Fall 2011

Document Type

Master's Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)


Science & Environmental Policy


Ecological monitoring enables our understanding of ecosystem change and is fundamental to the process of developing sound management policies. One major gap in all current California kelp forest monitoring programs is the limited frequency at which kelp forest fishes are sampled. Citizen science has been identified as a valuable tool to help meet monitoring needs in the marine environment, most recently in the California Marine Life Protection Act (1999). Because the costs of citizen science programs are mitigated by the use of volunteers, they are more able to expand their monitoring efforts to capture seasonal variations than other professional programs. We evaluated the citizen-based Reef Check California (RCCA) for its potential to capture seasonal variations in kelp forest fishes by monitoring multiple times per year. We conducted diver surveys approximately once every four weeks from March 2009-July 2010 at MacAbee reef in Monterey, California using the RCCA fish survey protocol. We compared generalized linear models (GLM) using an Akaike’s Information Criteria (AIC) approach to examine the relationship between fish abundances and time. The results of this study show that the local abundance of selected species and/or species groups were subject to substantial temporal variation both within and among oceanographic seasons. The results of this study provide information on the temporal trends of species recorded via the RCCA protocol and indicate that RCCA could expand monitoring efforts to capture continuous seasonal patterns, change between oceanographic seasons, and within season variability. This information, combined with information from other professional organizations can ultimately better inform marine management decisions.