Opinion: Protection scheme is a shore thing!

Seaweed feature with Jane Pottas

w134816c

Seaweed feature with Jane Pottas w134816c

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Would you like to be part of a large scheme to monitor and protect the UK’s shores?

Does this sound rather grandiose and daunting and outside your sphere of experience or expertise?

Fear not – all that’s required is a willingness to learn more about the natural environment, some spare time and a pair of wellies – although even they may not be needed if your skills lie in careful observation or an interest in handling data. Curious? Then read on.

The Capturing our Coast (or CoCoast) project launched at the beginning of 2016 is an ambitious heritage lottery funded project which aims to train 3,000 volunteers to collect information about the distribution and abundance of certain key species of animals and algae on UK shores.

The data collected will be used as a baseline to study the effects of climate change and other environmental and anthropogenic factors on marine life around Britain.

Scientists themselves cannot collect all the data required – there simply aren’t enough of them to cover such a large area. By training and supporting a network of citizen scientists to collect many small amounts of data, the project will be able to deliver a large data set for analysis, the results of which can be used to inform future policy and conservation strategy.

The CoCoast project builds on a previous one called the Big Sea Survey in which 350,000 separate records were collected over three years. That project identified a number of organisms which had previously not been seen so far north such as the rare stalked jellyfish, Craterolophus convolvulus, at Beadnell on the Northumberland coast, and an invasive species of sea squirt, Corella eumyota.

A criticism often levelled at citizen science is the accuracy of the data collected but by means of training days, field support days, bioblitzes and social events volunteers are turned into “specialists” working on a group of eight species which they select from a number of species packages. This new training scheme allows volunteers to become amateur experts about a small number of species and how to collect data about them.

In this way volunteers can work alongside scientists and participate in answering real science questions.

This autumn, a new campaign is being launched to survey UK shores for signs of lugworm reproduction.

Just imagine the surprised looks you will get when you tell friends that you’ve been out searching for puddles of lugworm sperm.

There are seven regional CoCoast hubs each of which is recruiting and training its own small army of volunteers. We are fortunate in Whitby that there is a hub close by, based at the Scarborough Campus of Hull University. Take a look at the CoCoast website and think about signing up to a training day.

Further information can be obtained by emailing: cocoast@hull.ac.uk; phoning 01723 357223; on Twitter @CapturingRCoast #CoCoastYorkshire. Check out the CoCoast Yorkshire Facebook page for details of events such as the BioBlitz at South Landing, Flamborough tomorrow (Sun Oct 16).

Visit www.facebook.com/events/1189487094430158/ to find out more - hope to see you there.