Calling All Citizen Scientists


Capture1What is a Citizen Scientist?

A Citizen Scientist is an individual who voluntarily contributes time, effort, and resources toward scientific research in collaboration with professional scientists or alone. These individuals don’t necessarily have a formal science background.

Why everyone who visits the Bird’s Head Seascape (BHS) should become one.

Unquestionably the BHS is beautiful; it also contains the most bio-diverse, intact coral reef systems on the planet. Divers rave about the reefs, and a trip to the BHS is on every diver’s “bucket list”. But with over 225,000 square kilometers of marine area (including 11 Marine Protected Areas, which cover over 36,000 square kilometers), the region is simply too large for NGOs, local organizations and the regional government to monitor adequately. Without your help, collecting data to support scientific and conservation issues is an overwhelming task.

Citizen Scientists

Only a few people had traveled to Raja Ampat before 2002, when Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy completed their initial surveys of the region. Finding unprecedented numbers of marine species and amazingly habitats, these organizations began working on conservation plans. A network of MPAs was established, and patrol teams were empowered to enforce the rules. Word of the region’s marine riches spread beyond the scientific community, and soon intrepid divers began exploring Raja Ampat, Triton Bay and Cenderawasih Bay. Numerous travel articles and two guidebooks, “Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat” and “Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape” led to increasing numbers of marine tourists. In 2014 the website,, began promoting diving, photography, and tourism, while providing an internet platform for sharing and archiving all the scientific data being produced in the Bird’s Head, as well as reporting scientific, conservation, and regional news.

In the past year, the BHS site has added new features that enable a traveler to become part of the conservation action in the Bird’s Head. You can become a Citizen Scientist by uploading your images into the site’s Manta Ray and Whale Shark photo ID databases. This is not about “selfies”, or “sharing”, this is about actively engaging in real science and conservation. In order to protect these creatures, scientists need to know the movement of these animals, their health, and their numbers. Unfortunately, scientists cannot to be in the field every day, but divers can. By regularly contributing to these databases, you help us dramatically expand our knowledge of the populations of these charismatic giants in the Bird’s Head – which in turn will help us better design management actions to ensure their continued well-being.

Citizen Scientists

Additionally the Raja Ampat Environmental Watch (RAEW) is designed so that visitors can report an incident such as fish bombing, garbage dumping, or harassment of marine life. By reporting incidents through the app, tourists become virtual patrol team members. Positive encounters, a sighting of unusual marine life or reef & fisheries recovery, are also encouraged.

By becoming involved and using these databases, you, the Citizen Scientist, take an active role in in ensuring the wellbeing of this unparalleled region. Without your involvement your visit is only about you; if you participate, everyone and everything, especially the environment you love, benefits.



Burt Jones Maurine Shimlock

Burt Jones Maurine Shimlock

Burt Jones and Maurine Shimlock are award-winning marine life photographers whose assignments have taken them around the world to portray diverse subjects including the world’s longest underwater cave in Mexico and nesting sea snakes in Borneo. Their photographs have been published internationally, and Secret Sea, a collection of their photographs, was honored with the Benjamin Franklin award as the best book printed world-wide. Burt and Maurine’s lively and informative teaching style and their “Stop Taking Pictures and Start Creating Images” seminar, which they present on their Secret Sea Visions “Scuba Safaris”, have helped hundreds of marine life photographers improve their technique. Burt and Maurine are renowned “critter spotters” and their images often reveal habits and habitats of creatures many people never see for themselves. In June 2008 they began working with Conservation International as consultants on sustainable marine tourism. Burt and Maurine’s long-term project is to explore, photograph, and to produce guidebooks and website content for the remote and uncharted dive sites around Raja Ampat and the rest of the Bird’s Head Seascape in West Papua. Their guidebook, Diving Indonesia’s Raja Ampat, was released in late 2009. A revised and expanded sequel, Diving Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, was published in late 2011. The Bird’s Head Seascape website,, launched in June, 2014. To learn more about Burt and Maurine, their images and scuba safari programs visit their website,

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