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Using citizen science to better protect coastal threatened species If we know more about where coastal threatened species occur we can use this information to better protect them.

Elise Smith, Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society

MARINE CHAMPION COASTS IN Project Hotspot has won a Taranaki Regional Council Environmental Award for engaging the community with science by collecting and sharing data online on endangered coastal species and their threats.

It is an outstanding example of citizen science. Coastal recreational groups, school children, and other members of the public have recorded more than 450 sightings online of four threatened coastal species orca, reef heron, little blue penguin and New Zealand fur seal.

The project has a strong educational focus. Many schools contribute sightings, undertake action projects and are learning about threats to native coastal species. Highlands Intermediate and Oakura School students, with guidance from scientists, have been actively involved in investigating potential threats to species at the Tapuae Marine Reserve. They held a workshop and their findings are being used by industry, planners, conservationists and scientists to better protect coastal threatened species in Taranaki.1

www.hotspot.org.nz

Since 2008 the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society and MAIN Trust NZ had been developing and using online data collection systems for research, to record the biotic and abiotic information on the New Plymouth coastline.

Over the years, 6 RSNZ Science Teacher Fellowship teachers participated in the research projects, and provided a connection with the local educators and to the national Experiencing Marine Reserves Program.

More recently the data collection became related with NatureWatch NZ, the local project data becoming part of the national datasets and still providing online GIS analysis of the information.

The MBIE funding for a pilot Curious Minds project in Taranaki presented an opportunity to really capture the public attention, to engage with schools and develop curriculum-based activities, and make the issues real and exciting to the public. Project Hotspot was born.

The funding allowed specialists to be engaged and brought together, particularly enabling them to attend Seaweek 2016 and participate in activities. The support of the Taranaki Regional Council with the participation of their marine biologist provided the impetus for a series of talks, excursions, school visits and publicity. Two teachers on the RSNZ Science Leadership Program brought their expertise for curriculum and resource development, and invaluable time for attending events and supervising workshops.

Without the MBIE funding, and the paid input from highly trained and experienced professionals, the Marine Reserve Society would still be struggling along doing the best that volunteers can, as even when the volunteers are qualified, they have their own jobs and families.

Conclusion: Citizen Science Projects need inside support from the councils and government departments, expert supervision, and the success depends upon capturing public enthusiasm.

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A success storySignificant discoveries:Species distribution is now better understood and not just the 4 Hotspot species, but rare visitors and pest speciesWe have new information about animal behaviour patterns and preferred habitatsSome threats to these species have been identified

Action:School action projects were undertaken to mitigate threatsInformed decision-makers are making changesCollecting and sharing data online on endangered coastal species and the threats.

Citizen science - Informing decision makers

A success story3

The citizen scientists

SchoolsRSNZ Science Teacher Leadership teachers Sea Week participantsPort Taranaki staff membersPhotographersPeople out walking

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Orca, herons, penguins and seals

Facts recorded in HotspotLocation and time of observationNumber observedAge and sex if knownActivityThreats to the speciesPhotos

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Ecological alarm bells can we be sure that the data collected is of scientific value? Is the data of sufficient quality to accurately identify the species?

Is the data verifiable? Is the data in a format that may be analysed?Photographs of sightings are encouraged for confirmation by NatureWatch experts

Level of competence recorded

The iNaturalist/Naturewatch database allows data retrieval for analysis

Citizen science - Informing decision makers

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Species dataHeron SightingsWhy is Port Taranaki a heron Hotspot?Have you got a hunch? What actions can you take?

Citizen Scientists contribute their species data to NatureWatch through projects with strict fields which allow a Geographic Information system to take the data and analyse it spatial understanding. Students are encouraged to Have a hunch7

Local information is necessary for

Citizen science - Informing decision makers

Informing local government policies, plans and by-laws. Better protection of threatened speciesAdvising resource consents for subdivision and impacts on migratory and resident organismsMonitoring the spread of pest organismsUnderstanding the spread of naturalised organisms

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The decision makersOil spill response teamDog control officersStorm water engineersCouncil enforcement officersFish and Game officers and hunting clubsPort officials environmental planningDepartment of ConservationRegional and District Council Statutory PlannersConsent officers and PlannersOceanographers prediction and evidenceAcademic researchersIndustry

Citizen science - Informing decision makers

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Citizen science - Informing decision makers

Using the dataAnalyse the data to see if there are patterns in season, site, behaviourSee if you can confirm any hunchesMake data widely availableKelpiePhotos : Emily RobertsBob

Smart

HilaryJagger

Tidy

Analyse the data compare the photos.

Here we have a major discovery that the Reef Herons may be identified by the tattoos on their legs. Once you can identify individuals without any invasive techniques and without interference, a much better idea of range and habits may be understood, and recorded for decision-makers Jagger has been seen near New Plymouth in late May, 21 , and six weeks later, a long way around the coast near Hawera, early July - 6th10

Threats to endangered species: RefuseIs the composition of marine litter on Taranaki beaches similar to that found internationally?

Oakura School and Highlands Intermediate visited Tapuae Marine ReserveBell Block Beach clean upWaitara Beach clean up

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Plastic shotgun wadsAction Project: Survey the composition of marine litter in the Tapuae Marine Reserve Findings: Plastic shotgun wads were found, and their construct provided clues to their origins.MetOcean Solutions oceanographic modelling tracked the litterRecommended Actions: Work with Fish and Game to reduce the number of plastic shotgun wads entering the marine environment.

MetOcean Blog http://www.metocean.co.nz/blog/2016/10/31/4f6qyojptsgspegisbe2qf0nq762ur

In August 2016, Dr Emily Roberts, Taranaki Regional Councils Marine Ecologist, approached MetOcean Solutions to ask for help with some marine detective work. Emily is involved with Project Hotspot, a Taranaki based pilot project that is using citizen science to support the conservation of threatened and iconic species. As part of the project, Council worked with schools to clean up Taranaki beaches. The children were puzzled to find dozens of plastic wads from shotgun cartridges washing up on beaches around Taranaki, including within the environmentally sensitive Tapuae Marine Reserve. They wanted help in determining likely sources of the cartridges, and who better to answer this than New Plymouths resident oceanographers.Emily discussed the case with Allen Stancliff, the Taranaki Fish & Game Council Field Officer, who did some detective work. He suspected that the plastic wads came from the Manganui River (which flows into the Waitara River), where an annual club clay bird shoot event is held. The shoot has grown in popularity over the years, attracting about 200 shooters in recent years. As some of the traps are located on the riverbank, the plastic wads could easily have ended up in the river. Newer ammunition uses fibre wads, but up until 2014 the ammunition used had plastic wads. If Allen was right, thousands of plastic wads could have been washed down the Waitara River over the years. Allen also thought that some plastic wads may originate from gamebird hunters shooting ducks along streams and rivers throughout Taranaki. These hunters are required to use steel shot (rather than lead, which is toxic) and at present the only suitable wads are plastic, but he doubted that this was a significant source.

Coastal Taranaki school students also found plastic shotgun wads while with Project Hotspot at the Waikerikeri Lagoon - Komene Rd

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Parking ticketsAction Project: Are plastic parking tickets less likely to break down than paper parking tickets? Do plastic parking tickets pose a threat to species in the Tapuae Marine Reserve?Findings: Tapuae Marine Reserve had plastic parking tickets on the beach. These are not biodegradableRecommended Actions: Work with New Plymouth District Council to find alternatives e.g. online payment

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OrcaPods of orca are sighted several times a year in Taranaki coastal watersNow we are excited to share their locations by mobile phone and FacebookPhotos with the fin shape enable us to identify individuals and track them nationally valuable recordsSee the animation of

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