Challenge Wales launches onboard science project for World Environment Day

Today, 05 June 2014 is World Environment Day so what better time for us at Challenge Wales to launch our onboard science project. In fact we’re joining Plymouth University in a unique global study to record the effects of climate change and young people sailing on Challenge Wales during the summer will be able to actively get involved with this.

So, what is this project all about? Seafarers worldwide are being encouraged to download an app that allows users to input data about phytoplankton levels. Scientists believe the population of the Phytoplankton, minute organisms at the very start of the marine food chain, could be in decline due to rising sea temperatures.  If this proves true, it could have consequences for every aspect of marine life.

The project aims to build a map of the oceans that charts the changes of the minute organisms using a free app developed by marine experts.

Along with the app, we use a Secchi Disk (which we make ourselves which is a 30cm diameter white, weighted, disk attached to a tape measure) which is lowered over the side of  Challenge Wales and the depth at which it disappears from sight gets logged with the app, estimates the amount of phytoplankton in the sea, and reports the findings.

Now, Challenge Wales has joined the study, hoping to teach young people to use the disk and learn about the effects of climate change.

Measuring plankton levels

Measuring plankton levels

This year World Environment Day falls on 05 June and we thought what better way to raise awareness of environmental issues in the sea than by launching our Secchi disk science project. As Challenge Wales sails to different parts of Wales and the UK the young people onboard will be able to play their part in this project.

For Challenge Wales the brown murky Bristol Channel doesn’t bode well for measuring plankton however, when she sails a little bit further afield to West Wales and beyond, there will be plenty of opportunities.

Young people learning how to use the Secchi Disk onboard Challenge Wales

Young people learning how to use the Secchi Disk onboard Challenge Wales

Dr Richard Kirby, who is leading the study at Plymouth University, said: “As the phytoplankton live at the surface of the sea they are being affected by rising sea temperatures due to climate change.  A scientific paper published last year suggested the ocean’s plankton population had declined by as much as 40 per cent since 1950 as sea temperatures had warmed due to climate change.  The Secchi App team are delighted Challenge Wales are measuring phytoplankton with a Secchi Disk. Challenge Wales joining the global Secchi Disk project will make a real difference to understanding the biology of the sea”

Challenge Wales is really excited about this project too and looks forward to starting to use the Secchi disk and report data later on this month when our summer youth voyages start.

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