Explore Your Shore!
Have you been to visit the coast lately? If you have, did you spend any time exploring our coastal marine wildlife? If so, were you able to identify any of the species you saw, and did you record your sightings via the National Biodiversity Data Centre?
Ireland has 3,171 km of coastline and probably in excess of 1000 coastal marine species, and yet in 2018, only 3.7% of 100,390 records submitted to the National Biodiversity Data Centre were of coastal marine species.
Trips to the coast are a popular activity, with people engaged in walking, angling, surfing, diving, rockpooling, stand-up paddle boarding, coasteering and a whole range of other activities. Despite this, we receive relatively few intertidal species records at the National Biodiversity Data Centre.
To put this in some context, many of you will be familiar with the beadlet anemone, which is one of the most widespread and abundant species on our coastline. I doubt there are many rocky shores in Ireland where they do not occur, however, at the end of 2018 we had only 400 records of beadlet anemone in our database. In contrast we had 11,000 records of red fox which, although easy to recognise, is largely nocturnal and not very easy to spot.
So why are we failing to record our intertidal and coastal species with the same fervour we record terrestrial species? Part of it may be because most intertidal species are small, and many of them look alike. There are also a vast number of them, for example there are at least 500 seaweed species growing along our shores. However, there are 2,328 vascular plant species in Ireland and that doesn’t appear to discourage people recording those. As I glance at our Citizen Science Portal, I can see that over 18,000 plant records were submitted in May, June and July 2019 alone!
A major factor in low recording effort is a lack of familiarity with marine species. In my previous role working in coastal community engagement I was constantly surprised by how few intertidal species people could identify. The same point has been raised to me by several people working with community and school groups around Ireland. I suppose very few marine species (apart from whales, dolphins and sharks) make it into school books about nature, which tend to be full of furry foxes and pretty plants. Squishy sponges and slimy seaweeds rarely make the grade!
The Data Centre has played its part as well, in that we have not actively solicited marine species records, although accepting any that were submitted. That is, until now. Explore Your Shore! is a new Citizen Science initiative funded by the Environmental Protection Agency focused on increasing our knowledge of the distribution of our intertidal species, exploring their potential as bio-indicators of water quality and climate change, and highlighting actions we can all take to tackle
water pollution and global warming. To encourage maximum participation in coastal marine species recording, four surveys will be available.
Seashore Spotter is our entry level survey designed to allow you submit casual species records. No matter what you are doing at the coast, you can always submit a marine species record via our smartphone-friendly online form or via the Biodiversity Ireland App. You can submit multiple species from the same location which is perfect for rockpooling! Just record your details, your location and the species and include a photo of each species to help us validate your record.
The Big Beach Biodiversity Survey asks volunteers to conduct a timed survey, recording bivalve shells, and other flotsam cast up on the tide. We are asking you to record both live and dead animals and plants found on the beach. The dead animals will have originated from the adjacent sea area and can provide a really useful indication of the diversity of life living beneath the waves just off the shore. Any sandy or cobble beach will do, and you can upload your data and photographs via our smartphone-friendly online form. Getting involved is easy and a Big Beach Biodiversity Survey can be completed in as little as 30 minutes.
Seashore Snapshots asks volunteers to head down to the shore and take some digital survey pictures (using a printable quadrat) of sessile intertidal species such as limpets, barnacles and seagrass. The images you submit will then be analysed by trained researchers to identify the species present and calculate the density of animals present. This information will be used to explore the use of sessile intertidal species as bio-indicators for climate change and water quality. Images are uploaded via our smartphone-friendly online form along with details of when and where they were taken.
Rocky Shore Safari focuses on recording species on intertidal rocky shores. This involves a timed walk-over survey from the upper shore to the water’s edge, with surveys conducted at low tide. Volunteers are free to record any species they identify; however, we ask surveyors to search for and record a tick list of 30 key species. These species have been selected for their use as bio-indicators of climate change, water quality and habitat assessment. All records and photographs are uploaded via our smartphone-friendly online form.
Explore Your Shore! is also in partnership with a number of projects that are already collecting marine species data in Ireland. These projects include:
· Seasearch Ireland who use volunteer recreational divers and snorkellers to record marine species and habitat data from around the Irish coast. They also survey a network of monitoring sites on a monthly basis during the summer months.
· The Irish Whale and Dolphin Group operate a sightings and strandings recording scheme for Ireland. The IWDG also operates a number of other cetacean surveys using citizen scientists including a Constant Effort Recording Scheme and line transect surveys for cetaceans on board commercial car ferries across the Irish Sea.
· Purse Search Ireland is a citizen science project which asks the public to record Mermaids’ Purses, the eggcases of sharks, skates and rays. These eggcases can provide valuable information on the location of nursery areas for these species.
· Coastwatch Europe runs an annual survey each September/October designed to give an overview of the state of the coast. Volunteers from all walks of life check a 500m stretch of coast (survey unit) once around low tide, and record observations on marine litter, water quality and biodiversity.
· The Irish Basking Shark Project works collaboratively with the National Biodiversity Data Centre and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group to ensure that basking shark sightings are recorded and stored in a single national database.
· The Big Jellyfish Hunt is a citizen science project run by the UCC School of Biological, Earth & Environmental Sciences working in partnership with the National Biodiversity Data Centre. It asks members of the public to submit records of jellyfish sighted or stranded in Irish waters.
· KelpRes is a citizen science project run by the NUI Galway School of Natural Sciences which asks volunteers to submit records of kelp forest or of non-native species such as Golden Kelp.
All the information you need to get involved in Explore Your Shore! Is available via our project website. All the data collected is validated by experts and will be available via the National Biodiversity Data Centre Biodiversity Maps database. For more information Click the Explore Your Shore link below.