CoCoast: Citizen Science

I have always loved rock pooling. It brings something alive in all of us; a desire to discover.

This month I have taken part in a course that has enabled me to use my desire to discover and help science by collecting data. Capturing our Coast (CoCoast) is a charity which aims to train the public so they can become more involved and engaged in marine science.

It’s all about Citizen Science! Which is about members of the public helping to contribute to scientific knowledge by collecting, analysing and interpreting data. ‘CoCoast’ believes that members of the public should feel empowered to contribute in ways that utilize their skills and enthusiasm, instead of just observing scientists.

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At the start of my training day we were educated about the work of the charity, the different project they do, their most recent being SpermWatch.

CoCoast forward their collected data to the National Biodiversity Network (NBN) where the data is checked and can be used by a number of groups to:

  • Provide detailed distribution maps of marine species
  • Allow us to explore how climate change and other human impact is affecting our seas
  • Allow us to investigate if conservation policies are effective
  • Allow us to study how species interact, including marine invasive species
  • Allow us to explore local issues on the coast

They currently have two different types of survey:

Time search

The time search requires you to take 20 minutes to look around and find as many species you can in a specific area (that you set up yourself). That’s it. You just say if species are there or not. Sounds simple right?

Quadrat search

The Quadrat search is a bit more complicated and also requires some equipment (CoCoast will give you equipment on completion of the course). You do 10 quadrats at the high shore and low shore along a line and measure species abundance.

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After learning the theory behind the approaches (there really isn’t much), you’ll go out into the field (well – beach). There you will practise the different searches so you feel comfortable doing it. Just enter your data on the website and you’re done!

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“But I don’t know anything about species.” No problem. Everyone who completes the course is given one of 8 ID packs for you to ‘specialise’ in. These packs can be anything from seaweed to barnacles – it’s up to you. The guides are full of photos to help you on your coastal discovery.

To find out more information about the charity or to sign up for your local training day go to the website here. I promise you won’t regret it.

Thank you to Ben Holt and Catherine Oliver for some of the photos featured!

This article was originally published by Scubaverse