Project Seagrass

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You asked, we listened. Our latest updates to SeagrassSpotter

Things have been busy at Project Seagrass with lots of development on SeagrassSpotter. Since our last major update, we have been working to enhance the ways that SeagrassSpotter works for its users. We’re excited to share that our latest update includes many of the features you have been asking for, and a few more. One of the six main global challenges to seagrass conservation is that the status of many seagrass meadows is unknown, and up-to-date information on status and condition is essential for conservation. While we’re making great strides in using drone technology and satellite imaging for seagrass mapping, new technologies still depend on “ground-truth” data, which is where SeagrassSpotter comes in. This is how individuals can make lasting contributions to seagrass conservation. With this in mind and coupled with the requests you’ve made, we’ve released a new version of SeagrassSpotter. We’ve developed a completely new exploration and filter function, allowing you to select data from certain species, countries, and more. We’ve also made it easier for you to download SeagrassSpotter data and generate reports on the things that matter most. Finally, we’ve added a completely new upload function for absence data; places where seagrass isn’t found or used to be found but now isn’t – data that will help us and other transform habitat suitability modelling. Take a look at our feature recaps below to learn about each one in depth.   Data exploration We understand the importance of being able to view the data you collect – you can see in real time how you’re contributing to the bigger picture. Data exploration is the first step of data analysis and is used to explore and visualize data to uncover insights from the start or identify areas or patterns to dig into more. Using interactive filtering, users can better understand the bigger picture and get to insights faster. You can filter data by any of the parameters that SeagrassSpotter collects (e.g., algae, fishing activity, flowering) and display this either in grid format or map format. Report generation In addition to our new explore tab, we’ve added new report generation features that allow you to download data that is filtered by any of the parameters that you select. Only want seagrass data from the Philippines? No problem! We understand the importance of being able to easily download data and have worked to remove barriers to this. All SeagrassSpotter data is free to access, and you don’t even need to sign up for an account. Open Access data will make conserving seagrass easier for everyone. Absence data It’s imperative that we know where seagrass is growing, but to advance seagrass restoration, it’s also important that we know where seagrass isn’t growing, and why. Whether it’s been lost, or simply was never found there in the past, our new absence data function allows you to add data on other habitats and substrates such as mangroves, coral, seaweeds, rocks, sand and mud. This will make habitat suitability modelling easier and more efficient, while also adding greater ground truthing needs for remote sensing. New languages We understand that for SeagrassSpotter to be a global tool, it needs to be accessible to all, no matter what language you speak. Over the past few years, we’ve slowly been adding additional languages to increase usability in many of the countries we work. Alongside this, we’re developing an app within SeagrassSpotter called SpotLang that provides a means for anybody to help curate new languages with us. As it currently stands, SeagrassSpotter is available in nine languages; English, Welsh, French, Portuguese, Swahili, Thai, Bahasa Indonesia, Bahasa Malay and Tetun. If you are interested in contributing to new languages, please get in touch.

Seagrass app inspires a rise in citizen science across the globe

Internationally renowned charity Project Seagrass is marking it’s tenth anniversary by re-launching its citizen science website and mobile app SeagrassSpotter which enables anyone and everyone to engage with the seagrass meadows on their doorstep or anywhere else in the world, whether it’s there now or it once was. SeagrassSpotter was established in 2016 and allows people to upload point data showing the presence of seagrass with photo evidence. Since its initial launch, it has gathered over 7,000 sightings of seagrass from over 3,500 users across 105 countries and has recorded 45 species of seagrass. It’s relaunch will include new features, such as being able to record absence data to track where seagrass may have once existed but is now lost. Dr Leanne Cullen-Unsworth, CEO at Project Seagrass, said: “Over the last ten years, we have successfully raised awareness of the importance of seagrass and the role it plays in tackling the biodiversity and climate crises. Now we must accelerate efforts to protect and restore this vital habitat. Everyone can have a part to play in securing a future for seagrass and SeagrassSpotter is a great tool to engage and connect people in seagrass science and mapping all over the world.” The UK alone has lost up to 92% of its seagrass meadows, an essential ecosystem that protects our coasts, supports the fishing industry, and puts food on our tables. To monitor, identify and stop the loss of seagrass all over the world, Project Seagrass is calling for more people to engage in citizen science and not only record where seagrass meadows can be seen, but where they once were and now no longer are. Saving the world’s seagrass meadows is an essential task if we are to address both the climate and biodiversity crises, but making waves to do this requires the many, rather than the few. Seagrass has long been the unknown and forgotten oceanic plant, a plant that was once terrestrial, and is now becoming a household name as we learn more about its significance to both people and planet. For instance, seagrass supports 20% of the world’s largest commercial fisheries, therefore without it, our fish stocks will continue to drastically reduce. There are also communities all over the world who are dependent on seagrass, as their main food source, fish, derives from their local seagrass meadows. When considering nature-based solutions, seagrass meadows are high on the agenda and a hot topic for carbon sequestration and biodiversity support, however, the science required to evidence the quantities is not yet complete. We therefore have much to do in the next decade to ensure we protect the seagrass we have and put back what we have lost. To achieve this, we must all play our part, which is why citizen science is on the rise. With more people actively engaging in local projects, now is the perfect opportunity for Project Seagrass to re-launch their citizen science web platform and phone app, SeagrassSpotter. To explore the SeagrassSpotter tool visit

Seagrass citizen science: investigations into a potential seagrass saviour

A guest blogger? But why should I bother reading what he has to say? Well here’s a bit about me…. Originally hailing from Melton Mowbray, a small town in the middle of England known solely for producing pork pies and stilton cheese, my initial foray into marine science began with any other child’s obsession with the beach. My parents often remind me that after hours of poking around in rockpools and catching crabs I would throw tantrums when it was time to leave the coast and return to my landlocked home. As I became older and words like career and jobs became ever more prevalent in my life, I began searching for the holy grail of adult life, a job which I genuinely enjoyed. This search led me to undertake a Bachelor’s degree in Coastal Marine Biology in the now non-existent Scarborough Campus of the University of Hull; I should clarify that my class was the last year to graduate from that tiny seaside town before the satellite campus shut down. It was during my time as an undergraduate researching in the Aegean Sea that I first encountered seagrass ecosystems and immediately fell in love. Seagrasses are the only true marine angiosperm (flowing plants) and have been described by Professor Carlos Duarte (a famous seagrass scientist) as ugly duckling ecosystems. After returning from that career changing trip all my subsequent assessments were targeted towards seagrasses as I endeavoured to learn all I could about their function, ecology and reproduction. A room with a view… daily scenery when completing Aegean seagrass surveys. This obsession permeated through to my Master’s degree at the University of York in Marine Environmental Management where my supervisor shared a passion for these underappreciated ecosystems; it seemed fate had brought two seagrass nerds together at last. As I continued through the MSc with a specific focus on seagrasses when possible there came a time where I had to find an external placement partner to complete my second thesis with. Being still constrained firmly to the student financial situation I did not have the prospect of travelling to far flung places as some of my peers. However, this hardly mattered as my first choice was to work with the only active group of seagrass researchers in the UK, Project Seagrass! After finalising the logistics of the project and “upping sticks” to Cardiff in mid-July I now right this blog post sat at a desk in Project Seagrass HQ nestled in a surprisingly sunny Cardiff. But that’s enough about me, let’s talk seagrass citizen science! The project I am completing investigates the motivations, benefits, barriers and changes in knowledge associated with taking part in seagrass citizen science projects, specifically SeagrassSpotter and Seagrass-Watch (follow the links if you want to learn more about these projects). More broadly the project sets out to discover who is taking part, why they take part and when they take part. The project itself is being co-managed by myself and Isadora Sinha of Cardiff University who is heading up the demographics (the who) associated with the project. Throughout the project we utilised an online questionnaire which has been disseminated to current users of SeagrassSpotter, Seagrass Watch, and various seagrass-based email and social media groups (yes seagrass Facebook groups exist, if you’re interested you should join one). Given that citizen science, the participation of non-scientists in scientific research, has been labelled as a source of large data sets across varied space and time, seagrass citizen science has the potential to alleviate some of the primary threats these ecosystems face. Talking all things seagrass citizen science at a workshop organised by Cardiff University. Seagrasses are thought to be declining at around 7% a year, with declines primarily due to changes in water quality and increases in suspended sediments which reduce the ability of the plant to photosynthesise by blocking available sunlight. Additionally, researchers have little idea of local spatial coverages of seagrasses due in no short part to a chronic lack of public awareness of their existence; a concept which doesn’t apply to more charismatic ecosystems such as coral reefs. This decline represents not only the loss of a beautiful marine habitat (see the photo below if you don’t believe me) but also the services these ecosystems provide. Seagrasses are present on the coastal fringes of almost all continents worldwide where their presence promotes high primary and fisheries productivity, in turn supporting food security worldwide. You know the cod that forms an integral part of your chippy tea? Well it probably spent a good part of its juvenile years living in and around seagrass meadows. Seagrasses also add 3D structure to muddy bottoms, enhancing sediment capture which stabilises coastlines against erosion and acts to trap carbon dioxide helping to combat climate change. It is therefore hoped that by better understanding why people take part in seagrass citizen science we can reduce barriers to participation and increase public awareness and conservation of these crucial ecosystems. The project also represents the first time these topics have been studied in a seagrass specific context so will provide much needed insight into the finer state of seagrass citizen science. For a global review of seagrass citizen science see this article led by Project Seagrass Director Benjamin Jones (sorry, it’s not open access). At the time of writing the survey has been sent to over 1000 people and has been completed around 60 times. This may not seem like a worthwhile return, but such a small number of responses is common among online surveys. Results from the survey are being collated currently and will be prepared ready for my MSc thesis submission in early September. So, watch this space for seagrass updates! Together we can promote conservation and raise awareness of seagrasses to help this ugly duckling become beautiful swan.

Where is all the seagrass? Project Seagrass wants you to help!

Help us record the seagrass near you At Project Seagrass we created a conservation tool that could lead to new discoveries about one of the ocean’s most underappreciated habitats — seagrass. With our new phone app and website, Seagrass Spotter, ocean enthusiasts around the British Isles can become citizen scientists who contribute to marine conservation, with just a few taps of their phone. We’ve made important scientific breakthroughs with seagrass in recent years, but they remain incredibly threatened and are still underappreciated in our British Isles. Seagrass remains threatened and under appreaciated in our British Isles The Problem Seagrass meadows in the British Isles have recently been highlighted for their value as fish nurseries for commercially important species (e.g. Pollack, Herring Atlantic Cod, Plaice), this adds to our existing knowledge of their high ecosystem service value throughout Europe. Despite their importance seagrass meadows are in a degraded and perilous state in the British Isles having experienced significant losses over time. Estimates suggest that between 25% and 80% of UK seagrass has been lost since the 1930s with minimal signs of recovery. Significant threats in the British Isles include direct physical damage (e.g. from boating or trampling), increased sedimentation and poor water quality. Confounding the problem is a lack of public awareness of the existence and value of seagrass meadows. Seagrass Spotter With Seagrass Spotter, we want to map and record more of the seagrass here in the British Isles to be able to help protect it for future generations. Seagrass Spotter seeks to expand the number of people studying seagrass from a handful of scientists to hundreds and potentially thousands of ‘citizen scientists.’ As part of efforts to build a sustainable monitoring network, and by leveraging the enthusiasm of everyone from fishers to SCUBA divers and from wildlife enthusiasts to tourists, we’ll create a more comprehensive picture of seagrass meadows around our British Isles. To protect our critically important seagrass meadows we need to first know where they are, understand their importance, and know the things that might damage them. Whilst the British Isles has a proud history of biological recording, seagrasses have rarely figured in that data collection. We want to change that. When we don’t know where seagrasses are, then these habitats that provide so many important functions to our coastal seas can disappear without anyone even noticing. Studying seagrass is challenging. It requires time, energy, funding and experts willing to conduct research. Governments, Universities, NGO’s all try and do this vital mapping work but it’s too expensive and time consuming, especially in an era of austerity. Relying on data only gathered by experts leaves a huge deficit in our information and this is where citizen scientists come in; observations made by members of the public can help bridge the gap in our knowledge, as in many areas of the British Isles basic distribution information is still badly needed. The idea is simple and we’re inviting the public to upload photos of seagrass from known locations around the British Isles using either the phone app or directly on the website. Together with submitting photos we’re also asking contributors to answer some simple questions about the seagrass at the site. However, we don’t expect contributors to have prior knowledge of marine biology and the website and app will provide all the information you may need. The phone app is available from Google Play (iPhone version to be released early May) and the website is accessible through any format. Please take a look at for more details or to download the app search ‘Seagrass Spotter’ in Google Play or follow this link here. This application is currently only applicable for use in the geographic area of the British Isles but we’re currently looking to find sponsorship to turn this tool into a global resource.