By Camilla Bertolini @CamiBe90
Citizen science projects are proliferating everywhere. Initiatives span from subtidal surveys (Seasearch) to insect counts (e.g. Great British Bee Count). With the fast moving technological advances, readily available and user-friendly species-ID apps are being constantly developed (e.g. sealife tracker can help you with the identification of marine climate change indicators).
Most of these projects involve the citizen actively setting out to do science. However there are ways in which we can all be scientists in our day to day life without any training or any changes to daily life. This is achieved by the use of sensors carried on smartphones and direct data uploads (for example NoiseTube or Air Quality Egg). A similar project is called “Dive Into Science” (http://www.diveintoscience.org) and requires divers wearing a dive computer (which I would say nearly all divers wear nowadays as a safety practice) and divers uploading the data recorded by the computer, for example maximum depth of dive, time of dive, water temperature and complement these with type of dive computer, and coordinates for the site.
A monitoring program measuring temperatures at different depths and over a continuous time scale at multiple locations is very important and urgent to understand ecosystem functioning and effects of potential disturbances such as anthropogenic climate change.
A recent publication in Scientific Reports (Wright et al 2016) shows that the data recorded using this method are accurate compared to other commonly used scientific methods, and that working with manufacturers of computers to incorporate other important meters (for example salinity or oxygen) could be a useful step forward.
Citizen projects such as this that can be carried out worldwide can save money to research, record a larger number of data over a smaller time-period and be likely to continue over longer time scales not being subjected to research funding cut…
I know that I would be getting involved and would spend 5 minutes after my next dive to send off the necessary information, and if you are a diver hope you will too and pass on the word to fellow divers…
Wright, S. et al. SCUBA divers as oceanographic samplers: The potential of dive computers to augment aquatic temperature monitoring. Scientific Reports 6, 30164; doi: 10.1038/srep30164 (2016).