Science is often seen as something only for the elite few. It requires years of training, hours poring over research papers and days performing experiments in the lab. Or does it?
Citizen science – science by ordinary people – has skyrocketed in recent decades, driven largely by the rise of the internet and increased accessibility of a range of technologies.
The scope is huge: from ordinary people classifying galaxies or identifying elusive creatures caught on camera traps, to sending their own photographs and observations to larger datasets, or even performing their very own scientific projects, the possibilities are endless. This has been great news for science.
The main message is, science is for everybody. The amount of data that can be collected with citizen science can be hugely magnified, which is hugely useful, but this isn’t just good for scientific progress. It also means communities can contribute to global knowledge about the topics and places that they care about. Most importantly, it also builds evidence – the more we know about something, the less likely we are to discard it by the wayside.
This is where our planned project for next year comes in - we aim to map our local reefs and survey the array of life found living on them. We want to utilise the interest and passion for the marine environment that we have nurtured in many young people on Montserrat, so that they can contribute to gathering scientific data about the coral reefs they know and love.
Of course, training will be necessary to ensure scientific rigour. But these young people are eager to learn and have already demonstrated their capacity for picking up new skills. We are confident that they will be able to lead on collecting ecological data, from biodiversity transects of the reefs to even piloting underwater drones.
Not only that, these young people are ideally placed for transmitting the message of ocean stewardship to the wider community. They can give talks within schools, tell their families about what they have learned, and can bring their ideas into local youth groups.
With all this potential, we are greatly looking forward to getting started. Our reefs are imperilled, and only we can provide a voice for their protection. With the double-edged sword of scientific evidence and community empowerment, we can ensure the future of Montserrat’s incredible coral reefs.