Citizen Science: The importance of marine data
By Sarah Ward
Living Seas Officer
Wildlife Trusts around the country have long relied on the help of our valued volunteers to help us look after nature and wildlife in our local patch. This is no different for volunteers who are keen on marine conservation, who can get involved and help us out in a number of ways.
Sussex Wildlife Trust runs a handful of citizen science volunteering projects, including Seasearch for volunteer scuba divers, beach cleans for public and corporate groups, and Shoresearch, our project for recording and monitoring on the intertidal zone of our coastline.
This year, we are excited to be ‘relaunching’ our Shoresearch project for National Marine Week, alongside other local Trusts and The Wildlife Trusts nationally. Although Shoresearch has been running in Sussex for a number of years, it was agreed that we wanted our project to be more unified with the efforts of other Wildlife Trusts, and to ensure our the data we collect is as robust and valuable as it possibly could be.
Shoresearch is a great opportunity for anyone interested in local marine and coastal ecology to get involved and harness the joy of rock pooling to help us collect useful data. We run surveys throughout the summer across the whole Sussex coastline, identifying the animals, plants and habitats we find. For more information about what this entails, please take a look at the Shoresearch page on our website.
Whilst Shoresearch surveys are targeted to particular areas of interest, we are always happy to receive more anecdotal records of your findings if you’re out and about along the coast. We recommend using iRecord as it allows records to come through to verifiers and is then put into a national level database, used by our Sussex Biodiversity Records Centre as well as other organisations. iRecord can even be downloaded as an app on your smart phone, making it super easy to record wildlife on the go. When adding records, please remember to include photos, which not only show the creature you are recording, but relevent context, such as its size and where abouts you found it (eg. in a rock pool, on bare rock, at low tide, etc).
So what happens to all this information?
All of our records get entered into databases, alongside records from Seasearch. These databases are then made accessible to other organisations who may wish to use them, such as the Sussex BRC, JNCC or Natural England. Most recently, records from our citizen science projects have contributed to the identification and designation of Marine Conservation Zones – and it’s important that we continue to monitor these areas into the future.
Please note: Shoresearch is for adults only and is a citizen science project, rather than a guided rock pooling session (although we do welcome anyone willing to come along and learn!). If you’re after something more beginner-level or family-friendly, please do look at the other events we have to offer on our What’s On guide.