A big problem for a lot of science is that there is a lack of data available. In order to assess the distribution and abundance of species across whole countries you need vast amounts of data. For one scientist to collect it all alone would be a horrendous task, it would take too long and cost way more than most science budgets could ever cover. This is where the concept of citizen science comes in. Citizen science works by asking the public to attend survey events, to collect important ecology data on mass. The surveys are simple to do and are great fun for everyone, you don’t need any scientific knowledge to take part and everything is explained to you on the day.
Last weekend some friends and I went along to help with a survey of invasive species at Mount Battern. It was organised by the MBA and the CoCoast team, and aimed to look into the spreading distribution of the sea squirt Corella eumyota and the sea mat Watersipora subatra. Both are invasive to our shores and, having only arrived in the last couple of decades, both species have spread throughout the country’s waters very quickly. To understand the effects that these species are having on our ecosystems, we need to have an understanding of their numbers.
There was a brilliant turn out for the survey! We split up into 4 groups to conduct our thirty minute surveys, turning over rocks and looking for sea squirts and sea mats. It was a lot of fun scrambling over the rocks and searching underneath them, as well as finding some of the invasive species we also found so many other fascinating creatures. From the squishy sea anemones with green tentacles to the slimy eels, there was so much else to see it was sometimes hard to focus on just looking for the two species we were there for!
We had a great time and, even though it was freezing cold, we collected some really valuable data. This will be collated together by the MBA data team and then released to the public for scientists to use in their work. This event is run every year, so that we don’t only have spatial information about these species but also temporal data. Over the years, we’ll be able to monitor the changes in the population.
These events occur throughout the year (more popular in the summer) and are so much fun to take part in. Sometimes you do want to go outside and get some fresh air, but you have no real motivation to do so. Signing up for these events gives you a purpose to head down to the shoreline and take a close look at what is living around us. Whilst doing so, you also get to support some very valuable work. Keep your eye open for more citizen science events, sign up for CoCoast and follow the MBA to sign up when they come around. :)