Citizens' eyes on Mnemiopsis: how to multiply sightings with a click!
Monitoring the spreading of marine invasive species represents one of the most relevant challenges for marine scientists in order to understand their impact on the environment. In recent years, citizen science is becoming more and more involved in research programs, especially taking advantage of new digital technologies. Here, we present the results obtained in the first 20 months (from 12 July 2019 to 8 March 2021) since launching avvistAPP. This new app was conceived to track the spreading of the invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi in the Adriatic Sea; it was also designed to collect sightings of 18 additional marine taxa (ctenophores, jellyfish, sea turtles, dolphins, salps and noble pen shell). A total of 1224 sightings were recorded, of which 530 referred to Mnemiopsis, followed by the scyphozoan jellyfish Rhizostoma pulmo (22%), Cotylorhiza tuberculata (11%) and Aurelia spp. (8%). avvistAPP produced data confirming the presence of Mnemiopsis (often in abundances > 20 individuals m-2) along almost the entire Italian coast in the summer of 2019 and 2020.