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Hello Ocean - new citizen science effort by member


By DariaBlackwell - 9 Sep 2015

OCC Member Ben Eriksen Carey and partner Teresa Carey have joined forces with scientists to provide ocean going research capabilities.

Teresa Carey

Sailors on a mission to document the state of the world’s oceans in a global crowd-sourced scientific study.

Hello Ocean facilitates ocean science and media to inspire change. Our goal is to engage recreational sailors in global citizen science efforts to collect cutting edge data for high priority ocean issues.

Filmmakers and ocean advocates, Teresa and Ben Carey invite you to join a scientific odyssey to document ocean acidification, create baseline cetacean distribution datasets, and map global ocean noise pollution.

These award winning sailors and filmmakers are taking the lead in an exciting new cooperative venture between the sailing and scientific communities. In partnership with The Ocean Foundation, leading ocean scientists and engineering firms they are creating citizen science projects in which ocean going vessels can take part collecting vital data that will help document the state of the world’s oceans. Their project, called Hello Ocean launches this fall as they set sail from Rockland Maine, bound for the Caribbean Sea by way of Bermuda and the Sargasso Sea.

The oceans are the last truly wild frontier on planet earth. Much of them are unexplored and undocumented. Hiring an ocean going research vessel is extremely expensive. Therefore, scientists are increasingly relying on volunteers to collect data for them. Citizen science is scientific research that utilizes volunteer, amateur scientists to collect data in the real world. The volunteers choose to participate in citizen science studies for a variety of reasons. Many of them find that their vacation or daily lives are enriched by participating in real scientific research that could lead to better protection or management of our natural resources.

Ocean acidification was recently cited among the top five research interests of ocean scientists worldwide. Ocean acidification is the continuous decrease in the pH of the ocean, caused by absorbing high levels of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. It is believed to have a range of negative consequences that include coral bleaching, killing algae, and harming a wide variety of marine life.

Teresa & Ben are teaming up with biological oceanographer Dr. Nina Bednarsek to do a baseline study of ocean acidification’s effects on biomass. This fall and winter they are conducting the pilot study where they will test new equipment and methods. Once they refine the study, their goal is to expand this into an opportunity for recreational boaters, who will be provided the technology with which to collect data. These citizen scientists will also be in contact with Teresa & Ben and Dr. Bednarsek via Google Hangouts, blogs, and videos.

“Citizen scientist projects are a great way to learn about the natural world,” said Teresa. “We need a waterfront of knowledgeable people who can see changes in our ocean. These ‘Sailor Scientist’ projects will develop that while simultaneously contributing to the scientific understand of ocean acidification, ocean noise pollution, and cetacean research.

Belize possesses one of the most biodiverse and pristine marine habitats in all of the Western Caribbean, however little is known about the marine mammals that inhabit this region. This region has been extensively exposed to seismic testing, and now, legislation permitting deep-sea oil mining is nearly approved. Coupled with a lack of baseline data on marine mammals in this region, anthropogenic activity poses significant threats to marine ecosystems throughout Belize.

The aim of our Cetacean Study is to produce the first systematic data to assess the status and abundance of cetaceans in the Western Caribbean. The results will be used to support improved protection for marine mammals and pelagic ecosystems. Partnering with scientist Eric Ramos, Hello Ocean aims to create an opportunity for citizen scientists across the globe to listen and record the vocalizations of whales and dolphins to further the research.

“The media and the research go hand-in-hand,” said Ben. “Scientists who study the ocean need more ways to collect data. What better resource is there than recreational boaters? Our goal is to create media (videos and podcasts) that will appeal to boaters and fuel their interest in ocean conservation and science. I’m confident we can find plenty of sailors who want to participate in these research projects.”

Teresa & Ben are longtime cruising sailors. Even though they return to many of the same places, their outlook on sailing has changed. “When I first started sailing I did so to escape the so-called real world and live life at a different pace,” Teresa explained. “Now I want to engage in the world in a meaningful way. We try to plan each voyage with a specific purpose other than just sailing.”

Teresa & Ben divide their cruising time between providing sail training opportunities aboard Rocinante and creating ocean conservation media. Last winter, while in Panama preparing their boat for crossing the Caribbean Sea, they filmed at an indigenous Kuna village that’s home to one of the largest nesting populations of leatherback sea turtles, a critically endangered species. They also went to Armila, to learn from a local scientist and community leaders about the leatherbacks and the local culture.

From Panama, Teresa & Ben sailed to Maine. During that passage they collected seawater samples, which they delivered via sailboat to Dr. Abby Borrows, a research scientist in Stonington, ME. Dr. Borrows who is studying the extent of micro-plastic in the ocean. Most of her data collection comes from citizen scientist volunteers like Ben and Teresa. Recent research shows that micro-plastic is present in every ocean and every body of water on the planet. The extent to which it pollutes our oceans and waterways is a growing concern for ocean scientists since plastic can have severe environmental consequences as it carries toxic chemicals and can never break down.

Spreading the word about critical ocean issues has been a passion for Ben and Teresa that began with a 2011 voyage where their voyage plan was to sail north until they saw an iceberg.

“I simply wanted to see an iceberg because I had never seen one before. We ended up seeing a piece of the Petermann Ice Island, a record-setting Greenland iceberg. In the process, I learned more than I expected about polar ice, climate, and my relationship to it all,” says Teresa.

That voyage turned into a feature film called One Simple Question, produced in partnership with Doctrine Creative, a Florida production company. The film premiered at the Blue Ocean Film Festival in November and was released in March for screenings nationwide.

Ben and Teresa are currently running a crowd-funding campaign to help them jump-start the Hello Ocean project. Sailors and scientists alike, as well as anyone concerned about the future of our oceans, are asked to help support this project. Hello Ocean will notify all interested parties of progress toward the ultimate goal of getting recreational boaters the equipment and instruction they need to take part and make a difference. To make a contribution or find out more about Hello Ocean, visit helloocean.org. To find out more about their film visit simplequestionmovie.com.

By DariaBlackwell - 22 Sep 2015

They are getting some well deserved attention from organizations like Sylvia Earle 's Mission Blue. Hello Ocean, their new citizen science project is beginning a test phase, which if successful will invite participation from the global cruising community. We 'll be watching with interest.