Sailor support needed for global plankton study

Citizen science for seafarers

Citizen science for seafarers

Marine Institute Research Fellow Dr. Richard Kirby is enlisting sailors to take part in a global mission to gather data on the amount of Phytoplankton in the world’s oceans. At the start of the marine food chain, information is need on changes affecting phytoplankton to help assess the effects of rising sea temperatures on the ocean’s biology.

His team of marine experts has created a free smart phone app which provides clear and easy instructions on how to put together and use a “secchi disk”: the tool required to measure plankton.

Dr. Richard Kirby and the Secchi Disk

Dr. Richard Kirby and the Secchi Disk

As Dr. Kirby explained in an article reported by BBC News: “This app enables seafarers around the world to take part in a science project and if we can just get a small percentage of the global population of sailors involved, we can generate a database that will help us understand how life in the oceans is changing. It would help us learn much more about these important organisms at a crucial time when their habitat is altering due to climate change.”

Plankton

Plankton

The Secchi Disk can be plastic, metal or wood but have a standard 30cm diameter and be painted matt white. This is then attached to a 50m tape measure or line marked in 20cm intervals and weighted using any ~200g weight.

Secchi Disk Smart Phone App

Secchi Disk Smart Phone App

Following the simple steps, the disk is lowered into the water and the depth recorded at the point when it disappears from sight. The system’s design employs a significant advantage for cruising sailors whereby data can then either be uploaded directly or stored until a signal is available at a later date.

As Dr. Kirby explained, the success of the project depends entirely upon awareness among seafarers and so asks marinas to display the poster where more sailors can see it and help by taking part. The project poster can be downloaded in A4 size or A3 format.

You can find out more about the project at its website www.secchidisk.org

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