Citizen science for sailors: phytoplankton

The 21st February saw the first anniversary of the launch of the Secchi Disk study and the Secchi App project, the global Citizen Study by Seafarers to study the marine phytoplankton. The Ocean Cruising Club were one of the first organisations to promote the study ( and the project team have been in touch to ask us to thank everyone who is taking part and submitting Secchi depth measurements to the global database.

Although it is still early days in terms of a long-term study, the project organisers are already excited by the extent of the data collected. Dr Richard Kirby, the project’s leader, says they hope to soon be able to start some analyses on the role of Citizen Science in marine biology, which will hopefully lead to a publication to acknowledge all your efforts so far.

The project is a long-term study however, and the database improves continuously as ocean coverage increases and successive years of Secchi depth data accumulate. To that extent, the Citizen Science project relies upon sailor and other seafarers, anglers and divers, knowing about its existence and taking part. So the project team would be delighted if you would help them celebrate their birthday by spreading word of the project to others, whether by word of mouth, by writing about the project, or perhaps by displaying a project poster at your local marina.

They are especially keen to reach out to sailors cruising in the remoter Southern Hemisphere. You can obtain free to use information and project posters to help promote the project under the PRESS PACK section of the project website. Finally, as the project team anticipated at the start, sailors have been remarkably ingenious with the variety of materials you have used to make your 30 cm white Secchi Disk, the more unusual materials include a Vinyl LP, an aluminum road sign, a frisbee, and a disk cut from a ship’s toilet seat!

Dr. Kirby has also just released a fascinating glimpse into the world of plankton that you would be helping him and his team to study and understand –

Colin Speedie, OCC
The photo below shows Dr Richard Kirby presenting a Secchi disk.
This article by Colin Speedie originally appeared in the Ocean Cruising Club March 2014 newsletter.