🌊 Capturing Our Coast

Since I arrived in Plymouth, one thing that I have been particularly impressed by is the amount of charities and volunteer work that goes on in relation to our oceans here. As a marine biologist, it is a subject close to my heart, and it’s wonderful to be around people who appreciate the seas as much as I do. One of these fantastic organisations is Capturing Our Coast.

Capturing Our Coast is a citizen science project with seven hubs around the country, with one in the Marine Biological Association, and it has been running for 3 years now thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund. They are working to collect scientific data about our coastline on mass. A lot of research can be hindered by a lack of data, scientists on their own are limited in the amount of data they can collect so citizen scientists are very valuable assets.

Capturing Our Coast has been focusing on training volunteers on how to conduct surveys and record the data correctly, before submitting it to the national database. In just over a year, more than 4,000 people have registered with CoCoast and they have successfully trained 2000 volunteers.


Last week I was able to join them for their Christmas celebrations, looking back at all their hard work over the year. Hosted at the Marine Biological Association, we all gathered together to share stories over mulled wine and a big pile of mince pies. During the evening we heard from numerous volunteers, all with their own experiences of volunteering with CoCoast.

Bethan Follies has been interning with CoCoast during her placement year at university. Although she is only obliged to work for three days a week, Bethan gives up a lot of her free time because of how much she loves her work with CoCoast, and how valuable it is for the science community. Her work with CoCoast has been very varied, and has included assessing the state of Sargassum muticum, an invasive species of kelp from Japan. Bethan has been working in the field and in the lab, identifying what lives on the kelp, which requires a lot of patient microscope work.

From a scientist beginning her career to a scientist finishing his. Colin Munn is a new volunteer who was looking for something new after retiring from his career as a microbiologist professor. His first project was taking part in Sperm Watch, an interesting project to take part in and it works as a great ice breaker if people ever ask what you are up to at the weekend! Lugworms are very common on our shores but we actually have no idea about when they spawn. Sperm Watch is a national project to try and collect data to help us work out when and why lugworms spawn. To be back in the classroom was a strange experience for Colin, but with the passion and support showed by the leaders of CoCoast the rocky shore species were soon as familiar as his old microbes.

Alys Perry was also a student when she joined CoCoast, a first year in fact, and did find that CoCoast taught her some very valuable skills, from identification work to dissection and microscopy work. All of which will be very useful for her as she works her way through her degree.

A fun addition to the evening was the photo competition. Volunteers entered photos from their time surveying, and there were many beautiful landscapes and cute creatures. A big congratulations to the winners of the competition Luka Wright, Barry Pettifor and Michael Puleston, who were happy for their photos to be shared below for everyone to enjoy! 

The whole evening was relaxed, friendly and very inspiring. CoCoast has successfully completed 1118 surveys in the last year, all that data will be able to be used in research to help us better understand our coastlines.

Hopefully in the future I will be able to contribute to this work, until then a big well done to everyone who volunteered with CoCoast and a huge thank you to all the work done by the CoCoast team. And of course for the tasty mince pies.


Merry Christmas from the CoCoast team!