Citizen Science really matters
The WDC Shorewatch team have been recording some really exciting sightings: pygmy sperm whales from the Western Isles, sperm whales from the Moray Coast and orca from the North coast; but why does all this data matter?
The term ‘citizen science’ is most often used to describe schemes which data is collected by community volunteers and Shorewatch fits the bill: between 2010 – 2016, Shorewatch volunteers carried out 36,646 whale and dolphin surveys around the coast of Scotland, that’s over 6000 hours of dedicated whale and dolphin surveys. Amazingly, whales, dolphins or porpoises were spotted during more than 6,000 of these watches and we now have records of 17 different whale, dolphin and porpoise species as well as seals, basking shark, otter and more. All this data collected helps us understand the movements of these amazing creatures, so we can better protect them. Without so many eyes on the sea we could not back up our advice to governments and developers on where and when to safeguard important areas for whales and dolphins.
Not only is Citizen Science a great way to collect heaps of vital data, but citizen science projects can be used to support and inform community members on how to make better decisions for their environment and feel empowered to fight for positive change. As part of Shorewatch, we support more than 150 active Shorewatchers, who are dedicated to protecting their local marine environment and driving local conservation action. We are proud to offer volunteers the tools and support to become ‘empowered influencers’ and run education, outreach and policy events. They participate in WDC data collection and campaigns but also step up independently to move forward policy and conservation aims by raising awareness and challenging decision-makers to champion concerns about local threats to cetaceans and the environment.
Last month I had the chance to shout about our work and the commitment of our dedicated Shorewatch volunteers at the European Cetacean Society Conference. I attended the conference to present our new poster, ‘Citizen Science: more than just data,’ participate in a citizen science workshop and attend the wider conference. It was fantastic to meet so many people dedicated to studying whales and dolphins but even more so to share the Shorewatch programme and what we are achieving. I talked a lot about the programme, not only valuing the data but also supporting the citizenship of our volunteers.
One of our volunteers, Steve Truluck, describes how Shorewatch has influenced his journey as a citizen scientist: ” Shorewatch is almost certainly responsible for instigating the majority of my actions with regard to whales and dolphins. Prior to Shorewatch, I was enjoying watching dolphins and the odd whale. I joined Shorewatch and not only found a meaning for what I was seeing as now the information is recorded, but I found a whole community supported by WDC. I have learnt a lot about the animals, a lot about humans and the way we treat them and a lot about myself as a result. I’ve actually protested about something. I never used to protest – just moaned like most people. Now I feel motivated and passionate enough to stand up for something that I love. “
If you would like to see the full pdf of our latest Shorewatch poster, visit https://uk.whales.org/wdc-posters-presentations-and-talks
Or to get invovled in Shorewatch contact me at; [email protected]