World-first citizen science project kicks off in Eden: PHOTOS

The Sapphire Marine Discovery Centre has launched an exciting new project, in a world-first that links marine citizen science projects on a global level.

As part of the Oceans Connected initiative, centre staff and volunteers conducted a survey at Shelly’s Beach on Thursday, searching for 23 different indicator species in order to determine the effects of factors like climate change, changing temperatures and rainfall patterns on Australia’s east coast.

At the same time, the centre’s new “twin”, the Berwickshire and North Northumberland Coast European Marine Site, conducted a simultaneous study in the UK.

The centres, working on a methodology set by ClimateWatch Marine (Australia) and The Big Sea Survey (UK) then held a live Skype catch-up to compare their results, looking at the similarities, differences and any noticeable patterns.

Scientists will now conduct their own analysis of the findings.

Sapphire Marine Discovery Centre marine education officer Jillian Riethmuller said it is a thrill for the centre to be involved in such a wide-reaching international project.

“ClimateWatch instigated it with us; they run the survey methodology and the database, but they needed a marine centre to actually run the survey,” Ms Riethmuller said.

“It’s really about opening up a conversation across the oceans.

“This data will go into the ClimateWatch database, and their scientists will be able to access it, see the results, and compare it to those measures to see if there is any correlation with the data that goes into The Big Sea Survey database in the UK.

“We’ll be doing these surveys a number of times throughout the year, so people can always check our Facebook page and our website if they want to get involved.

“We had seven people here today, as well as six volunteers from Campbell Page who weren’t able to stay for the full time, but we’re hoping to get more people involved in citizen science.”

Among the volunteers was recent zoology graduate Tara Hicks, who travelled up from Mallacoota to help out after seeing a Facebook post on Wednesday night.

She said it is fascinating to see the difference in the marine environment in Eden, even if it is only an hour from home.

“Every time you go to rock pools you find different things, like today I’ve found a Feather Star,” she said.

“It’s been really good, and it’s really different from where I live.

“I’m really interested in the marine environment and love getting into these sorts of things.”

Keen an eye on the Sapphire Marine Discovery’s website and Facebook page to find out you can get involved in the next survey.

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