Newcastle University’s very own Dr Jane Delany, of the Marine Science and Technology Institute, is spearheading an unprecedented citizen science project in conjunction with several other UK universities, which launched this September.
The project, entitled Capturing Our Coast leads on from a previous citizen science project by Dr Delany and her colleague Dr Helen Sugden – The Big Sea Survey. The Big Sea Survey project ran for 3 years and was a roaring success; over the course of the project, laymen with an interest in conserving marine life were trained in identifying five species of animal each and then tasked with recording them along the coast, by themselves. The result? Robust data generated by the public, which was used meaningfully by scientists.
Capturing Our Coast is a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund, who awarded Dr Delany and her colleagues an impressive £1.7 million to undertake surveys and experiments around the coastal areas of the UK. The project will train over 3000 volunteers, making it the biggest marine citizen science project undertaken in the UK.
“We’ve taken it a step further and thought about the questions we could actually ask and get members of the public to contribute to. We sat down and thought about the questions we wanted to answer in regards to the impact of climate change on basic species and their interactions; how important biodiversity is and more,” said Dr Delany, when asked about the project. “The next thing is to undertake surveys, studies or even manipulative experiments and replicate them at different parts of the country –at different latitudes, different environmental conditions, and by bringing in data from those different conditions, we could understand the processes involved in ecology. And that would be very powerful.”
The project will train over 3000 volunteers, making it the biggest marine citizen science project undertaken in the UK.
The team at Newcastle University are partnered with teams at Hull University, Portsmouth University, the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, the Marine Conservation Society in Ross-on-Wye, Bangor University and the Scottish Association for Marine Science, for a collaborative and scientist-led approach to the project.
The project aims to provide evidence for statutory organisations such as Natural England, the Environmental Agency, DEFRA and National Resources Wales – it is thought that the data gathered during Capturing Our Coast could be instrumental in changing conservation policies across the UK and possibly further afield. “The EU have taken notice and a few organisations in Australia have been in contact – I think we’ve got a lot of top academics behind this and we’re working on an interdisciplinary approach to science that I’m proud to be a part of,” Dr Delany commented.
Capturing Our Coast promises to bring forth important results, with the aim of getting almost complete coverage of the UK’s coastline in one go. It’s a project that will evidence and trial different approaches to empowering people to contribute to science and policy and conservation change in a way they’ve not been able to before, certainly not in Marine Science.