Friday, August 27, 2010

Project NaGISA: Global Citizen Science at Camp Harbor View

Citizen Science is a concept that repeatedly comes up in the posts on this blog—whether we’re making ecological observations by counting crabs or testing water quality with Secchi disks, we Boston Harbor Explorers use our firsthand contact with the Harbor to gather important data. While we do provide the data we collect to Dr. Judy Pederson and her colleagues at MIT’s Sea Grant Program, there are some even larger and more ambitious programs out there that aim to collect and compare data collected by Citizen Scientists across the nation and around the world. Project NaGISA, which stands for Natural Geography In Shore Areas, is a worldwide research collaboration that takes a census of life along the coastline at 240 sampling sites in 28 different countries. Camp Harbor View is one of those 240 locations, and last Tuesday I had the pleasure of participating in their data collection firsthand.

In order to compare data collected at sites scattered across the globe, Project NaGISA has a rigorous set of standardized procedures. Greg Stoddard, Camp Harbor View’s Director of Operations, oversaw a group of Counselors-In-Training as they undertook this scientific survey to fulfill their project requirements. Staff from the New England Aquarium provided the CITs with GPS units, to record precise latitude and longitude measurements for each one-meter-square quadrat, and sections of PVC piping to mark off the habitat areas where we collected data. After assembling our equipment, we headed to the rocky coast to see what living and non-living features we could identify. Racing against the rising tides, we collected data from low, medium, and high tidal zones—providing a detailed, multi-faceted description of life along Long Island’s shoreline. Counselors and CITs alike wore expressions of intense concentration as they scrutinized each quadrat, carefully recording their observations.

Project NaGISA provided scientists around the world with detailed data on the coastal geography of our very own Boston Harbor, from the perspective of Long Island. In addition, the research process gave the young adults working at Camp Harbor View a glimpse of the rigors of field ecology, introducing them to a field that’s becoming increasingly important in our changing world. Science is all about collaboration, and I’m thrilled to have been a part of this endeavor.


Aaron Becker

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