The sea slug Spurilla drusilla, found near Portobello last
week. Photo by NZ Marine Studies Centre.
Backed by a $159,520 grant, the University of Otago is
setting up a national project to mobilise an army of "citizen
scientists" to monitor the biodiversity of many small sections
of the country's intertidal coast.
The "marine metre squared project"will be launched nationwide
early next year during Seaweek, which begins on March 2.
The university gained the grant of $159,520 over three years,
from June this year, from the Ministry for the Environment's
Community Environment Fund to establish the scheme.
Project co-ordinator Sally Carson said she was "really
excited" about the new project. She is programme director at
the university's New Zealand Marine Studies Centre, which is
developing the project, backed by a Project Advisory Board
including marine scientists, teachers, conservators and local
The centre aims to develop community tools for marine
monitoring and to link a variety of groups, including
schools, iwi, scientific groups and "passionate individuals"
to each study a one square metre section of the intertidal
coast, at least once and preferably several times a year.
"It's a really good example of a citizen scientist project.
It's giving the community a voice, it's raising awareness."
A considerable amount of further work was needed to develop
the project, including setting up an internet site where
participants could lodge data, and monitor and graph
developments in biodiversity over time, and make comparisons
with other parts of the country, she said.
The collection of marine data over time would encourage
communities to assess changes in their local shoreline and
"encourage stewardship and restoration projects".
Survey participants were likely to provide a clearer picture
of the spread of the exotic seaweed undaria, which could harm
native seaweed species.
The beautiful endemic sea slug Spurilla drusilla had
only rarely been seen on the nearby coast by centre staff in
recent years. However, centre staff found such a sea slug
near the centre, at Portobello, last week, illustrating the
interesting finds likely to come to light through regular
close monitoring through the project, she said.