Citizen Science Across the Sea Linked through Oceans Connected
Many citizen science programs exist across the world, but often they do not interact with each other. This lack of communication has inspired two marine monitoring programs – Newcastle University’s Big Sea Survey in the U.K. and Earthwatch’s ClimateWatch program in Australia – to join forces and create Oceans Connected.
Oceans Connected creates a network of marine citizen science projects around the world, from shore to shore.
Volunteers conduct a rocky shore survey in Eden (source: Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre)
Oceans Connected is a unique partnership that links marine citizen science programs on a global level. The program connects ClimateWatch Marine and the Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre in Eden, Australia with The Big Sea Survey and The Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site in northern England.
The two citizen science programs, marine discovery centre and the European Marine Site are now connected across the oceans, building an international understanding of rocky shore biodiversity. This is the first time that marine discovery centres and citizen science programs have been ‘twinned’ in this way, much like sister cities are matched across the world.
ClimateWatch Marine and Big Sea Survey encourage people to record what they see when they visit the coast. Both projects use scientific survey methodologies, training people to record along a transect of the shoreline.
Craterolophus convolvulus, the stalked Jellyfish.
source: Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site
ClimateWatch Marine is focussed on 30 key marine species in Australia that are likely to expand their range as global ocean temperatures increase. “Scientists can’t be everywhere, so we really need everyone to keep an eye out for these marine creatures,” says ClimateWatch Program Manager, Dr. Linden Ashcroft.
Big Sea Survey on the other hand is looking at marine biodiversity, providing vital information for coastal managers and marine scientists. Run by Dr. Heather Sudgen from Newcastle University’s Dove Marine Laboratory, Big Sea Survey has volunteers in coastal regions of the UK.
Photos and videos from the surveys are being shared between the groups through Twitter, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube. This enables Oceans Connected to share adventures from two very different shorelines. Volunteers conduct scientific surveys as part of the ClimateWatch Marine and Big Sea Survey projects, and compare what they have found. What are the similarities and differences between the east coast of Australia and the rugged U.K. coastline? How is climate change influencing these different ecosystems?
Comatulid crinoid, a featherstar.
Source: Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre.
The program was launched late last month, with simultaneous surveys conducted at both locations. Volunteers had a great time exploring rock pools and discovering the marine biodiversity in their local area. A highlight for the U.K. team was a stalked jellyfish, which is quite rare on the north east coast. The Australian crew were lucky enough to see a pod of dolphins go past and spot a small feather star.
“It’s really about opening up a conversation across the oceans,” says marine biologist Jill Riethmuller from The Sapphire Coast Marine Discovery Centre. Claire Hedley from the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site agrees: “Oceans Connected inspires people to learn not only about their own coast, but what is happening on the other side of the world and realise that the data they are collecting can make a difference.”
In the future, volunteers from both groups will be asking questions of each other and learning more about the similarities and difference between our rocky coastlines.