Citizen Science Profile: SeaSketch

Blog entry from the Commons Lab within the  Science and Technology Innovation Program of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars: “As part of the Commons Lab’s ongoing initiative to highlight the intersection of emerging technologies and citizen science, we present a profile of SeaSketch, a marine management software that makes complex spatial planning tools accessible to everyone. This was prepared with the gracious assistance of Will McClintock, director of the McClintock Lab.
The SeaSketch initiative highlights key components of successful citizen science projects. The end product is a result of an iterative process where the developers applied previous successes and learned from mistakes. The tool was designed to allow people without technical training to participate, expanding access to stakeholders. MarineMap had a quantifiable impact on California marine protected areas, increasing their size from 1 percent to 16 percent of the coastline. The subsequent version, SeaSketch, is uniquely suited to scale out worldwide, addressing coastal and land management challenges. By emphasizing iterative development, non-expert accessibility and scalability, SeaSketch offers a model of successful citizen science….
SeaSketch succeeded as a citizen science initiative by focusing on three project priorities:

  • Iterative Development: The current version of SeaSketch’s PGIS software is the result of seven years of trial and error. Doris and MarineMap helped the project team learn what worked and adjust accordingly. The final result would have been impossible without a sustained commitment to the project and regular product assessments.
  • Non-Expert Accessibility: GIS software is traditionally limited to those with technical expertise. SeaSketch was developed anticipating that stakeholders without GIS training would use the software. New features allow users to contribute spatial surveys, sharing their knowledge of the area to better inform planning. This ease of use means the project is outward facing: More people can participate, meaning the analyses better reflect community priorities.
  • Scalability: Although MarineMap was built specifically to guide the MLPA process, the concept is highly flexible. SeaSketch  is being used to support oceanic management issues worldwide, including in areas of international jurisdiction. The software can support planning with legal implications as well as cooperative agreements. SeaSketch’s project team believes it can also be used for freshwater and terrestrial management issues.”