Archive for the ‘ocean’ tag

Citizen scientist divers help track the success of artificial reefs.

By May 14th, 2015 at 6:00 am | Comment

: Photographs taken by citizen scientist divers allow the scientific community to see the marine life flourishing on the Yukon. Source Michael Bear.

Once a warship, the HMCS Yukon is now an artificial reef providing much needed sanctuary for local marine life. Source Michael Bear.


This is a guest post by Michael Bear Citizen Science Project Director at Ocean Sanctuaries.  In this post, he describes a citizen science led effort to catalog marine life living in and around the HMCS Yukon. In 2000, the Yukon was transformed into an artificial reef as part of San Diego’s  marine conservation effort.


In 2000, the City of San Diego in collaboration with the San Diego Oceans Foundation (SDOF), purchased, cleaned and sank a 366 foot-long Canadian warship called the HMCS Yukon to create an artificial reef, a task at which has been spectacularly successful. Sitting at the bottom of the San Diego coast, the Yukon attracts dozens of local marine life species and is becoming a revenue-generating attraction for tourist divers from around the world.

When this project started, both the SDOF and the local scientific community were curious to understand the effects of an artificial reef on local fish populations and surrounding marine life. A joint study was undertaken by SDOF and Dr. Ed Parnell of Scripps Institution of Oceanography and released in 2004.¹ Crucial to the study was data gathered by local citizen science divers to generate a baseline of marine life species on the ship.

This year, Ocean Sanctuaries, San Diego’s first citizen science oriented, ocean non-profit is conducting a follow up study to the pioneering work of Dr. Parnell and colleagues. Established in 2014, Ocean Sanctuaries encourages and supports citizen science projects which empower local divers to gather marine data under scientific mentorship and forward our understanding of the oceans. Ocean Sanctuaries currently has three active citizen science projects. ‘Sharks of California’ and the ‘Sevengill Shark ID Project’ are both shark related. The third project is the follow-up study on the Yukon called the Yukon Marine Life Survey.

The data gathered in this project will be mainly photographic. Local divers will photograph specific areas of the ship in quadrats and with transect lines and the data will to be compared with the same areas examined in the 2004 study.

Artificial reefs are proving to be a successful marine conservation effort. Source Michael Bear.

Photographs taken by citizen scientist divers allow the scientific community to track marine life on the Yukon. Source Michael Bear.

The project plans to use a web-based application for wildlife data management called ‘Wildbook’ for cataloging observations made in the Yukon Marine Life Survey. ‘Wildbook’ was originally designed to identify whale sharks, but will be modified as a multi-species database for use with the Yukon Marine Life Survey.²

Referring to the original Yukon Marine Life Survey of 2004¹, Barbara Lloyd, Founder of Ocean Sanctuaries says, “The Yukon Artificial Reef Monitoring Project (ARMP) was a short-term baseline study of fish transects and photo quadrats. The ARMP project has been gathering data for about a decade now.  We at Ocean Sanctuaries strongly believe that a follow up study to the original baseline study can provide the research and fishing communities with valuable marine life data.  In addition, unlike the original study, we intend to use photographs to ensure verifiable encounter data.  We aim to create a large base of citizen scientists to take the photos and enter the data.  This crowd-sourced data will allow us to collaborate between citizens and researchers.”

The current Yukon Marine Life Survey will span at least five years. Once completed, the data will inform scientists of changes to the marine life on the ship enabling California coastal managers to evaluate the impact of artificial reefs on local marine species.  Take a video tour of the Yukon and learn more about the project at SciStarter.



1. Ecological Assessment of the HMCS Yukon Artificial Reef
off San Diego, CA, Dr. Ed Parnell, 2004:

2. Wildbook: A Web-based Application for Wildlife Data Management

Ocean Sampling Day – Cataloging the Diversity of Microbes in Our Oceans

By June 18th, 2014 at 9:15 pm | Comment

Sampling the ocean. Source: OSD-Micro 3B

Sampling the ocean.

This Saturday June 21st, collect samples from bodies of water to catalog the ocean’s microbial biodiversity.

Want more marine-themed citizen science projects? We’ve got you covered!


This Saturday June 21st, citizen scientists will be able to take part in MyOSD (official site) the citizen science component to this year’s Ocean Sampling Day (OSD). The event is organized by Micro B3 (Microbial Biodiversity, Bioinformatics and Biotechnology) a European cross-disciplinary multi-institute collaborative aimed at developing large-scale research efforts to forward marine biodiversity research. On OSD, scientists around the world will collect water samples in an effort to catalog the ocean’s microbial biodiversity. On the same day, citizen scientists will gather environmental and contextual data. Organizers say that this ‘snap shot’ of the Earth’s waters might be the ‘biggest data set in marine research that has been taken on one single day.’[1]

Scientists are interested in marine microbes because of the role they played and continue to play in shaping our global environment. Microbes were critical to the evolution of life on the Earth. “Microbes were the first organisms evolving on Earth. When microbes developed the ability to photosynthesize, they began producing oxygen. This transformed the Earth’s early environment, making it hospitable to life,” explains Julia Schnetzer a graduate student at the Jacobs University and Max Planck Institute and the MyOSD coordinator.

“Today, marine microbes still produce more than fifty percent of the oxygen we need to breathe and consume fifty percent of the world’s carbon dioxide. In addition they are involved in key biological processes in the ocean system such as nitrogen fixation and the carbon pump.” Nitrogen fixation increases the availability of biologically accessible nitrogen by transforming atmospheric nitrogen into ammonium. The ocean’s carbon pump is a biological cycle which removes atmospheric carbon and sequesters it into organic materials deep inside the ocean. Several gigatons of atmospheric carbon are cycled into the oceans each year.[2] “Their participation in these processes make microbes critical in shaping the climate of the planet and thus are essential to the health of our environment.”

OSD will help scientists understand microbe biodiversity and how microbes affect the environment. On the 21st of June, teams of scientists will take water samples at various locations and identify microbial content via DNA sequencing. Marine microbes are particularly challenging to raise in culture, which has hindered their study in the laboratory. However advances in high through-put DNA sequencing technology have made it more practical and cost effective to study marine microbes directly from their natural habitat. In addition to analyzing microbe content, scientists will be taking environmental and contextual data such as water salinity, mineral content, air and water temperature.

There are 168 sampling locations. Source

There are 168 sampling locations.

“The results from OSD will produce two sets of data especially useful for marine scientists. The data about microbial biodiversity will help us understand which species are present and what they are doing. The environmental parameters will give us an idea on how the microbes influence their environment and how the environment influences them,” says Schnetzer. All the collected data will go into a publicly available open source repository. Researchers and citizens can visit the OSD map to see the locations and the genomic, environmental, and contextual data from the sampled sites. The website provides a helpful tutorial on farming the data.

More areas sampled mean better resolution of our ocean’s picture. OSD organizers need citizen scientists to help fill in the gaps. If you live near a body of water, you can help collect environmental information such as location, time, and temperature. Even if it is just a small nearby stream, OSD organizers still want your data. If you own water sampling devices, or are willing to build your own like a simple Secchi Disk, you will be able to provide additional useful information such as water pH or transparency. Download the free OSD app (Android and iPhone compatible) to make submitting your measurements easier. Don’t have a phone? Just save the data and submit it later online. Find out details about contributing to the project, data gathering instructions and analysis kits here.

Organizers hope that by engaging citizen scientists it will provide a better understanding of the value of our oceans and the need to protect them. “The more citizen scientists support there is for MyOSD the better the event will become and the more emphasis can be placed on the importance of education and outreach in marine science in future OSDs,” says Schnetzer.

So this Saturday, go out, get wet and get some data!

[1] My OSD-OSD Citizen Science
[2] National Oceanography Centre – Biological Carbon Pump

Top Image: OSD-Micro B3
Bottom Image: megx 

Dr. Carolyn Graybeal holds a PhD in neuroscience from Brown University. She is a former National Academies of Science Christine Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow during which time she worked with the Marian Koshland Science Museum. In addition the intricacies of the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science.

The Secchi Dip-In

By July 20th, 2013 at 11:57 am | Comment

Water Testing

Calling all water monitoring groups! It is time for the annual Secchi Dip-In. From now until July 22, volunteer and professional water monitoring groups are being asked to take transparency measurements in a local body of water.

Secchi DiskA secchi disk is a common tool for measuring water turbidity, or water cloudiness. Turbidity is caused by small particles suspended in the water and is a reflection of water quality. To take turbidity measurements, on a calm and bright day the user lowers the disk into the water until the disk is no longer visible. The depth of the disk is used to calculate turbidity. Land erosion from construction or mining, pollution run-off or increases in algae all lead to higher turbidity.

Started in 1994 at Kent State University, Ohio, the Dip-In always takes place during the first few weeks of July. Participants only have to take one transparency per body of water with their secchi disk. The project helpfully provides links for purchasing disks if you do not already have one.

While project organizers prefer that measurements are taken during the “official” dip-in period, participants are welcome to add data from anytime of the year as well as past years. Currently over 2,000 water bodies are being tracked, most of which are in North America. The data are accessible to anybody interested.

In addition to transparency measurements, participants are asked to give their general impressions of the water quality as well as the area’s general aesthetics and recreational properties. These qualitative data help project researchers ascertain the potential sources affecting water quality.

To learning more or to participate, visit  Secchi Dip-In.


Find other environmental projects (and over 600+ other citizen science projects) using our Project Finder.


Dr. Carolyn Graybeal earned her PhD in neuroscience from Brown University in partnership with the National Institutes of Health. After graduating, she became a Christian Mirzayan Science & Technology Policy Fellow with the National Academies of Science where she had the opportunity to immerse herself in the policy side of science. In addition the human brain, she is interested in the influence of education and mass media in society’s understanding of science. Originally from California, she is learning to identify the four seasons of the East Coast and is getting pretty good at it.

Tracking the Wild Horseshoe Crabs of New York

By August 23rd, 2011 at 4:37 pm | Comment

Spawning horseshoe crabs (photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service)

Spawning horseshoe crabs (photo courtesy of US Fish and Wildlife Service)

On June 1, 2011 at 11:51 PM, a group of people assembled on the beach in Northpoint, New York. There was no moon shining that night, not even a sliver. The people carried flashlights or wore headlamps. They held clipboards and paper.

Their mission: to report where horseshoe crabs were spotted along the beach.

This was just one of several places along New York’s shoreline where people collect data about horseshoe crabs. Volunteers also amassed on dark beaches in Stony Brook, Staten Island, Brooklyn and Westhampton. In all, volunteers monitored the comings and goings of horseshoe crabs at ten New York beaches that night.

They are a part of the New York Horseshoe Crab Monitoring Network, a group of citizen scientists who are documenting where horseshoe crabs emerge from the water to lay eggs along beaches in New York State.  On specific dates through the spring and early summer, participants collect data about the number of horseshoe crabs and identify their size and sex. They attach tags to the horseshoe crabs bulky exoskeleton and look for tags from prior years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Start spotting sharks for science!

By June 29th, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Comment

Snap a photo of a whale shark and help scientists! Photo: Zac Wolf via Wikipedia

Snap a photo of a whale shark and help scientists! Photo: Zac Wolf via Wikipedia

Da-dum … da-dum …

Don’t look now, but there are  researchers hoping you’ll hop in shark-infested waters in the name of science!

Members of ECOCEAN want your help photographing whale sharks on your next ocean outing. Your pictures will be uploaded to the ECOCEAN Whale Shark Photo-identification Library, a photographic database of whale shark (Rhincodon typus) sightings.

Marine biologists will use your photographs to identify whale sharks and keep a record of interactions with individual sharks. Similar to how images of fingerprints can identify specific humans, photographs of whale sharks’ skin patterning, gills, and scars, combined with state-of-the-art pattern-recognition algorithms, allow scientists recognize specific sharks across multiple encounters.

If you’re keen to help out, hop off the boat this summer and submit whale shark photos and sighting information. You will be helping scientists and assisting in the conservation of a threatened species. Not a bad way to spend a summer vacation! Read the rest of this entry »