Citizen science on the shore05/03/2015
Marine Metre Squared encourages communities to get involved in marine science.
Marine Metre Squared is a citizen science initiative in which volunteers collect data for scientists to analyse.
It’s as simple as marking off a metre-square observation site on a beach or shore, then monitoring the diversity of living things found in that square, and how it changes over time.
Everyone who participates in the initiative needs to follow the evidence-gathering protocols developed by the scientists involved. To find these, click here. The project is richly linked to The New Zealand Curriculum in that it allows students to develop their capabilities in critiquing evidence-gathering methodologies.
Marine Metre Squared was developed by the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, University of Otago and is supported by the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund. The project’s advisory board consists of marine scientists, educators, conservationists and local councils.
Director of the New Zealand Marine Studies Centre Sally Carson says the initiative was launched in 2014 with a focus on rocky shore environments, which was then extended to the intertidal habitats of the beaches and estuaries.
She says the four objectives are to:
- learn more about the local animals and plants that live between the tides
- collect valuable scientific information that will help build a picture of the biodiversity, distribution and abundance of seashore animals and plants in New Zealand’s marine environment
- monitor change in this habitat over time and investigate what might be causing the change
- make connections between scientists, educators, schools and community/iwi groups who care about their local seashore environment and want to look after it.
Marine Metre Squared is an inclusive and accessible citizen science project. How is it being carried out around the country?
It’s about encouraging people to get involved in the long-term monitoring of the marine environment. The development of protocols and collection of data over time will allow communities to assess change in their local shoreline and encourage stewardship and restoration projects. The plan is to raise awareness of marine biodiversity and facilitate partnerships between scientists, schools and community/iwi groups that will lead to improved coastal management.
There are two ways you can take part:
Marine Metre Squared is an easy way to survey the intertidal community. Monitor a 1m x 1m square patch of your local rocky shore once every season by recording the animals and plants that live there and the numbers found in the measured area. Take part in special scientific studies and fun educational challenges such as hunting for pest species, looking for evidence of animals breeding and measuring seaweed growth. Help others identify their new finds with the online forum. Submit your own questions and encourage others around New Zealand to take part. The project is perfect for families looking for holiday activities and schools and community groups looking for ways to engage with and improve their local environment.
The NZ Seashore Survey has been developed for secondary schools as part of a meaningful environmental science project that supports the intentions of the revised New Zealand Curriculum and assessment for NCEA Biology. It provides protocols for students to survey the rocky shore from high to low tide, which can be used as a valid context for the new ecology achievement standard 91158:“Investigate a pattern in an ecological community, with supervision”. This survey data could tell us so much about the rocky intertidal zones of New Zealand, yet it is rarely put to use outside the classroom.
How are teachers using the project in the classroom?
So far, over 850 users have registered on the site. More than 50 per cent are from the North Island and 45 per cent have identified as a school group.
The aims of the project are aligned with several of the key competencies, principles and values of TheNew Zealand Curriculum as well as the compulsory Nature of Science (NOS) strand of the science learning area. For example, the project enables students to participate and contribute to a meaningful, future-focused, environmental study that encourages ecological sustainability and community engagement at both a local and national level.
Teachers love the educational resources on the website. Species identification guides, data sheets activity books, video clips (e.g. time-lapse of the shore as the tide rises), data storage, and graphing facilities on the website are just some of the items available. Teachers are able to submit, store, view and graph their survey data, and also display and compare these results with the survey data from other times and sites around the country.
Younger students are mostly doing the ‘metre squared surveys’ and senior biology classes use the ‘transect study’. Find information about these here.
Schools also love the blog, where they can post photos of things they have had trouble identifying and have a scientists help them. We are also working alongside a number of schools to analyse and interpret the data.
Why do you think citizen science is important?
Citizen science (CS) or public participation in scientific research (PPSR) is the new wave of informal science education where participants have the opportunity to take part in scientific research, to learn scientific information, gain understanding of the nature of science, and develop specific skills in the methods of science … exactly what we would like to achieve with science education in New Zealand schools. It is about hearts and minds and getting people engaged by doing real science that is of relevance to them.
It has the potential to enrich science education because:
- students are collecting real data (of value to science) and are able to connect this to local issues
- data collection encourages students to ask meaningful questions (encouraging analysis)
- answers to one question tend to lead to more questions as we refine our understanding
- partnerships with communities, environmental groups, scientists provide opportunities to extended involvement (environmental action, for example).
Citizen science advances the goals of science education because it includes and pushes beyond the scope of knowledge and skill development. It provides a chance to practise types of thinking, questioning and actions needed to become informed citizens.
It also encourages volunteer engagement, connection with other organisations, leadership building, problem solving and identification of resources within the community. It supports lifelong learning and creates pathways for students to tertiary education.
Read more about the initiative, including how you can register your students, here.