The role of citizen science in the research and management of invasive lionfish across the western Atlantic.
Managing invasive Indo-Pacific lionfish (Pterois volitans and P. miles) in the Western Atlantic Ocean is beyond the capacity of natural resource organizations alone. In response, organizations have mobilized members of the public and citizen scientists to help. We used a structured survey to assess the activities and perceptions of 71 organizations that engage the public and citizen scientists in lionfish research and management throughout the invaded range of the Western Atlantic. Five case studies were also conducted that exemplified varied and multi-pronged approaches to engagement of the public and citizen scientists in lionfish control, monitoring, and knowledge-sharing. The public has been engaged to some extent in every approach, but organizations most frequently indicated engaging members of the public in raising awareness, promoting consumption, organized culling/removal, tournaments, and data collection. Sixty-five percent of organizations surveyed engaged the public in data collection, and data collection was ranked as the scientific research activity in which the public is most often involved. Most organizations indicated their data has contributed to scientific publications, management, and government agency research and/or policy. Collectively these findings demonstrate the conservation value of citizen scientists to assist organizational efforts to control, manage, and study a large-scale marine invasion.