WHALES: A new mobile app for citizen scientists reporting.

UPDATE: Learn more here http://www.whalemapp.org/

Abstract: This study investigates the use of a mobile application, Whale mAPP, as a citizen science tool for collecting marine mammal sighting data. In just over three months, 1261 marine mammal sightings were observed and recorded by 39 citizen scientists in Southeast Alaska. The resulting data, along with a preliminary and post-Whale mAPP questionnaires, were used to evaluate the tool’s scientific, educational, and engagement feasibility. A comparison of Whale mAPP Steller sea lion distribution data to a scientific dataset were comparable (91% overlap) given a high enough sample size (n = 73) and dense spatial coverage. In addition, after using Whale mAPP for two weeks, citizen scientists improved their marine mammal identification skills and self-initiated further learning, representing preliminary steps in developing an engaging citizen science project. While the app experienced high initial enthusiasm, maintaining prolonged commitment represents one of the fundamental challenges for this project. Increasing participation with targeted recruitment and sustained communication will help combat the limitations of sample size and spatial coverage. Overall, this study emphasizes the importance of early evaluation of the educational and scientific outcomes of a citizen science project, so that limitations are recognized and reduced.

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