The weather’s changing, but wrapped up and ready for anything, your shore walk could be enhanced with a challenge that can be vital for monitoring our seas. Most Citizen Science surveys won’t take too long to complete, are informative, engaging and provide those taking part with that feeling many volunteers appreciate – a sense of achievement; that they’ve done something to help.
You’ve got a choice too:
* Fancy helping the Natural History Museum fill a few gaps in their map of seaweeds around the UK coast? In their most recent newsletter they called for more records from North Wales, amongst other sparse spots.
The survey asks those taking part to record only a few types of seaweeds (there’s an ID guide) along a 5 metre-wide stretch of shore, from the sea up the shore. Take pictures of those species you find, as well as the a wider shot of the shore you’re surveying. Once home, upload the information and pictures and a bit of information about the shore and you’re done.
What we like about this – can be completed all year round; plenty of ID help; clear reasons why they’re interested in each set of seaweeds – highlighting some of the issues facing our marine environment
What you will need – rocky shore area; survey guide and recording form; pencil and camera/phone.
* What about answering the call from Aberystwyth University’s Ecostructure team. They’re hoping to find out whether some of our marine molluscs are using our man-made sea defences to leap frog up our coasts, as the sea temperatures are changing?
With a video guide to help, they ask those taking part to look for only three species of mollusc on rocky shores or sea defences. Photograph, count and once home, upload the information, pictures etc.
What we like about this – can be completed all year round; plenty of ID help; clear research question to address an aspect of one of the issues facing our marine environment
What you will need – rocky shore area/sea defence; survey guide; pencil and camera/phone; timepiece.
* Beach babies is one of the surveys continuing from Capturing our Coast, a UK-wide project, now finished, but hoping to resurface with further funding. Many species reproduce in the shallower area of our seas, which means they can be seen on a shorewalk and bit of a mooch around rocks, seaweed etc.
The timing of breeding may be changing due to changes in climate, so documenting what you find will be informative for you and researchers. Take the ID sheets and recording form with you to the shore to help you ID. The survey is as long as you want to spend looking, until you’ve found 30 or more for each species and is best completed from Feb-June. You can find some ID help in another news items from earlier this year too.
What we like about this – It’s a reason to spend time noticing what you might overlook; it documents potential phenological changes due to Climate Change; plenty of ID help.
What you will need – time on any shore, recording sheet and ID guide, pencil, camera/phone.
* The old faithful Great Eggcase Hunt has to be mentioned here too, of course. It can be as simple as just photographing as you head for a walk. However, you can beef up the science part and carry out one of two surveys – timed search (20minutes) of the strandline, collecting as you go or search the whole beach (or if it’s too long, between two clear landmarks) searching the upper, then lower strandlines.
Afterwards the eggcases you’ve collected can be soaked in tap water. While you’re waiting for them to rehydrate (about an hour) you can warm up, put the kettle on, settle in front of your computer to get set to identify them, using their most helpful resource the ID Key. Upload your newly ID-d eggcases, their number etc and it goes on a map. Lack of photo = red dot on the map, though, so make sure you upload a photo of your cases.
What we like about this – it’s a major tick for engagement, especially showing how this simple task can be important information for researchers; can be completed all year round; plenty of ID help also an App.
What you will need – a shore walk; bucket/bag to collect; camera to photograph if only on a walk.
* A brand new survey by the National Museum of Wales is beginning to ask volunteers, community groups etc. to keep an eye out and help to document drifting bivalves. Much of our marine litter is well-travelled and as it journeys, it can be utilised by some regularly drifting organisms, as a raft. The more floating, mostly plastic, litter in our seas, the more we’ll be seeing these ocean drifters on our shores and some might just remain, perhaps adding to the numbers of invasive organisms making their troublesome home here.
It’s early days, but we’re hoping that soon we will be able to offer our volunteers some training by NMW staff to help and more information will be made available for all on their museum’s website. For now there’s an introduction to the project in a series of blogs the last of which was posted before staff were furloughed.
What we like about this – gets people out in the winter, training offered, keeping an eye out for an emergent issue.
What you will need – western facing shore, mostly; camera/phone; eyes peeled
Generally you can send your sightings of certain species to the MCS database. They are collecting sightings of jellies, turtles, crawfish and basking sharks. Your local records centre will be happy to receive your findings as well. For North Wales it’s Cofnod for South West Wales it’s WWBIC.
Don’t forget to always check the tide before heading out; tell someone you’re going and ideally don’t go alone. Very importantly, don’t forget to do that final bit – upload your information and pictures.