Around Australia every day, thousands of people interact with marine life in many ways. What they notice—an unexpected animal sighting here, or a change in the number of fish in an area over the years—is a goldmine of information for understanding how our marine systems are responding to climate change.
In 2009, Professor Gretta Pecl of the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies at University of Tasmania launched a project to make use of this untapped resource.
REDMAP (the Range Extension Database and Mapping Project) invites fishers, divers, and anyone else interested and active around our waters to monitor the changing habits of wild oceanic species. After several years of running in Tasmania, REDMAP went national in 2012, with almost 900 citizen scientists submitting photographs and information between 2012-2014.
The sightings contribute to a database of species in 'hot water' as our oceans warm. Marine scientists from the University are among the 75 experts from 25 institutes nation-wide who verify the public sightings, using them to build a map highlighting regions and species experiencing significant changes.
"The public don't often have the chance to understand the science of climate change modelling, but people readily understand the idea that fish that prefer warmer waters might move farther south if the oceans are warming," Professor Pecl says.
"They're also more accepting of the science partly because they've been personally involved in it."
People can use a smartphone app to log a sighting from anywhere, harnessing the eyes of the crowd to cover the expanse of the Australian seascape.
In addition to learning from professional researchers, the citizen scientists involved also learn directly from, and about, their local environment—building their understanding of ocean warming and science along the way.
Today, REDMAP has a strong social media following, with more than 8,300 Facebook and 1,600 Twitter followers.
Supporters have included: the Tasmanian Community Fund; Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry; the Australian National Data Service; Inspiring Australia; Climate Connect; and the Tasmanian Climate Change Office.
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About Professor Greta Pecl
Gretta Pecl is a Professor of marine ecology. Her research includes detecting and understanding the mechanisms behind species range extensions, and population and fishery responses to environmental change. She was instrumental in the development of the citizen science model Redmap for ecological monitoring and community engagement. Professor Pecl is a Fulbright Fellow, an ARC future fellow and a University of Tasmania 'Rising Star'. She is currently working with international colleagues on a Global Network of Marine Hotspots. She is internationally renowned for her innovative work on the biology and ecology of cephalopods. She is also Editor-in-Chief of the international journal Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries, and the Director of the Centre for Marine Socioecology.View Professor Greta Pecl's full researcher profile