Community Science

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National marine sanctuaries across the United States are looking for those with local knowledge to help us study and better understand our blue planet.

From counting whales and documenting their surface behavior in Hawaii to collecting water samples in the Potomac, the  National marine sanctuaries and monuments are important areas for collecting data and involving the community in scientific discoveries.  

Regardless of your background, experience, or geographic location all members of the community are invited to help grow our knowledge. We cannot do this without you; find out where you can make an impact!


Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary’s Team OCEAN Program (Ocean Conservation Education Action Network) puts trained, knowledgeable Volunteer Naturalists out on the water in sanctuary kayaks, to greet and interact with fellow ocean users and protect sensitive marine wildlife such as harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions and birds. Team OCEAN and its sister, land-based program Bay Net, are engaged in fostering wise environmental stewards through actions on-the-water and on-the-trail.

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Ocean Count

The Sanctuary Ocean Count is a signature education outreach and citizen science project that the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary hosts annually. Ocean Count serves to promote public awareness about humpback whales, the sanctuary, and shore-based whale watching opportunities in the Hawaiian Islands. The count is conducted three times per year during peak whale season and provides a snapshot of humpback whales sightings from the shoreline.

Participants tally humpback whale sightings and document the animals’ surface behavior during the survey which is from 8 am to 12 noon. Since it is an Ocean Count we also encourage noting down any other species you might see during the count. The Sanctuary Ocean Count project is highly dependent on and hugely successful due to our enthusiastic and dedicated volunteers! A similar effort is also done on Maui with the Pacific Whale Foundation.

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Water Quality Monitoring

The partnership plans for a long-term, continuous water quality monitoring site in the proposed Mallows Bay–Potomac River National Marine Sanctuary area providing real-time data to the public, resource managers and scientists via the department’s Eyes on the Bay program.

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