Have you always wanted to be a marine scientist, but not had the skills or courage it required? Have you been thinking lately that you would like to do more meaningful diving? Have you been itching to make a difference? We have good news. You can achieve all these things by becoming a citizen scientist. Let us tell you how.
What Is Citizen Science?
Citizen science is the practice of public participation and collaboration in scientific research to increase scientific knowledge. Through citizen science, people share and contribute to data monitoring and collection programs. – National Geographic Encyclopedia
Science used to be exclusively for scientists. With citizen science, everybody has the chance to pursue science as a hobby. One of the advantages of citizen science is the power of numbers. Scientific projects used to require a lot of time and money to conduct. This was when a whole team of scientists was needed to achieve results. With citizen science, the same results or more get achieved within a much shorter time span.
Collecting data through citizen science is especially applicable in marine conservation. Instead of using invasive methods, like tagging and long-line capture, we can achieve the same results with citizen science. At Gili Shark Conservation we have always used the method of citizen science. We support the idea that not only one person gains credit, but everyone gains insight. If everyone gets involved, then everyone is also responsible to make change happen.
What Do You Gain From Being A Citizen Scientist?
Since you are here reading this piece, we assume you love the ocean. But did you ever consider that your interaction with the ocean is beneficial on a larger scale? We can’t protect that which we don’t know. This is why divers and ocean lovers are extremely important as the ocean’s mouthpiece.
Settling this, we now know that you as a diver or ocean lover already are making a difference. But you can do more! You can take diving to the next level and become a citizen scientist. Citizen science won’t only benefit the cause of science, it will also make you more knowledgeable.
To be a citizen scientist means that you’ll have to educate yourself in particular areas. Our Shark Warriors say that after they’ve been a part of our research team, diving is never the same again. It is way better. When you get more knowledgeable about the ocean, every minute of diving will be a joy-ride.
So why don’t you consider dedicating one of your days on your next dive holiday to citizen science? Or joining a dive shop or project that is already doing citizen science? There are a lot of ways you can be a citizen scientist, so we’ve set out the mission to help you find your path.
How To Be A Citizen Scientist On The Gili Islands
If you think the Gili Islands are a paradise, why not make sure to leave a positive footprint on your holiday? At Gili Shark Conservation, we have established a few projects that allow you to get engaged.
Are you planning a dive holiday on Gili Air? Then we’ve got good news for you. On Gili Air all the dive shops are united through the initiative ‘Unite Gili’. We started this project to have more accurate data on sightings of sharks and rays around the Gilis.
If you are diving on Gili Air you will naturally be a citizen scientist. All you need to do is to ask your instructor or guide if you can fill out the sheet of your shark or ray sightings together. We collect data from the dive shops weekly and input the data in our database.
Are you part of a dive shop on Gili Trawangan, Gili Meno, Lombok or Bali? Do you want to partake in collecting data in your area? Send us a message on Facebook or Instagram, we’ll be very happy to hear from you.
Identify Sharks & Turtles On The Gilis
You can make your holiday on the Gilis more meaningful while contributing to science. If you are snorkeling or diving and get a good shot of a shark or a turtle, there’s a chance that you can name it.
Sharks and turtles have individual markings that allow us to identify them. We identify the sharks from the markings on the side of their body and the turtles we can identify from the patterns on their cheeks.
So, send your ID-shot of a shark or turtle our way. If the shark or turtle that you’ve sighted isn’t already identified, you’ll get to name it!
How To Be A Citizen Scientist Of Sharks And Elasmobranchs
This is your type of citizen science if you want to get engaged without too much preparation. Sharks and elasmobranchs are vital to the health of our marine ecosystems. Recording your sightings is an easy, yet meaningful way to contribute. At most, you’ll need a camera and be able to identify the species.
Sharkbase is a global shark, ray and chimeras encounter database. The data helps in mapping the distribution and structure of shark populations worldwide.
Sharkbase makes it easy to get started as a citizen scientist. You don’t even need to be diving. You can report shark sightings from the news or social media. So, no matter where or when you’ve sighted a shark or elasmobranch! There is no excuse not to report it on Sharkbase.
The Shark Trust
The Shark Trust’s flagship project is a little different than you would expect; it’s an egg case hunt! One method that sharks reproduce by is laying eggs. The eggs are like leathery pouches and when they wash ashore they are referred to as mermaid’s purses. Empty egg cases can help to indicate species presence and diversity. Hence, finding these treasures can provide a base of research for scientists.
There’s another way you can be a citizen scientist with the Shark Trust. You can report any shark sightings in their Shark Sightings Database. The data you provide will play a key role in the conservation of sharks.
Are you planning to go diving with manta rays? Then you have the chance to make it a meaningful encounter. Manta rays have unique patterns on their underside; exactly like a fingerprint. Manta rays are a migratory species, which is why citizen science is the best way to collect data.
Manta Matcher allows you to upload your photo-ID of a manta ray and identify it. All previously identified manta rays have their own profile. If it hasn’t been sighted before, you will be the lucky one to name it!
The Wildbook For Whale Sharks
While you were thinking that it couldn’t get any bigger than identifying sharks, turtles and manta rays… It could! The Wildbook allows you to identify nothing less than whale sharks. The project is a photo-identification library similar to Manta Matcher.
To capture a photo-ID of the whale shark, you’ll need to get a photo of the skin patterning behind the gills. If the shark has any scars, these are also useful as identification. When you upload a photo, it allows marine biologists to analyze whale shark behavior and protect them from extinction.
How To Be A Citizen Scientist Of Corals
Corals aren’t quite as easy to deal with as identifying sharks and manta rays. It takes more dedication from you as a citizen scientist, but we promise it will be worth it!
If you are ready to dedicate your time to coral conservation, then becoming a Reef Check Ecodiver might be the right thing for you.
By being a citizen scientist for Reef Check, you will help to survey the health of the reef in your area. To get started doing so, you’ll first need to get trained as a Reef Check Ecodiver. If you are in Indonesia, why don’t you consider getting your certification with Oceans5 on Gili Air?
If you want to try out the method before becoming an Ecodiver, you can join our research team. At Gili Shark Conservation, we do weekly reef checks around the Gili Islands. Our staff are trained Reef Check Ecodivers, so they will supervise you while you try out the method.
Another way to be a citizen scientist of corals is to get involved with Coral Watch. Coral Watch is a citizen science program monitoring global coral health. They provide the tools necessary for the individual citizen scientists to conduct surveys.
Collecting data for Coral Watch, you’ll get hands-on experience assessing coral bleaching by using their Coral Health Chart. No prior training is needed. You simply follow the colors that the chart displays and record your observations.
How To Be A Citizen Scientist Of Plastic Pollution
Do you also think that plastic pollution is a major problem that we need to fight? We see plastic in the ocean every day when we go diving. Thousands of marine animals and birds die each year because of plastic pollution. Plastic never disappears, it only breaks into smaller pieces. Studies have shown that one person eats 50.000 plastic particles per year.
Luckily, there are things we can do! We can participate in clean-ups and report about the trash that we collect. When the case is strong enough, it can be used to pressure governments and enterprises to reduce their plastic use and production.
If you are a diver, you can get involved in a Dive Against Debris with Project Aware. One million pieces of debris were already removed from the ocean and recorded through Project Aware. This couldn’t have happened without divers taking action as citizen scientists.
There’s no reason not to get engaged. #EveryDiveaSurveyDive and remember always to report the trash you pick up. This way the case will grow stronger and be impossible for policy-makers to ignore.
In 2017, we at Gili Shark Conservation adopted our own dive site, Meno Slope. If you are part of the research team, you will be doing a Dive Against Debris every Friday.
Clean Swell by Ocean Conservancy
Are you not a diver, but you still want to fight plastic pollution and contribute to science? Then you can use the Clean Swell app.
It’s super easy. Head to your favorite beach and use the app to record each item of trash you collect. Afterward, you can share your efforts with your friends and family. Your data will meanwhile get stored in Ocean Conservancy’s global trash database.
Clean Swell is a fun app that allows you to track your clean-up history and feel like a local hero!
Your Path To Take Diving To The Next Level
Do you feel less lost in the midst of making the choice of which path to citizen science you should take? Send us a message about your experience with citizen science. We love hearing from like-minded people. Are you are looking for a full experience with marine conservation and citizen science? Why don’t you consider becoming a scientific diver with our research team?