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Citizen Science for Divers - Part 2


23 February 2018, by Matthew Oldfield

Interested in contributing towards a citizen science project but not sure where to start? Or would you like to join a citizen science diving expedition? Read on and discover how you can help protect and conserve marine life by donating your time and efforts towards a conservation project or expedition.

CITIZEN SCIENCE PROJECTS

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THE MANTA TRUST EXPEDITIONS

The Manta Trust was formed in 2011 by Guy Stevens and Thomas P. Peschak to co-ordinate global research and conservation efforts for these amazing animals, their close relatives and their habitat. As charismatic megafauna, manta rays act as flagship species, helping to promote and engage the general public in the wider message of marine ecosystem conservation. Through this top down approach to conservation the manta ray becomes the catalyst for change, engaging and motivating the general public, governments and local communities alike. A UK Registered Charity, the Trust brings together a number of projects from around the globe, both new and long-standing, including the Republic of Maldives, Sri Lanka, Mexico and Indonesia. By conducting long-term, robust studies into manta populations in these locations, the Manta Trust aims to build the solid foundations upon which Governments, NGO’s and conservationists can make informed and effective decisions to ensure the long term survival of these animals and their habitat.

Every year, the Manta Trust runs expeditions to many corners of the globe - including to Mexico, Yap, Sudan, Peru and Indonesia. However, the majority of the expeditions focus on the atolls of the Maldives, the birth place of the Manta Trust.

On these expeditions, you’ll have the opportunity to experience and participate in cutting edge conservation research to protect one of the ocean’s most majestic animals. Manta Trust scientists will be collecting photographic identification images of all mantas encountered throughout the expedition - a task that guests are welcome and encouraged to participate in. All new manta rays will be added to the database and guests will be invited to name these new mantas. Every manta sighting is crucial information in developing effective management and conservation strategies for these increasingly vulnerable animals.

View The Manta Trust Expeditions
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INDO OCEAN PROJECT

The Indo Ocean Project was founded by marine biologists, dive instructors, and ocean enthusiasts from around the globe to create a nationwide standardized data collection and research diver training program in Indonesia, the heart of the Coral Triangle. IOP has been working together with Bali Diving Academy, Dr. Mark Bond from Florida International University, and the local communities to carry out scientific research to address shark, ray, and marine conservation issues in this area of the Indo-Pacific.

Field expeditions in Indonesia hosts international and local research projects focused on marine mega fauna and coral reef conservation in marine reserves across the country. The aim of the Indo Ocean Project is to generate high quality scientific data to inform local mangers and stakeholders about the status of shark and ray populations in the Marine Protect Area (MPA) , and to increase marine conservation awareness among the local communities and general public. Education and awareness is the foundation of conservation so we have developed training and expedition programs to allow the general public to get their hands dirty and get involved. You don’t need to be a diver or a scientist to get involved, our project relies on the experience and expertise of our volunteers from around the world to take action and take part.

Elasmobranchs are some of the oldest living creatures on this planet but have survived multiple mass-extinction events. Today, however, critical habitat loss and increased fishing induced mortality have meant that many elasmobranch species are currently experiencing global population declines, and a quarter of known species are threatened with extinction in our lifetime.

One of the leading problems facing conservation biologists is lack of data from remote regions. Indonesia sits in the highest region of the globe for shark and ray biodiversity, however they are one of the world’s leading shark fishing nations and many local populations are near collapse. We aim to collect biodiversity and abundance data on the shark and ray populations of Nusa Penida Marine Protect Area, Komodo National Park, and Raja Ampat. This data can be used to impact local management and monitor the effectiveness of the MPA’s in order to guide effective management.

View Indo Ocean Project
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GILI SHARK CONSERVATION PROJECT

Join the Gili Shark Conservation Project and make you next holiday count.

Unlike the majority of the world, we are big shark lovers. And living in Indonesia, the centre of the Coral Triangle, we should be seeing one of the most diverse collections of sharks found in the world on a daily basis. Yet we don’t. Indonesia is unfortunately the largest shark fishing nation in the world. The IUCN states that’s the 1000+ assessed species of cartilaginous fish (sharks, rays, skates, chimearas), 30% are threatened with extinction!

The Gili Shark Conservation Project is a small conservation and data collection program and the first of its kind in the Gili Islands in Indonesia. We want to make a real difference on the three Gili Islands and it’s marine reserve. To have a real impact on our environment we need your help! We’re situated on the beautiful island Gili Air but we work around all of the Gili islands: Gili Air, Gili Meno and Gili Trawangan. The goal of our shark research project is not just to raise awareness for shark- and marine conservation but also to assist the local community and helping the Gilis to become a plastic free paradise!

We are always looking for enthusiastic people who want to live in paradise and make a difference during their holiday or gap-year. Help the sharks and the community of Gili Air by giving your time and love. You don’t need to be a shark expert or a diver to join our project, however a passion and commitment to marine conservation is important. We appreciate all the unique skills that you can bring to our project and welcome people of every corner of the world. During your stay with the Gili Shark Conservation Project you will learn how to dive / improve your dive skills, become a PADI scientific diver and a PADI shark conservation specialist. We teach you everything you need to know about a BRUV (Baited Remote Underwater Video) how to identify sharks & turtles, conduct survey dives, how to analyze and input data and much more.

View Gili Shark Conservation Project
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THE PLASTIC TIDE

It is a tide that never recedes. Day by day, year on year it grows. Estimates are currently at trillions of pieces and counting, with over 60% of the oceans being heavily contaminated with plastics. With each piece of plastic taking over 400 years to degrade, our oceans, all marine life, and even our own health and livelihoods are in real danger of drowning. Despite this and the 8 million tonnes of Plastics entering our ocean each year, researches can only account for where 1% of that it ends up; our ocean surface. That begs the question where is the missing 99%?

Here is where The Plastic Tide comes in - the answer can be found on the seafloor, in marine life, and on our coastlines. The Plastic Tide harnesses drone imagery from a series of beaches and the power of computer programs, or Machine Learning Algorithms for the more technically minded, to eventually create a program that can autodetect, measure and monitor the levels of Plastics and Marine Litter washing up on our beaches. Eventually helping us to track where plastics and litter go in our oceans, revealing where the missing 99% is in our ocean goes.

This is where YOU come in. By tagging plastics and litter in the images we take with our drone, you are directly teaching our computer program to autodetect, measure and monitor plastics to help researchers answer how much of the Missing 99% ends up on our beaches. The more you tag, the better the computer program gets at identifying plastics!

We'll also make all the images we take using drones, your hard work tagging and our computer program available freely online for anyone to use. This will allow others to monitor their own beaches, whilst generating scientifically valuable datasets for local and global researchers, helping us understand this global issue.

View The Plastic Tide
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BAREFOOT CONSERVATION

The "Science Training Program" (STP) at Barefoot Conservation offers volunteers the opportunity to learn basic coral reef biology and ecology as well as identification of some of the amazing coral, invertebrate, fish and plant species that are commonly spotted throughout Raja Ampat and coral reef across the Indo- Pacific. Whether you’re a budding marine biologist, avid diver or just someone who wants to try something new the science program caters to all with an interest in marine ecosystems. Volunteers having participated in the science program often find that their whole diving experience is taken to another level of enjoyment owing to their new understanding and ability to identify what they are seeing.

The science program consists of two week course covering a series of topics through classroom style lessons were volunteers are given the tools they need to identify reef species. Following on from “land lessons” are a number of “water lessons” were volunteers and trained members of staff dive together testing and refining their newly acquired identification skills, discussing any difficulties and celebrating successes following the dive.

Having completed the science program volunteers are able to join the survey and monitoring teams who conduct numerous research dives across many of Raja Ampats amazing coral reefs, helping Barefoot to achieve one of their goals to assist local government and communities to conserve and protect the coral reefs of Raja Ampat. One of the ways we hope to achieve this is to create a GIS map of the corals surrounding the islands of Raja Ampat. Volunteers who have completed the science training program are integral to this goal as without them mapping of the area would be a near on impossible task, due to the scale of biodiversity and area of reef cover.

View Barefoot Conservation
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REEF CHECK

Every year, Reef Check trains thousands of citizen scientist divers who volunteer to survey the health of coral reefs around the world, and rocky reef ecosystems along the entire coast of California. The results are used to improve the management of these critically important natural resources. Reef Check programs provide ecologically sound and economically sustainable solutions to save reefs, by creating partnerships among community volunteers, government agencies, businesses, universities and other nonprofits.

With teams established in more than 90 countries and territories, there are a multitude of reefs to survey at nearly every diving destination worldwide. Using a globally standardized scientific protocol, the EcoMonitoring program collects valuable data to establish the status of coral reefs and make informed marine management decisions. Enroll in one of Reef Check's EcoDiver courses to help our teams monitor coral reef health.

View Reef Check
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PROJECT AWARE - DIVE AGAINST DEBRIS

Project AWARE’s flagship citizen-science program, Dive Against Debris®, empowers scuba divers to remove marine debris from the ocean and report data on the types, quantities and locations of materials collected.

Since the program’s launch in 2011, more than 30,000 divers have participated in Dive Against Debris in more than 50 countries around the world, reporting over 900,000 pieces of trash. As the only underwater debris data collection program of its kind, Dive Against Debris both improves the health of ocean ecosystems through localized volunteer efforts and provides valuable information about underwater debris to help inform policy change.

View Project AWARE - Dive Against Debris
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REEF

REEF was founded in 1990, out of growing concern about the health of the marine environment, and the desire to provide the SCUBA diving community a way to contribute to the understanding and protection of marine populations. REEF achieves this goal primarily through its volunteer fish monitoring program, the REEF Fish Survey Project. Participants in the Project not only learn about the environment they are diving in, but they also produce valuable information. Scientists, marine park staff, and the general public use the data that are collected by REEF volunteers.

REEF conserves marine environments worldwide. Our mission is to protect biodiversity and ocean life by actively engaging and inspiring the public through citizen science, education, and partnerships with the scientific community.

REEF envisions divers and marine enthusiasts actively engaging in marine conservation. With knowledge, training and the opportunity to get involved, these marine citizen scientists make significant and ongoing contributions through REEF’s strategic partnerships with government agencies, science and academic institutions, the non-profit sector, and local communities. Divers and snorkelers are in a unique position to observe and document the many valuable and vulnerable living marine resources. They play an important role in bringing information to the surface that adds to the knowledge base of ocean ecosystems and facilitates informed decision-making. Through REEF’s efforts, marine citizen scientists impart an ethic of stewardship to current and future generations.

View REEF
Matthew Oldfield
Co-founder of ZuBlu