Manatee With Calf © UF/IFAS


When you read about manatees, diamondback terrapins and horseshoe crabs you were directed to an opportunity to get involved in citizen science to benefit our knowledge of these animals. What is citizen science? Basically, it is using volunteers to participate in field data gathering for resource management projects or research. Most volunteers are trained to conduct monitoring or surveying in areas or during times when the research teams cannot be there. More data can be collected over a wider area more often using these trained volunteers. Studies show that well trained volunteers can collect data that is not significantly different from what the research teams themselves do – so this is a valuable service. Even the casual beachgoer can make a contribution by reporting the sighting of specific animals or plants.

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Planting Sea Oats © UF/IFAS – Carrie Stevenson

On Pensacola Beach, there are several citizen science programs that visitors and locals can participate in.


Some are “one-and-done” and others require more training and time. Should you spot a manatee, report where it was seen, the date and time, whether it was alone and the direction it was traveling. Other wildlife surveys are seasonal and include scallops, horseshoe crabs, and diamondback terrapins. Water quality projects continue over the course of the year. Training and supplies are provided to volunteers who collect samples for testing. Habitat restoration projects include monitoring/restoring oyster reefs, salt marshes, monitoring seagrass, and surveying for mangroves. Some monitoring is conducted on foot or by water craft – snorkeling is required for the scallop survey and seagrass monitoring. All the information collected is shared with scientists.

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Oyster Reef Construction © UF/IFAS – Carrie Stevenson

Much of the citizen science on Pensacola Beach is coordinated by Rick O’Connor, the Sea Grant agent for Escambia County. The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science (UF/IFAS) partners with coastal counties to provide education, research, outreach and extension programs. In his role as a Sea Grant agent, Rick O’Connor was a major contributor to this website enhancing our understanding of the marine environment. He also collaborates with other federal, state, and local entities that benefit from citizen science. For additional information on any of these projects, contact Rick O’Connor at

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Scallop Survey © Molly O’Connor

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