Citizen Science – Explore the Seafloor!


Crowd-sourcing will contribute to marine research when National Science Week invites citizen scientists to take part in a huge project. A prize of an underwater camera is on offer.

Massive sea urchins are heading south on the East Australian Current, turning healthy kelp beds into marine lunar-scapes, denuded of seaweed and sea life.  With the loss of the seaweed forests, biodiversity collapses in with potentially significant environmental and economic impacts to fisheries and tourism.  Climate change is also affecting kelp forest around southern Australia.

National Science Week in Australia is August 10 to 18 and here’s a way that just about everyone can get involved. Thousands of volunteers are expected to join in and there’s a prize of an underwater camera on offer for a citizen, plus school prizes too.  

Through August, volunteer citizen scientists will help map the location of kelp and sea urchin populations and track how these organisms are responding to changes in the oceans.

The participants will register and be allocated a series of photographs from under the ocean. They’ll learn how to identify the species that the researchers are studying and submit their observations. This will contribute valuable work to two significant marine science projects.

BACKGROUND: Kelp (Ecklonia radiate) populations along Australia’s east and west coasts are changing due to rising ocean temperatures. Sea urchins (Centrostephanus rodgersii) are threatening local biodiversity as they move into new areas around Tasmania as the waters warm.

An ocean-going Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) called Sirius, has collected millions of seafloor images at sites located around Australia. The AUV belongs to The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics and is used around the country as part of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).

Scientists from research centres and universities around Australia have collaborated to develop Explore the Seafloor with ABC Science, creating an informative website where citizens can register, learn to identify what’s in the photos and submit their observations to the research group. The institutions which have collaborated include University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Tasmania, University of Western Australia, James Cook University, AIMS and  CSIRO.


Frankie Lee  0419 448847

AUV – Autonomous Underwater Vehicle specialist: Stefan Williams, University of Sydney Phone +61 2 9351 8152

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