Monday, April 29, 2013

Have a boat? Willing to help science? PLEASE PARTICIPATE WITH SECCHI APP

Have boat - please help with research... PLEASE PARTICIPATE WITH SECCHI APP
Sailors turned Scientists: Be a part of the world's biggest plankton survey
No time like the present to start something for the future
Dr Richard Kirby, a Plankton Biologist at Plymouth University and Project leader explains; "Many of the datasets that scientists rely upon today to tell us about long-term changes are 'citizen science' studies that were begun a few decades ago. Often we look back and wish we had already started monitoring something about the natural world - "if only we had started measuring 'x' ten years ago". Well our view was there is no time like the present to start something for the future. This is why we created the Secchi App and this Citizen Science project, to try to encourage data collection on the plankton and make data submission simple."
“One person recording a Secchi depth twice a month for a few years will generate useful data about their local sea,” Kirby says. “The more people that take part, the greater the project and the more important and valuable it will become to future generations.”
A recent study has suggested that the phytoplankton in the oceans that underpin the whole marine food chain has declined by 40% since the 1950s due to climate change. A team of scientists from Plymouth University, UK, have created a mobile phone app called Secchi and a Citizen Science project to encourage thousands of seafarers around the world to take part in a global study of plankton.

What does being a Citizen Scientist involve?
Taking part in this project is straightforward and simple.
When a seafaring citizen scientist is ready to use the app, the first step is to make a Secchi Disk (instructions are included). The small, white disk–made of plastic, wood or metal–is attached to a tape measure on one side and a weight on the other. You hold the tape measure and lower the disk vertically into the seawater, and as soon as it disappears from sight, you note the depth below the surface on the tape measure. This number, the “Secchi depth,” reflects the transparency of the water column, which is influenced by the number of particles present. The Secchi depth also tells scientists the depth to which light supports life in the water.
You use your smartphone and the Secchi app to obtain the GPS location and to enter the Secchi depth - a network connection isn’t required for this. It is very important that you use the Secchi app to obtain the GPS location when you measure the Secchi Depth. The Plymouth researchers receive the data as soon as you regain network connectivity. You can also upload photos and type in additional details like water temperature (measured by the boat) and notes on visual observations–say, a foamy surface, a plankton bloom or a flock of feeding sea birds. You can follow the data you collect, along with that of others, on the project's website.
The app is named after the inventor of the measuring disk, Father Pietro Angelo Secchi, who used it to gauge the cloudiness of the Mediterranean in 1865.
Sailors turned Scientists: Be a part of the world's biggest plankton surveyThe amount of phytoplankton in the water column will vary seasonally, from place to place and annually. You may choose to set up a sample site and measure the Secchi Depth twice or more a month, or you may choose to make recordings on your travels, but avoid taking measurements in estuaries and areas of turbulent water. In whatever way you decide to take part, your help will assist the team in Plymouth to better understand the Oceans biology. 
It is hoped that sailors wanting to get involved will begin as soon as possible with the experiments and continue indefinitely with collecting data. The team expect the Secchi Disk study to run for many years to come to create the world's biggest plankton survey. If enough data is generated (by just a small percentage of the world's seafarers), it will form a unique global database on the productivity of the oceans and how they are being impacted by climate change.
You can find out more at the project's website which has some excellent tutorials.


You can participate in this project by making a Secchi Disk and using the free to download iPhone or Android ‘Secchi’ application.

Join in and make this the World’s largest, ongoing Citizen Science marine biological study.

"You don’t need a network connection to use Secchi. Secchi stores all the data until you get a mobile signal when it will ask you if you want to submit your data now, or wait until later."
RK, SV Odontella

The marine phytoplankton account for approximately 50% of all photosynthesis on Earth and, through the plankton food web that they support, they both underpin the marine food chain and play a central role in the global carbon cycle strongly influencing the Earth’s climate.

Living at the surface of the sea the phytoplankton are particularly sensitive to changes in sea surface temperature. A recent study of global phytoplankton abundance over the last century concluded that global phytoplankton concentrations have declined due to rising sea surface temperatures as a consequence of current climate change.

We need to know much more about these changes and you can help by making a simple piece of scientific equipment called a Secchi Disk and using the Secchi App.


Where can I find out more about the Secchi App and this project?
  • Please see the two presentations for iOS and Android. Full instructions are also included with the App. 
Why is this project important?
  • The phytoplankton underpin the marine food chain and so we need to know as much about them as possible.
Who can use the Secchi App?
  • Secchi App is for seafarers and scientists.
Is the Secchi App free?
  • The Secchi App is free and it is free to take part, however, we do ask you to make a Secchi Disk.
What is a Secchi Disk?
  • A Secchi Disk is a 30 cm, flat, white disk attached to a tape measure or a rope, and weighted from below by a small 200 g weight.
Do all Secchi Disks have to be 30 cm in diameter?
  • Yes. It is very important that everyone uses a disk that is the same size to standardise the survey.
What is the Secchi Disk used for?
  • A Secchi Disk is used to measure the Secchi Depth. The Secchi Depth measures the turbidity of the water, which is influenced by the amount of phytoplankton in the water column.
What are phytoplankton?
  • Phytoplankton - also called microalgae - are microscopic plant-like cells and they are the sea's main primary producers.
How do you use Secchi Disk to measure the Secchi Depth?
  • With the sun behind you, you lower the Secchi Disk vertically into the water from the side of your boat. The point at which the disk just disappears from sight is the Secchi Depth.
Can a Secchi Disk be made from anything?
  • Yes. A Secchi Disk can be made from any material so long as it is white, or it is painted white.
How often should I take a Secchi Depth reading?
  • You can take a Secchi Disk reading as often as you wish, every day, once a week, twice a month, or just occasionally.
Where should I take a Secchi Disk reading?
  • You can take a Secchi Disk reading wherever you wish at sea so long as you cannot see the seabed and you avoid estuaries.
Should I measure the Secchi Depth at a particular time of day?
  • Yes. The Secchi Depth should be measured between 10.00 hrs and 14.00 hrs.
Should I remove my sunglasses?
  • Yes. Please do not wear sunglasses when you measure the Secchi Depth.
Should I clean the Secchi Disk?
  • Yes. It is important to keep your Secchi Disk clean so that its visibility does not change.
Who will use the data I collect?
  • The data you collect will help scientists around the world to understand the phytoplankton.
What happens if I submit a Secchi Depth when I have no network connection?
  • In this case, the data will be stored on your phone as a pending reading. When you next get a network connection you will be prompted to either submit or delay until later.
How much data am I uploading to the database?
  • Secchi data occupies about 4 kb per reading. Photographs occupy about 50 kb.
How long will the project run?
  • This project begins now and continues indefinitely into the future.
Will this really be the biggest global marine survey?
  • We hope so, but that is up to you.


Follow @secchiapp and #secchidisk for latest updates
25 February 2013
Secchi App for Google Nexus 7 released
21 February 2013
Secchi App and SecchiDisk database launched
Please see the two presentations for iOS and Android. Full instructions are also included with the App or this instructional video.

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