OTTERS – Social Transformation for Water Stewardship through Scaling Up Citizen Science

Project name: Social Transformation for Water Stewardship through Scaling Up Citizen Science

Project acronym: OTTERS


Topic: HORIZON-MISS-2021-OCEAN-05-03

Granting authority: European Climate, Infrastructure and Environment Executive Agency

Funding: This project has received funding from the European Commission’s Horizon Europe Coordination and Support Actions programme under grant agreement No 101094041.

Project starting date: 1 January 2023

Project end date: 30 June 2025

Project duration: 30 months

About the Project

The OTTERS Project aims to promote societal transformation for marine and freshwater stewardship through scaling up citizen science. OTTERS will support the coordination of EU citizen science initiatives focused on marine and freshwater, aiming to:

  1. Accelerate the creation and adoption of technical, legal, and ethical standards for citizen science protocols and methods;
  2. Examine the effectiveness of citizen science in societal transformation towards sustainable aquatic ecosystem stewardship; and
  3. Pilot cross-community, watershed-based Spring-to-Sea Stewardship Campaigns.

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WP1 Standardisation of protocols and methods for water-related citizen science 

Objectives: Enable and accelerate co-creation of standards for citizen science protocols and methods, particularly in marine and freshwater domains to be tied to European Marine Observation and Data Network and to the Digital Twin of the Oceans. This will include guidelines for the standardisation of data structures and compliance with WFD and MSFD monitoring requirements as well as discussing standardisation within FAIR and legal contexts. The discussions will focus not only on collection of data but the increasing demand and prevalence of citizens to participate in all stages of research and policy development, including data analysis, formulation of recommendations and action responses to sustainability challenges.

WP2 Deepening understanding of the effectiveness of citizen science campaigns in marine and freshwater domains 

Objectives: Contribute to the discussions on scaling up and improving the use of citizen science in marine and freshwater domains by conducting reviews, assessments, and discussions of the effectiveness of citizen science for research and innovation, and on citizens’ awareness, ocean literacy, and behaviour with respect to marine and freshwater environments. The WP will also explore the experience and practices of specialised stakeholders, such as fishing communities, sailors, recreational divers, ferry and ship crew, hobbyists, school students, members or volunteers of local associations (cultural, environmental and recreational), etc. All assessments and discussions will include reflections from a gender and inclusivity perspective.

WP3 Changing Hearts and Minds – Co-designing transformational, citizen science campaigns for Spring-to-Sea Stewardship and supporting clustering of existing CS initiatives under the relevant campaign 

Objectives: Co-design campaigns to scale up citizen science and foster a sense of agency in water stewardship. The co-designed campaigns will offer narratives to change hearts and minds by integrating citizen science components that engage citizens, empower younger and older generations to take action, promote the practice of social innovation, ocean and water citizen and local stewardship, and achieve the social transformational goals. The campaigns will include use of citizen science tools that collect data in compliance with WFD and MSFD monitoring requirements. The campaigns will also explore possibilities of linking citizen science data into existing EU initiatives and data infrastructure consistent with recommended protocols and methods. The WP will also conduct “pilots” of the Spring-to-Sea Stewardship CS campaigns in 6 watersheds. Finally, based on the results of WP1, WP2, and T3.1-T3.3, the WP will develop a guidebook and toolkit for developing and implementing similar campaigns in a wide variety of regions.

WP4 Education and capacity building 

The WP will address the educational sector (primary to tertiary) and expert/practitioner capacity building needs. The ultimate goal of the capacity building is to have the necessary teachers, institutional capacity, and expertise for empowering citizens through education and larger collaborations to take actions to improve the monitoring of the health of the ocean and waters and to act against pollution and promote ocean stewardship. The focus of the capacity building would be to provide tools and methods to teachers and experts for encouraging young citizens to understand their role in managing the marine environment, motivated by becoming part of the decision-making process involving policy makers and other stakeholders. This will be achieved via the involvement of schools as hubs of their communities, educators as drivers and facilitators of change and students as co-creators and change makers for their communities. It will also provide other local actors, such as water advocacy groups, community development organisations or local governments, with improved skills and better access to support resources to organise campaigns that aim to use citizen science effectively.

WP5 – Communication and dissemination 

The WP will contribute to effective visibility and communication of the outcomes of OTTERS as well as related EU initiatives in order to increase awareness of available tools and resources for effective use of citizen science to raise awareness about the challenges faced by aquatic ecosystems, enhance EU’s work on ocean literacy and engage young citizen scientists to take up water stewardship, and decision-making.

WP6 – Project Management 

Provide top level management to ensure that the aims of the project are efficiently and effectively met on time and with the resources budgeted. It provides effective reporting and communication within the project and towards the European Committee. It ensures quality control of deliverables, re-adjustment of the work and corrective measures if necessary.

WP7 Ethics requirements 

The objective is to ensure compliance with the ‘ethics requirements’ set out in this work package.

Clustering initiatives and adoption of new standards co- created in-project for the generation and collection of reliable citizen science data.

Preparation and promotion of toolkits and digital applications to aid in monitoring for the requirements of the WFD and MSFD.

Scaled up collection of real-time recordings to be potentially fed into ILIAD, EMODnet, BioFresh, MAES, WISE Freshwater, Marinomica and GLEON? and made publicly available through these platforms.

Increased knowledge and care for healthy freshwater and marine ecosystems among participants of project pilots through the use of social narratives, measured quantitatively by attendance and participation, as well as qualitatively by questionnaires.

Increased understanding on the effectiveness of citizen science in participatory research, innovation, and education and on the behaviour of citizens regarding water use.

Integration and use of guidelines for marine and freshwater stewardship campaigns through EU policies and programs; including input from project assessments.

Enhance science-policy dialogue based on citizen input and engagement

The OTTERS consortium comprises 12 partners from universities, research institutions, NGO’s and citizen science organisations from Armenia, Germany, Greece, Israel, Italy, the Netherland, Portugal, UK and Ukraine.

American University of Armenia (AUA), Armenia (Coordinator)

American University of Armenia is a higher education and research institution in Armenia. AUA provides its expertise in the development and offer of high-level advice and sustainable solutions for key stakeholders in rapidly growing sectors of economic activity, and has strong connections with relevant policymakers, regulatory bodies and civil society.

21c Consultancy (21c), UK

21c Consultancy is a UK based digital transformation SME working at the intersection of users and technology, delivering and promoting successful ICT research and innovation initiatives that generate multi-stakeholder engagement (business, public sector, civil society and academia) across multiple communication channels.

Agora Partners (AP), Israel

Agora Partners provides a blend of technical, scientific and industrial qualifications, strong management skills, extensive understanding of international partnerships, in-depth knowledge of European programmes and above all, the skills to present your ideas and interests successfully in a competitive environment. To date, the company has managed 25 projects totalling about € 150 million for its partners.

Democritus University of Thrace (DUTH), Greece

The Democritus University of Thrace is the first Greek regional multi-campus university that not only solely served purely educational objectives. The University is classified among the biggest Greek Universities in terms of the number of its active student population. Geographically dispersed throughout Thrace, with 8 Schools, 20 Departments and a wide variety of Postgraduate Programs, with a student population that reaches approximately 29,000 (undergraduate, graduate students and candidate PhD students) and with a research and teaching staff that exceeds 700 people, the university still is the only academic institution in the Administrative Region of East Macedonia & Thrace.

European Citizen Science Association (ECSA), Germany

The European Citizen Science Association is a membership-based association, and its membership network represents over 30 countries and different sectors in society. Research centres, NGOs, Universities, Museums, Government bodies, Associations, SMEs and Schools.

ECSA is a membership association that brings together many stakeholders  who want to increase the democratization of knowledge production. We are open to both individual and organizational members; currently, our hundreds of members come from countries across the European Union and beyond.

Ellinogermaniki Agogi (EA), Greece

Ellinogermaniki Agogi is one of the most innovative schools in Europe, with rich research and development activity in the fields of Inquiry Based Science Education (IBSE), Project Based Learning (PBL), and STEM education in combination with digital, online based learning environments and tools that use virtual reality, augmented reality and story-based education.

Nucleo Interativo de Astronomia (NUCLIO), Portugal

Nucleo Interativo de Astronomia is a non-profit association and an NGO for development focusing on the empowerment of educators to integrate innovative practices to facilitate students’ learning and acquisition of key skills.

The work done by the team includes the promotion of active research as a tool for STEAM learning and environmental awareness, the adoption of Interdisciplinary and Inquiry learning approaches, the adaptation of the Design Thinking method to the school environment, innovative student assessment and the implementation of the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) principles NUCLIO is an official training centre recognised by the Portuguese Ministry of Education.

EcoOcean (Eco), Israel

EcoOcean is a non-profit Israeli organisation established in 2002. The organisation’s mission is to empower people to care for the marine and coastal environment of Israel and the region. We do this by means of supporting research, education and community outreach.

Our main assets include the R/V Mediterranean Explorer, ROV and oceanographic research facilities; our educational centre and staff; our volunteers’ teams and our programs within the local municipalities such as the Blue Flag program. We have extensive and long-term research and citizen’s science experience as well as ability to reach and raise awareness and motivate communities, local municipalities and stakeholders.

RAMANI, the Netherlands

RAMANI is a SME which started as a spin-off company from the University of Twente, with a mission to accelerate uptake of Copernicus data by society. RAMANI has developed a toolbox for software developers to be able to quickly get results by providing a series of APIs providing advanced functionality to mobile Apps such as AI (artificial intelligence), Crowdsourcing, Offline maps and routing, etc. Ujuizi Laboratories has utilised the RAMANI APIs for its award-winning crowdsourcing app called “CHEETAH”, which fights food loss in West Africa.

University of Haifa (UH), Israel

The University of Haifa is a developing and dynamic institution with a world-renowned reputation in many different fields of research, and it is the leading University in Israel in the fields of the Humanities, Social Sciences, Law, Welfare and Health Sciences, Natural Sciences, Education and Management.  The University was selected by the Council for Higher Education to lead the field of Marine Research as well as the field of Education in a Networked Society.