James Wilkie Devoy
“Sailors have a privileged access to the sea, and can therefore much more easily and economically facilitate the collection of oceanographic and environmental data than research teams who may have to charter vessels at great expense. We’re out there all the time!” Beardon explains.
“Everyone can get involved with learning more about the ocean. If you have a boat and would like to contribute to marine citizen science, making contact with a research partner or team who needs the data you can collect is useful.”
He’s right, many research institutes or universities we spoke to confirmed that they’d jump at the chance to have sailors help collect data for them, so reaching out to the marine science department of your local university can be a great starting point.
Susie Goodall and a Secchi disk. Photo: Secchi Disk Foundation
In 2013 Paul Bennett and his wife, Lani, set off to circumnavigate the world with their three daughters. While looking for engaging educational projects suitable for three teenagers they got involved with several citizen science volunteer programmes, which gave the Bennetts a great opportunity to learn about marine science. The family contacted local marine science organisations wherever they lay anchor, adapting their route accordingly:
“We target it,” explained Paul, “After the first [project] we looked for ways to integrate it. Citizen science opens up all sorts of opportunities tied to the location.”
The Bennetts have engaged in really hands-on citizen science projects all over the world, from tagging whale sharks in Cape Radd in South Africa to helping rebuild coral reefs and testing water quality in the Malacca Strait in Indonesia.
Cleo Bennett, the middle daughter, has just finished high school on the boat and is taking a gap year to stay on board. They are currently moored in South Africa and she continues to volunteer at the local aquarium. She says her experiences with citizen science had changed her perspective on the ocean: “I think we’ve seen more dead coral reefs than live ones. And dead coral reefs aren’t the same as bleached, you can rescue bleached coral reefs, dead ones aren’t coming back.”
The Bennetts not only continue to build opportunities for citizen science into the syllabus for their own children’s schooling, but started a business connecting online tutors with parents who want to teach their kids remotely and incorporate project and volunteer work.
“Raising three teens on a boat while sailing around the world has been challenging, especially when it comes to school. Cicero (