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Crowd-sourced citizen science project encourages Australia to ‘Explore the Seafloor’

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13 Aug

Crowd-sourced citizen science project encourages Australia to ‘Explore the Seafloor’

launch-admin Aug 13, 2013 0 1422

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9th August 2013


National Science Week invites people to tag seafloor photos to track invading urchins and disappearing kelp forests in Australia’s oceans


Australians are being urged to help save ocean habitats as part of this year’s National Science Week, from 10 – 18 August. The ‘Citizen Science’ project, Explore the Seafloor, will crowd-source volunteers to take part in a ground breaking marine project designed by some of the country’s top marine scientists.


Explore the Seafloor, is focusing on a hugely important area of research – tracking the loss of kelp forests and the invasive sea urchins heading south on the East Australian Current, turning healthy kelp beds into virtual marine lunar-scapes. Climate change is also affecting kelp forest around southern Australia.


Professor Craig Johnson from the University of Tasmania says that biodiversity crashes with the loss of kelp forests with potentially significant environmental and economic impacts to fisheries and tourism. 

“The equivalent is taking a bulldozer into a rainforest and razing it back to bare earth,” says Professor Johnson.

Through the campaign, volunteer citizen scientists will help contribute to the research, being conducted by Professor Johnson amongst others. Registered participants will help map the location of kelp and sea urchin populations and help track how these organisms are responding to changes in the oceans.


This work is usually done by research assistants and is time-consuming and laborious.  ‘Explore the Seafloor’ is taking a crowd-sourcing approach to reduce this workload and ask the community to get involved to help the marine scientists with their research work. It’s enabling widespread analysis that is not possible without the scale of a National Science Week Project.


The volunteers who sign up to the Explore the Seafloor website http://exploretheseafloor.net.au will be allocated a series of photographs from under the ocean. They will learn how to identify the species that the researchers are studying and submit their observations. This will contribute invaluable work that will support marine science being undertaken by collaborating research institutions around Australia, including UTAS, UNSW, University of Sydney, AIMS (Australian Institute of Marine Science), University of Western Australia and SIMS (Sydney Institute of Marine Science).


National Science Week is expecting thousands of volunteers to join in with the crowd-sourcing initiative and there is a prize of an underwater camera on offer for one of the citizen scientists along with school prizes.


With the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) as the producer of the National Science Week website and Explore the Seafloor site, Director of ABC Innovation, Angela Clark, said: “During our last National Science Week collaboration more than 8,000 people took part in our Sound Check Australia citizen science project and contributed vital research to the National Noise and Hearing survey.  Their volunteered time was the equivalent of one person working 40 hour weeks for 2 years – and was a great example of what crowd sourced work can do in the scientific sphere.


“We are always looking for new ways to leverage technology to engage and add entertainment and educational value to ABC’s audiences, and our participation with Science Week is a great way to do that while helping advance valuable research.”





Kelp (Ecklonia radiata) populations along Australia’s east and west coasts are changing due to rising ocean temperatures. Sea urchins (Centrostephanus rodgersii) are threatening local biodiversity as they move into new areas around Tasmania as the waters warm.


An ocean-going Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) called Sirius, has collected millions of seafloor images at sites located around Australia. The AUV belongs to The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics and is used around the country as part of Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS).


Scientists from research centres and universities around Australia have collaborated to develop Explore the Seafloor with ABC Science, creating an informative website where citizens can register, learn to identify what’s in the photos and submit their observations to the research group. The institutions which have collaborated include University of Sydney, University of New South Wales, University of Tasmania, University of Western Australia, James Cook University, AIMS, Sydney Institute of Marine Science and CSIRO.


Interviews with researchers and members of the Explore the Seafloor project team are available. There are researchers from all over Australia available. The contact details are on the next page. Photographs are available in high resolution. The logo is available as a web banner in a variety of sizes to link to the project, and in print resolution for press.


Media Contacts:

Ashford Pritchard: ashford@launchgroup.com.au 02 9492 1040 / 0452 505 859


Researchers who are available for interview:


AUV – Autonomous Underwater Vehicle specialist:

Stefan Williams (University of Sydney) stefanw@acfr.usyd.edu.au


Marine scientists

Prof Peter Steinberg (University of NSW) peter.steinberg@sims.org.au

Dr Neville Barrett (University of Tasmania) Neville.Barrett@utas.edu.au

Dr Russell Babcok (CSIRO) Russ.Babcock@csiro.au

Dr Renae Hovey (University of Western Australia) renae.hovey@uwa.edu.au

Dr Ezequiel Marzinelli (University of NSW) e.marzinelli@unsw.edu.au

Dr Renata Ferrari (University of Sydney) renata.ferrari@sydney.edu.au

Dr. Tom Bridge (JCU, Qld) thomas.bridge@jcu.edu.au

Dr. Peter Doherty (AIMS, Qld) P.Doherty@aims.gov.au



ABC Science spokespeople

Citizen science projects producer, ABC Science: Kylie Andrews kylie.andrews@abc.net.au

ABC Science journalist and broadcaster: Bernie Hobbs bernie.hobbs@abc.net.au


About ABC Innovation:

ABC Innovation manages the ABC website abc.net.au and core mobile offerings including the ABC iPhone, iPad and Android apps and a number of the ABC’s content portals. It also runs the ABC’s Innovation Lab, which incubates digital content and produces initiatives and explore ‘future facing’ experiences for audiences. ABC Innovation’s technology team delivers audience facing software and technology projects in mobile, personalisation and services the ABC’s divisional Content Development Network, streaming and support needs. More recently, ABC Innovation has partnered with Education Services Australia to create the online portal Splash, which aims to transform school-age learning by making available free educational interactive, video and games – all matched to the new Australian curriculum for primary and secondary school children.