Volunteer Divers Help Document San Diego Marine Life

San Diego divers familiar with the local marine landscape will be able to act as citizen scientists by documenting local sharks, among other options. 

Ocean Sanctuaries, incorporated at the beginning of this year, is a new San Diego nonprofit that works to maintain and support ocean related citizen science programs.

Two of their programs allow divers to contribute to a local shark database and a third program is a marine life survey on the Yukon off of Mission Beach. The Yukon, a 366-foot Canadian warship sunk off the coast of San Diego in 2000, will act as an artificial reef in order to attract marine life.

“What’s good about [the program] is it allows local divers who dive here on a regular basis to contribute data,” Michael Bear, the co-founder of Ocean Sanctuaries and director of the citizen science projects told NBC7.

According to Bear, citizen science has become a discipline of its own -- and for one of the shark programs, they have a partnered with National Geographic. The program uses Fieldscope, a tool developed by National Geographic, which acts as an interactive mapping platform enabling divers to document marine life.

“For instance if they’re out at La Jolla Cove and they see a leopard shark or a horn shark or even a sevengill they could take a photograph and upload it to the database at Ocean Sanctuaries and we will process the photograph.”

The sevengill shark identification project analyzes photographs taken by local divers in a database that uses a pattern recognition algorithm to identify individual sharks. The sevengill shark is important to researchers because encounters with them have spiked in the last several years. The project enables scientists to identify specific sharks who return from year to year.

The databases are all examined by ‘principal investigators’ who look at the data and photographs to make sure it’s processed scientifically and accurately.

While the work is all volunteer, it can not only be an exciting and rewarding experience for lovers of marine life – but also a chance to make a valuable contribution to marine biology.

Divers interested in participating in the citizen science program can go to Ocean Sanctuaries’ website.

Contact Us