WANTED: budding scientists to capture our coast

Investigating rock pools at Penmon Point.Investigating rock pools at Penmon Point.People with a passion for the UK’s coastline are being invited to help make history by being part of the largest coastal marine citizen science project ever undertaken.

The £1.7m Capturing Our Coast project, funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, is designed to further our understanding of the abundance and distribution of marine life around the UK

Officially launching this week, the aim of the project is to recruit and train more than 3,000 volunteers to help build a more accurate picture of the marine life all around the UK.

Collecting data about key indicator species – such as topshells – can provide information about how coastal systems are responding to factors such as increased sea temperatures. The research will help scientists to understand how the marine environment is responding to global climate change and inform future policy and conservation strategies.

Bangor University's School of Ocean Sciences are part of the national collaborative project, led by Newcastle University and also involving Hull and Portsmouth universities, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the Marine Conservation Society.

A Training Day prepares volunteers  A Training Day prepares volunteers It also involves a number of organisations including Earthwatch Institute, the Natural History Museum, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Coastal Partnerships Network and the North West Coastal Forum.

Professor Stuart Jenkins, Principal Investigator, at Bangor University said:

“This is a fantastic opportunity for the public to get involved in ‘hands on’ marine science on rocky shores and at the same time find out more about the research activities of marine scientists in the UK.

“We aim to build a long lasting relationship with volunteers which we hope will be mutually beneficial. A network of volunteers making sustained observations on rocky shores in Wales, and, through CoCoast, around the UK, is potentially an enormously powerful research tool.”

Dr Heather Sugden, Co-Principal Investigator based at Newcastle University said:

“This is the first project of its kind and an exciting opportunity for anyone with a fascination for marine life and a desire to make a real impact on our understanding - and ultimately the protection - of our coastal environment.

“What this project aims to do is develop a network of citizen scientists who can help us build an accurate picture of marine life all around the UK - a baseline against which we can better understand the impact of climate change and other environmental and human factors.

“The data we collect will fill key knowledge gaps such as geographic species distributions, movement of warm water species, and occurrences of invasive non-native species.”

Training and ongoing support will be provided to volunteers by experts in marine science to ensure ongoing interest and high quality data. Capturing our Coast will also be available to those who can’t get out to the shore, with the establishment of web-based citizen science options.

 Our rocky shoreline provides  a wealth of habitats. Our rocky shoreline provides a wealth of habitats. Multiple research publications directly linked to this project are planned, on topics such as how species assemblages are changing due to climate change.

Professor Juliet Brodie,  of the Natural History Museum added:

“I am very excited about Capturing Our Coast. Taking part is such a brilliant opportunity for so many people to get to know the diversity and beauty of the marine algae that are found on our shores and everyone will have the chance to contribute to our scientific understanding of these organisms.”

Dr Kieran Hyder, Cefas said:

“This is a really exciting opportunity for members of the public to get involved in a project that will enhance our understanding of coastal biodiversity and ecological processes.

“Cefas are delighted to be involved in this innovative citizen science project that should provide data and understanding that helps to effectively manage our marine systems and supports development of marine policy.”

To get involved or for more information please see our website www.capturingourcoast.co.uk

Publication date: 12 January 2016