During the 2018-2019 season, 31% of IAATO Operators, at nominal or no cost, transported 133 scientific, support and conservation staff and their equipment and supplies between Antarctic and sub-Antarctic research stations, field sites and gateway ports. In addition, 36% of Operators supported scientific projects through active collection of data.
In this connection, "citizen science" – the collection and processing of data by amateur polar visitors for established projects, typically in collaboration with professional scientists – is a growing source of data of sufficient quality for inclusion in databases of global or regional significance and peer-reviewed publications. Citizen science engages visitors, enriching their experience by providing hands-on learning opportunities. In turn, this can foster a long-term interest in polar science and environments, creating a corps of ambassadors for Antarctica's continued protection.
Many vessel-based Citizen Science projects are coordinated by the Polar Citizen Science Collective, a non-profit organisation that facilitates long-term collaborations between science organisations and IAATO operators. Projects do not currently involve a permit or authorisation by a Competent Authority. Existing programs span ornithology, marine biology, oceanography, meteorology, glaciology and sea ice. For example:
• Cloud Observations and atmospheric measurements in partnership with NASA Globe Observer;
• Seabird surveys in partnership with Stonybrook University and eBird;
• Measuring phytoplankton in partnership with the Secchi Disc Foundation;
• Sampling phytoplankton for FjordPhyto in partnership with scientists from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography;
• Whale sightings and identification for Happywhale in partnership with the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and multiple regional research partners.