Phytoplankton, or microscopic marine algae, account for approximately 50% of all photosynthesis on planet Earth. Crucially, they underpin the whole marine food chain. The Secchi Disk Project is a long-term research initiative to record the distribution and abundance of phytoplankton across the world’s oceans, using easily made ‘Secchi disks’ to measure the clarity of the water. This is something anyone can do, so the project offers young people a highly accessible introduction to the importance of the marine ecosystem.
Participants not only contribute worthwhile data to the project but, in the process, become better acquainted with both the hidden wonders, and the fragility, of the oceans. We see these as important steps towards a more enlightened and sustainable relationship with the marine environment for the coming generation.
Secchi Disk is already the world’s largest marine ‘citizen science’ project. It has benefitted from funding for marine environment research, with participation from numerous seafarers including global cruising sailors, commercial seafarers, fishermen and research organisations. A number of the Whirlwind Trust’s partner charities have already committed to supporting the project. They were quickly able to appreciate the potential participation in the programme offered to enriching the activities they provide to young people.
The greater the number of contributors to the project, the more reliable will be the data set used by researchers around the world to provide solid evidence on the state of the oceans. And the wider the participation, the greater will be the interest in and commitment to the marine environment among our future generation of leaders.
By taking part you will join a large community of motivated, environmentally aware, citizen scientists, recording phytoplankton levels in a simple, practical and enjoyable way from aboard a cruising yacht. Please visit secchidisk.org to see just how easy, interesting and inexpensive it is for a group of young people on a sailing experience to make their own Secchi disk, take measurements at sea and upload the data via the free Secchi phone app.
The Secchi Disk study’s first scientific output was published in December 2017 in the journal The Public Library of Science ONE also known as PLOS ONE. You can download the pdf directly here. The paper is Open Access, so it is free to read, download and distribute, and there has been broad coverage in the sailing press.
Are you passionate about this? Further funding is available for the right project.
Click here for another article about our marine environment.