Seagras workshop in Hainan (Photo: Jialin Zhang)

02/11/2022 | Despite the recent growth of citizen science practices in marine and coastal environmental research, the concepts and impacts of such initiatives are rarely evaluated.

A recent study led by researchers from ZMT contributes to filling this gap by presenting an in-depth analysis of a citizen science case study that has successfully engaged citizens in seagrass monitoring on the Chinese island of Hainan. The results, published in the Journal Ocean & Coastal Management, are entitled “Citizen science to support coastal research and management: Insights from a seagrass monitoring case study in Hainan, China”.

This citizen science project was initiated in 2019 as part of the knowledge exchange measures in the Sino-German collaboration project TICAS (Tackling environmental change Issues of China’s coastal Aquatic Systems: networking, capacity building and knowledge exchange), which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and led by Dr. Tim Jennerjahn at the ZMT.

This case study also analyzed and assessed the role of civil society organizations in the implementation of citizen science projects for the first time. It was evaluated from three perspectives: public participation, scientific impact, and social-ecological / economic impact. The results challenge the dominant view of citizen science as a two-party relationship between academic researchers and volunteers. It indicates that civil society plays an important role in such projects, it also provides a bridge to promote the collaboration between academic institutions and civil society organizations.

“It is a joint effort”, says Dr. Jialin Zhang, the project coordinator and lead author of the study. “This project was co-designed and co-implemented with our NGO and science partners in Hainan. Now, we are glad to see that the results can be co-disseminated through a joint publication. It shows that citizen science projects, even on a smaller scale like ours, can generate societal impacts.”

Tim Jennerjahn adds: "It is satisfying to see the success and the societal impact of such an activity with stakeholders. However, what is equally important for us as a research organization is to provide concepts for and evaluations of citizen science projects and other stakeholder measures in the peer-reviewed scientific literature as a robust basis for the science community."


Jialin Zhang, Shiquan Chen, Cheng Cheng, Yan Liu, Tim C. Jennerjahn, Citizen science to support coastal research and management: Insights from a seagrass monitoring case study in Hainan, China, Ocean & Coastal Management, Volume 231, 2023, 106403, ISSN 0964-5691,