How to participate in citizen science projects while sailing
How to participate in citizen science projects while sailing

Discover how you can contribute to protecting the ocean while sailing by participating in citizen science projects, ranging from measuring water clarity to reporting marine debris.

How to Participate in Citizen Science Projects While Sailing

Sailing the open seas is an incredible experience that offers a unique opportunity to explore the world and its vast oceans. As sailors, we have a responsibility to protect and preserve the environment we love so much. One way to do this is by participating in citizen science projects while sailing. These projects allow sailors to contribute valuable data and observations to researchers, helping them better understand and protect our oceans.

In this article, we’ll explore the concept of citizen science, discuss some popular citizen science projects that sailors can participate in, and provide tips on how to get involved. By the end of this article, you’ll be well-equipped to make a meaningful contribution to ocean advocacy and education while enjoying your sailing adventures.

What is Citizen Science?

Citizen science is a collaborative effort between scientists and the general public to collect and analyze data for scientific research. This approach allows researchers to gather large amounts of data from diverse locations, which can be invaluable for understanding complex environmental issues.

Citizen science projects often involve volunteers collecting data on specific topics, such as wildlife sightings, water quality, or weather patterns. These projects can be conducted on land or at sea, and many are specifically designed for sailors and boaters.

By participating in citizen science projects, sailors can contribute to important research while also learning more about the marine environment and the challenges it faces. This can lead to a greater appreciation for the ocean and a stronger commitment to protecting it.

There are numerous citizen science projects that sailors can participate in, ranging from simple observations to more involved data collection. Here are some popular projects that you can consider joining during your sailing adventures:

1. Secchi Disk Study

The Secchi Disk Study is a global project that aims to measure water clarity in the world’s oceans. Participants use a simple device called a Secchi Disk, which is a white disk attached to a measuring tape, to measure the depth at which the disk is no longer visible from the surface. This data helps researchers understand the amount of phytoplankton in the water, which is an important indicator of ocean health.

To participate in the Secchi Disk Study, you’ll need to purchase or make your own Secchi Disk and download the free Secchi App. Once you have your equipment, you can start taking measurements and submitting your data through the app.

2. eBird

eBird is a global birdwatching project run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Participants submit observations of birds they see while sailing, which helps researchers track bird populations and migration patterns. This data is particularly valuable for understanding the impacts of climate change and habitat loss on bird species.

To participate in eBird, you’ll need to create a free account on the eBird website and download the eBird app. You can then start recording your bird sightings and submitting your data through the app.

3. Marine Debris Tracker

Marine debris is a significant problem for our oceans, harming marine life and ecosystems. The Marine Debris Tracker is a project that allows sailors to report sightings of marine debris, such as plastic bottles, fishing gear, and other litter. This data helps researchers understand the sources and distribution of marine debris, which can inform efforts to reduce and prevent pollution.

To participate in the Marine Debris Tracker project, you’ll need to download the free Marine Debris Tracker app. You can then start reporting any debris you encounter while sailing, including its location, type, and quantity.

4. Phytoplankton Monitoring Network

Phytoplankton are microscopic plants that form the base of the marine food chain and play a crucial role in maintaining ocean health. The Phytoplankton Monitoring Network is a project that involves volunteers collecting water samples and identifying the types of phytoplankton present. This data helps researchers monitor phytoplankton populations and detect harmful algal blooms, which can have severe impacts on marine life and human health.

To participate in the Phytoplankton Monitoring Network, you’ll need to attend a training workshop and receive a sampling kit. Once you’re trained and equipped, you can start collecting water samples and submitting your data to the project.

Tips for Participating in Citizen Science Projects While Sailing

Participating in citizen science projects can be a rewarding and educational experience, but it’s essential to approach it with the right mindset and preparation. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of your citizen science efforts:

  1. Choose a project that interests you: There are many citizen science projects available, so take the time to find one that aligns with your interests and passions. This will make your participation more enjoyable and increase the likelihood that you’ll stay committed to the project.

  2. Learn about the project’s goals and methods: Before you start collecting data, make sure you understand the purpose of the project and the methods used to collect and analyze data. This will help you collect accurate and useful data that contributes to the project’s goals.

  3. Follow the project’s protocols: Each citizen science project has specific protocols for collecting and submitting data. Be sure to follow these protocols closely to ensure your data is consistent with other participants’ data and can be used by researchers.

  4. Be patient and persistent: Collecting data for citizen science projects can be time-consuming and sometimes challenging. Be prepared to invest time and effort into your participation, and don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Remember that your contributions are part of a larger effort to understand and protect our oceans.

  5. Share your experiences: Participating in citizen science projects can be a great conversation starter and a way to engage others in ocean advocacy and education. Share your experiences with fellow sailors, friends, and family, and encourage them to get involved in citizen science projects as well.


Citizen science projects offer a unique opportunity for sailors to contribute to ocean advocacy and education while exploring the world’s oceans. By participating in these projects, you can help researchers gather valuable data, learn more about the marine environment, and inspire others to take action to protect our oceans.

Whether you’re an experienced sailor or just starting your sailing journey, consider getting involved in a citizen science project. Your contributions can make a real difference in our understanding of the ocean and our ability to protect it for future generations.