Citizen Science

In citizen science, citizens and researchers work hand in hand to collect data. For coastal and marine research, this is particularly useful because the scope of work is very large and much more information can be collected this way. An additional advantage is that public involvement increases. In Belgium, VLIZ is a pioneer and leader in marine and coastal citizen science.

What research is VLIZ conducting with the help of the general public?

  • SeaWatch-B about twenty citizens measure the condition of the shallow Belgian North Sea coast in a comparable and multifaceted way. Supported by LifeWatch Belgium.
  • The 'Big Seashell Survey', an annual event where citizens collect, count and identify tens of thousands of beach shells, assisted by experts. Supported by LifeWatch Belgium.
  • CoastSnap-Belgium, a program that encourages people to photograph changes on the beach with their smartphones, helping to understand and manage our dynamic coastline.
  • Recreational Sea Fishing, an initiative in which recreational sea anglers participate in research by sharing their logbook data. 
  • Plastic Pirates Belgium, a project that encourages students and their teachers to measure macro and micro litter presence in a river in their neighbourhood. A new campaign starts in 2024, supported by EWI.
  • In 2022 and 2024, VLIZ and partners organized ZEEKERWETEN, a citizen science festival by and about the sea.
  • In addition, VLIZ is also a member of the steering committee of Scivil, the Flemish knowledge center for citizen science, and together with Natuurpunt, runs the Scivil working group on 'Nature & biodiversity'. 

International marine citizen science projects

  • VLIZ also strengthens citizen science at the international level, through lectures and publications.
  • Within the European Prep4Blue project, VLIZ compiled as European many marine, coastal and river-related citizen science projects as possible into the online platform WaveLinks. From this perspective, recommendations and good practices were captured and condensed in a step-by-step guide for starting aquatic citizen science projects.
  • In the European project BlueMissionBANOS, VLIZ researched various forms of public engagement. It resulted in a catalog of potential public engagement formats, evaluating their impact level, their strengths and limitations.
  • VLIZ was partner in the COLLECT project, which collected marine litter data on African beaches and trained citizen scientists.  

Open Science

Citizen science is one of the actions mentioned under the UNESCO Recommendation on Open Science and one of the eight ambitions of the EU Open Science Policy. This states that the general public should be able to contribute to sound European research.