea Turtle Beach Patrol has volunteers in the Maritimes, Canada, who have been doing local beach patrols in the fall since 1997 to locate cold-stunned leatherback sea turtles, green turtles, Atlantic Ridley turtles, and loggerhead sea turtles, for conservation and awareness (Hamelin, 2019).

2. The Marine Mammal Centre. As listed above (The Marine Mammal Centre, n.d.).

3. The Oliver Ridley Project. This project protects oliver ridley sea turtles and their environment in the Indian Ocean. (Protecting Sea Turtles and Their Habitats in the Indian Ocean, n.d.).

Various Taxa

1. iNaturalist. Taxa includes fungi, lichens, insects, animals, molluscs, birds, kelp, diatoms, allies, amphibians, reptiles, mammals, arachnids, ray finned fish, protozoans (Taxa

Various Species And Organisms

1. SciStarter. Contribute your findings to science using “more than 2700 searchable formal and informal research projects and events.” (SciStarter, n.d.).

Wildlife Sightings

Jellyfish (left), Crawfish (right)

2. Marine Conservation Society (MCS). Sightings for wildlife at both the coast and sea, "especially basking sharks, marine turtles and jellyfish in UK and Irish waters" (Marine Conservation Society, n.d.).

Continue to next Module here:

Created By
Maria Lisa Polegatto


Created with images by adrian - "Photographing a mountain lake" • Andres Corredor - "untitled image" • KAL VISUALS - "Out on the distance" • Ian Robinson - "The Headland" • Kalen Emsley - "High above an azure lake follow @kalenemsley on ig" • Brian Yurasits - "Small plastics like this plastic bottle cap litter our world's coasts, and pose serious choking hazards to wildlife. Follow on Instagram @wildlife_by_yuri" • Juanma Clemente-Alloza - "untitled image" • dennisflarsen - "whale tail ocean" • Jennett Bremer - "untitled image" • Kris Mikael Krister - "The Dugongs of Marsha Shouna (Dugong dugon) Dugongs are believed to be inspirations behind tales of mermaids and in parts of Indonesia they are considered reincarnations of women. The word "dugong" means lady of the sea. It's herbivorous and feed uniquely on sea grass. Their numbers are very low and in some countries they are entirely depleted due to hunting, bycatch and habitat destruction. I was extremely lucky to encounter one in Marsha Shouna on the western coast of the Red Sea, once home to thousands of dugongs but now with very few individuals. The 100 km coastline along Marsa Alam had only seven dugongs left at the time of writing." • Anchor Lee - "Seal Elephant, Ano Nuevo State Park, California." • Karl Anderson - "Sea Otter, British Columbia, Canada" • NOAA - "Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus rosmarus) hauled out on the ice" • Cibi Chakravarthi - "untitled image" • Leon Overweel - "untitled image" • Yuriy Rzhemovskiy - "Seal in Antarctica" • Bonnie Kittle - "untitled image" • Good Free Photos - "Got a photo of a great egret in flight. If you use this photo, please consider crediting https://www.goodfreephotos.com , appreciated, but not required." • James Thornton - "Where I’m based in Thailand, Pink anemone fish are common. They’re plucky little creatures that will defend their homes from even the biggest of creatures, (including the very overwhelming reflective glass and bubbles from a divers mask and regulator) this bravery makes them one of my favourite creatures to see whilst under the surface. Especially during a safety stop at 5m, when the sunlight shows the colours in all their glory." • naomi tamar - "untitled image" • Steve Halama - "untitled image" • Peter Boshra - "untitled image" • Tamas Kolossa - "Yellow Mushroom" • Shane Stagner - "Captured on a low tide free dive in Laguna Beach. The tide was so low that kelp was floating on the surface making it hard to navigate but also quite beautiful." • Joel Henry - "untitled image" • Erik Hathaway - "untitled image" • Gábor Szűts - "untitled image" • Kelly Sikkema - "Lily Pad" • Richard Lee - "untitled image" • Maxime Gilbert - "La butineuse affairée semble se délecter du nectar et n’a que faire du photographe qui gesticule maladroitement pour tenter de la faire rentrer dans le cadre." • Tim Cole - "untitled image" • Wolfgang Hasselmann - "untitled image" • Jeffrey Hamilton - "From an aquarium at the Henry Doorly Zoo." • Autumn Bradley - "Crawdad" • Philipp Kämmerer - "Mountain Backpacker"