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Open AccessArticle

Obstacles and Opportunities of Using a Mobile App for Marine Mammal Research

College of Earth Ocean and Atmospheric Science, Oregon State University, 104 CEOAS Administration Building, Corvallis, OR 97333, USA
Department of Biology, University of Redlands, 1200 E. Colton Ave., Redlands, CA 92373, USA
Alaska Whale Foundation, PO Box 1927, Petersburg, AK 99833, USA
Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, Marine Mammal Institute, Oregon State University, 2030 SE Marine Science Drive, Newport, OR 97365, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2018, 7(5), 169;
Received: 30 March 2018 / Revised: 24 April 2018 / Accepted: 28 April 2018 / Published: 3 May 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Geoinformatics in Citizen Science)
PDF [25125 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


This study investigates the use of a mobile application, Whale mAPP, as a citizen science tool for collecting marine mammal sighting data. In just over three months, 1261 marine mammal sightings were observed and recorded by 39 citizen scientists in Southeast Alaska. The resulting data, along with a preliminary and post-Whale mAPP questionnaires, were used to evaluate the tool’s scientific, educational, and engagement feasibility. A comparison of Whale mAPP Steller sea lion distribution data to a scientific dataset were comparable (91% overlap) given a high enough sample size (n = 73) and dense spatial coverage. In addition, after using Whale mAPP for two weeks, citizen scientists improved their marine mammal identification skills and self-initiated further learning, representing preliminary steps in developing an engaging citizen science project. While the app experienced high initial enthusiasm, maintaining prolonged commitment represents one of the fundamental challenges for this project. Increasing participation with targeted recruitment and sustained communication will help combat the limitations of sample size and spatial coverage. Overall, this study emphasizes the importance of early evaluation of the educational and scientific outcomes of a citizen science project, so that limitations are recognized and reduced. View Full-Text
Keywords: citizen science; marine mammal; opportunistic data; Alaska; spatial bias; sample size; volunteer; education; recruitment citizen science; marine mammal; opportunistic data; Alaska; spatial bias; sample size; volunteer; education; recruitment

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Hann, C.H.; Stelle, L.L.; Szabo, A.; Torres, L.G. Obstacles and Opportunities of Using a Mobile App for Marine Mammal Research. ISPRS Int. J. Geo-Inf. 2018, 7, 169.

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