Citizen Scientists: Sailors at the forefront

Published on September 19th, 2016

by Andrew LaCenere
We live in a world where data can easily become knowledge and knowledge, as has always been the case, is power. When it comes to Ocean Plastics and other ocean issues, this most definitely continues to prove true. The tricky part about gathering data from the ocean and the world’s other water bodies is that it is vast! The important part though, is that by gaining data we increase our ability to act and, thus, improve the situation.

There are many, many research institutions across the globe actively researching the ocean, yet they still only scratch the surface. This though could be about to change. As founder of, a Berkeley, CA based green design firm we have begun working with The Trident Project and 5-Gyres to create a Citizen Scientist initiative built around our passion: sailing.

There are millions of sailors around the world on the water each and every day. Imagine the potential to increase our data stock on things like plastic content per volume of water if just a small percentage of these sailors occasionally trawled for an hour or so when enjoying a nice cruise. Imagine if they trawled a bit more often!

As sailors, we believe it is part of our duty to protect the place we love. Citizen Science though has a big risk: unscientific practices. The quality of data acquired can vary greatly if attention to details is not paid. In fact when we engage in science expeditions in the SF Bay and off the Northern California coast we generally bring at least one graduate student to ensure our methods adhere to scientific standards.

Our main challenge in building this Citizen Sailor-Scientist program is ensuring quality data acquisition, but we feel we are close to having an adequate protocol to help do just that. Our next task? To see who is interested in helping!

Are you? If so, please email with the subject ‘Citizen Science‘. In the body, please be sure to include where you are located and how often you’d want to spend an afternoon, say, trawling for plastic. Feel free to include any other relevant info or ideas you might have. We’ll analyze the responses and be in touch soon!

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