Citizen Science Tips From The Marine Conservation Society and Rock Pool Project
Rock pools – the small pools left in the rocks of beachs and cliffs on a falling tide – offer a fascinating and easily accessible insight into life beneath the waves. With a few months of summer still remaining, the UK's Marine Conservation Society (MCSUK) and the Rock Pool Project have teamed up to produce a free video introducing viewers to the wonders – and the potential benefits to citizen science – of rock pooling.
In the video, available at the end of this article and on MCSUK's YouTube channel, MCS Ocean Ambassador, Inka Cresswell, and rock pooling expert and marine biologist, Dr Ben Holt, share an introduction into the world of rock pooling; equipping novices with all the information, safety advice and confidence they need to explore the world beneath the waves.
The strong tides that are present along UK coastlines provide a range of opportunities to discover rock pool wildlife. Rock pools are inhabited by a range of different species, including crabs, anemones, fish, starfish and a variety of seaweeds, among others. As rock pool habitats remain largely unchanged between being below the surface and then exposed at low tide, they provide a shallow window into the depths of the underwater world, without having to learn to dive, or, in fact, get especially wet.
'Rock pools are a fantastic way to explore life underwater, whilst keeping dry,' said Cresswell. 'From velvet swimming crabs to anemones and starfish, there are so many incredible creatures to be discovered. Rock pooling is free, fun and educational, so it’s a great activity for families spending time at the seaside. Why not see what you can find?'
Top rock pooling tips from the experts include:
- Plan to visit around low tide when more rock pools and wildlife will be exposed
- Take good footwear for protection and to prevent slipping
- No need for buckets and nets, a small takeaway food tray is ideal for viewing wildlife and can be easily carried (just remember to reuse, recycle or dispose of it properly afterwards!)
- Take a reusable water bottle, ocean safe sun screen and a camera to record wildlife
- Carefully turn over stones to see if there are creatures hiding beneath (and always return them)
- Use an ID guide and record findings
- Be careful not to harm any creatures or keep them out of the water for too long
Dr Ben Holt, who runs the Rock Pool Project, said: 'British rock pool habitats are some of the best in the world. They’re freely available to everyone, and rock pooling is a great activity for people of all ages. Exposure to nature and to the sea provides numerous health and well-being benefits, and rock pooling is an activity that allows you to completely immerse yourself in the marine world.'
Exploring rock pools and the shorelines is not only a fun family activity, but can also provide scientists with important conservation data when combined with the Marine Conservation Society’s sightings programme. Sightings of turtles and jellyfish are particularly important and can be reported via MCS UK's website. Seaweed data is also being collected, and the location of seagrass fields – a vitally important, and under threat, marine habitat – can be reported to Project Seagrass.
The Rock Pool Project has a free rock pool wildlife survey programme that people can perform at their local beaches' and also runs expert-led rock pool safaris based in Falmouth and Plymouth.
Finally, to make To make sure that everyone can enjoy the coast when they visit, the Marine Conservation Society’s annual Great British Beach Clean is a week-long series of beach cleaning events which not only clears the seaside of litter, but gathers information which has led to new laws including single-use plastic carrier bag charges across the UK. This year's GBBC will be held between 17-26 September 2021.