Wanted: budding scientists to capture coastline

Bridlington Beach enjoys some sunny weather finally.Seafront viewPicture Richard Ponter bfp 123011e
Bridlington Beach enjoys some sunny weather finally.Seafront viewPicture Richard Ponter bfp 123011e

People with a passion for the UK’s coastline are being invited to help make history by being part of the largest coastal marine citizen science project ever undertaken.

The £1.7m Capturing Our Coast project, funded through the Heritage Lottery Fund, is designed to further our understanding of the abundance and distribution of marine life around the UK.

Officially launching this week, the aim of the project is to nationally recruit and train more than 3,000 volunteers to help build a more accurate picture of the marine life all around the UK.

The research will help scientists to understand how the marine environment is responding to global climate change and inform future policy and conservation strategies.

Led by Newcastle University, the project is a national collaboration involving Hull, Portsmouth and Bangor universities, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the Marine Conservation Society.

It also involves a number of organisations including Earthwatch Institute, the Natural History Museum, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Coastal Partnerships Network and the North West Coastal Forum.

Dr Heather Sugden, Co-Principal Investigator based at Newcastle University, said: “This is the first project of its kind and an exciting opportunity for anyone with a fascination for marine life and a desire to make a real impact on our understanding - and ultimately the protection - of our coastal environment.

“What this project aims to do is develop a network of citizen scientists who can help us build an accurate picture of marine life all around the UK - a baseline against which we can better understand the impact of climate change and other environmental and human factors.

“The data we collect will fill key knowledge gaps such as geographic species distributions, movement of warm water species, and occurrences of invasive non-native species.”

Training and ongoing support will be provided to volunteers by experts in marine science to ensure ongoing interest and high quality data. Capturing our Coast will also be available to those who can’t get out to the shore, with the establishment of web-based citizen science options.

Multiple research publications directly linked to this project are planned, on topics such as how species assemblages are changing due to climate change.

Dr Sue Hull, Principal Investigator at the University of Hull, said: “The CoCoast project is a real ‘hands-on’ experience working on the stunning Yorkshire coastline exploring the diversity of marine species and learning about the key factors regulating their numbers and distribution, not only locally, but feeding in to the bigger UK picture.

“Volunteers may specialise on key indicator species, collect data on community change over time, monitor the use of our shores by waders or even look in detail at species important on nationwide scales – they can do as little or as much as they would like to do. We will provide full training, equipment and support throughout the life of the project including field support days and regular science social evenings.

“We welcome any adults with an interest in wildlife and nature from every part of the community regardless of their levels of expertise and abilities.

“It is a great opportunity to become a valued part of the scientific community and work more closely with the University, and we hope to equip our citizen scientists with the skills they need to continue recording data long after the project has finished.”

To get involved or for more information, see www.capturingourcoast.co.uk or contact the regional team via email at cocoast@hull.ac.uk or on 01723 357223.