Beachcombers, water babies sought for marine survey

Eurobodalla beachcombers and water babies have been asked to help researchers design a marine citizen scientist project.
Nanjing Night Net

To improve how people power is used in coastal science, a national survey was launched this week.

It is the first survey that seeks to understand why people do or do not get involved in citizen science, says Southern Cross University researcher Vicki Martin.

She has launched an appeal to people on the South Coast to respond to the survey, which will help researchers improve how they work with the community.

“Observations from ocean users and beachgoers have enormous potential to increase knowledge about marine species along Australia’s coastal regions,” Ms Martin said.

“The aim of the Marine Exchangessurvey is to find out what the public thinks about helping scientists, how they want to get involved, and how scientists can better communicate with them,” she said.

Ms Martin is a researcher and PhD candidate in the School of Environment, Science and Engineering.

“The results of the national survey will help scientists understand how to tap into the invaluable observations of those who frequent coastal regions,” she said.

“More than 85 per cent of us live within 50 kilometres of the ocean, meaning the majority of Australians use the marine environment in some way.

“Marine users include fishers, divers, surfers, beachwalkers and boaties; anyone that loves getting into or on the water.

“Public input helps improve marinescientists’ understanding about where marine species are shifting with environmental changes, such as warming ocean currents.

“Anecdotally, we know fishers and other marine users are reporting an increase in the shark activity off the east coast.

“With the southern states experiencing warmer currents than usual, people have been sighting what would normally be called northern species more regularly.

“For example, fishermen in Tasmania are now catching snapper, yellowtail kingfish and striped marlin.

“If these observations were able to be harnessed and collected in a way that patterns can be established, it would increase everyone’s understanding about marine species and changes going on in the water.”

She says digital technology is connecting individuals with scientists through the use of smart phones.

“While a small number of studies have focused on people who are already involved in citizen science projects, so far there has been no research into the general population of marine users to work out how much interest there is from the public,” Ms Martin said.

“The results of the Marine Exchanges survey will help scientists create research projects which are more interesting and engaging for the public.

“The survey team wants to hear your thoughts about public involvement in marine science regardless of whether you think it’s a good idea or not.”

Any Australian citizen or resident over the age of 15 years can participate until 20 April 2015.

The survey and further information can be found at www.bit.ly/marinestudy or on Facebook at www.facebook南京夜网/MarineExChanges.

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