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Otago Marine Studies Centre launches 'Marine Metre Squared'

The Clocktowers clock

Wednesday, 27 February 2013 9:41am

Sally Carson by the seasideProgramme Director Sally Carson

The University of Otago’s New Zealand Marine Studies Centre is launching ‘Marine Metre Squared’ - a nationwide project to bring scientists and the community together in monitoring the animals and plants found on the nation’s rocky shores.

Marine Metre Squared is a ‘citizen science’ project that encourages the public to pick a patch of the rocky shore and, with the help of information found on the project website, www.mm2.net.nz, regularly identify and count the marine life found there.

Marine Studies Centre Programme Director Sally Carson says, “Marine Metre Squared will be launched during Seaweek, 2-10 March 2013. The project is closely linked to the Rocky Shore Guide pamphlets produced by the Centre. They’ve been so popular; we’ve distributed 80,000 copies of the Northern and Southern versions. We have just updated and printed an additional 20,000 copies.

“We’re encouraging people to get out on the beach with our guide and meet their seashore ‘neighbours’. To do the Marine Metre Squared survey all they have to do is measure out a 1m x 1 m square patch at low tide, identify and count animals in the area, fill out the survey forms available on the website and then upload the data.

“Using the website, participants will be able to store, map and graph their own data for comparison between seasons, regions and species, and compare what is in their patch with other people’s.”

Ms Carson says the project includes providing resources for schools to take part. The aims of the project are aligned with several of the Principles and Values of the New Zealand Curriculum as well as the compulsory Nature of Science strand of the Science Learning Area. A specially designed NCEA level two project has been prepared, too.

“Students can participate and contribute to a meaningful, future-focused, environmental study that encourages ecological sustainability and community engagement at both a local and national level.”

An online forum will provide support for identification, information about species that scientists are looking for and questions they are asking. Participants are encouraged to share their stories and observations and take part in special challenges such as hunting for pest species, looking for evidence of animals breeding and measuring seaweed growth.

Ms Carson emphasises that this is not only a project for schools.

“It could be a great holiday activity to do with your children, or something to do when you take your dog to the beach, or useful for community groups that are concerned about degradation of the local shore.

“The data collected and uploaded will provide scientists with meaningful, valid environmental baseline data across the whole of New Zealand so they can assess the variety, distribution and abundance of shore animals. It will enable us to not only take a snapshot of rocky shore biodiversity, but to establish a baseline against which future change can be measured.

The Marine Metre Squared project has attracted funding assistance of $50,000 per year for three years from the Ministry for the Environment’s Community Environment Fund.

“This project is very much designed to make connections between scientists, educators schools and community/Iwi groups who care about their local seashore environment and want to look after it,” Ms Carson adds. “The challenge is to keep the community and schools engaged,”  she says.

“At a local level we hope Marine Metre Squared will create knowledge, tools and networks to facilitate community action and support teachers in using real life, relevant examples in their teaching.”

Ms Carson says similar projects take place in other countries, but in a localised manner. This is the first time a project such as this has been released on a nation-wide scale.

New identification guides describing the animals and plants found on sandy/muddy shores are being developed as companions for the Rocky Shore Guides. These are due for release at the end of 2013. All the guides will soon be available in Te Reo, too. This will be a growing resource as regional variations in Māori names for the animals come to light. Funding for the guides has come through Mobil Oil New Zealand Ltd.

For more information, contact:

Sally Carson
New Zealand Marine Studies Centre Programme Director
Department of Marine Science
University of Otago
Ph 479 5842
Mob 021 279 5842
sally.carson@otago.ac.nz

Related links

Marine Metre Squared website

Seaweek 2013 website

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