Written by Lucy and Lisa
Explore the Seafloor is an online citizen science project undertaken by ABC Science in conjunction with the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) as part of National Science Week 2013. Its main purpose is to help scientists to identify kelps and sea urchins in order to get a better understanding of their habits.
What we do in this project is mainly identifying sea kelp and sea urchin photos on the Internet, and since the sea urchins project is already done, our group members only participated in the kelp project. Firstly, when hearing the word “kelp”, you may soon be wondering what is the difference between kelps and seaweeds. Though kelp is a kind of seaweed, it is different from seaweed in many aspects.Kelp is also referred to as large seaweed, which belongs to the brown algae. Some of the kelp species are very long, and can even form kelp forests. They are fantastic creatures growing on the seafloor.
This citizen science project is easy to get access with a laptop, tablet or phone, and it is not very time-consuming. To explain in detail, what you will be asked to do is to look at pictures of the seafloor and identify the characteristics of the kelps in the pictures. There would be a tutorial before you start, and the steps are also very simple. Every photo has around twenty dots in it, in order to identify kelps, the participants only need to click on the circles that fall on kelps. Each of the photos we identified are taken by underwater cameras from different sea regions around Australia. This project would help scientists analyzing the data and identifying any changes in behaviours, also the locations of kelps in different sea areas.
Then why is this important? Kelp is a type of seaweed which is at the bottom of the food chain, therefore, any changes in the behaviour of kelps–for example, where and how they’re living–can result in the change in other forms of life. The overall reason why kelps are vital is that the ocean is essential to us, and so is the ecosystem. Therefore, the change in any single life form can also result in a huge effect in our daily lives.
Our group members enjoyed the project a lot, and we think it is indeed an exciting and fascinating experience to participate a citizen science project. Engaging in a project where everyone willing to help can take a part is totally amazing.