Participatory Citizen Science against Marine Pollution

SeaPaCS proposes a participatory citizen science (CS) project led by social and natural scientists that mobilises volunteers in data collection, elaboration and sharing on the biological consequences of marine plastic pollution (via in-situ samples collection for plastisphere DNA analysis, underwater video documentation of new ecological niches, plankton evaluation), and in drafting a plan for sustainability-oriented practices based on interviews with fishermen and sailors, in the coastal city of Anzio (Italy) on the  Mediterranean Sea.

SeaPaCS is intended to raise awareness about the consequences of marine plastic pollution on local biodiversity and to trigger transformative local action for sustainability-oriented behaviours in the coastal small city of Anzio (Rome). It answers two complementary research questions: What microbes are present in the Mediterranean plastisphere (i.e. the living microbial community on plastics and microplastics in marine environments) and how are they affecting the biodiversity of the Mediterranean ecosystem? How can the experience of sea workers and amateurs help decrease plastic debris and promote sustainable behaviours? SeaPaCS combines natural and social science research and engages multiple citizen groups (migrant fishermen cooperatives, students, associations, sailors and divers, scientists, video makers and photographers) in “collaboratorium” meetings, training sessions and co-production of tools for collective sea-going expeditions in the coastal waters (for plastic samples collection, microbial life analysis, interviews and video-documentation of new biological formation and fishing plastic practices), organisation of outreach activities (e.g. video and photo expositions, media coverage, redaction of follow-up plan). SeaPaCS is led by researchers of the DIGGEO@ESOMAS lab at the University of Turin (UniTo), Italy, and the Marine Biochemistry Division of GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel, Germany, in collaboration with the Italian Naval League (LNI), Italy.

SeaPaCS’s topic and aims situate within the IMPETUS’ Healthy Planet challenge (with specific reference to water and biodiversity subtopics). It connects with the EU Green Deal’s goal of “Protecting our Environment”, notably by maintaining clean water and biodiversity while ensuring no person or place is left behind. It also contributes to U.N. SDG 6 (indicator 6.3) on water-related ecosystems and 14 (ind.14.1 and 14.2) on the consequences of marine plastic pollution towards sustainable use of the ocean; and refers to SDG 15 (ind.15.8) on biodiversity loss.

SeaPaCS focuses on the Mediterranean Sea, a hotspot for unique habitats that hosts 32% of all European-threatened marine ecosystems, and acts as a plastic accumulation zone. SeaPaCS covers the coastal waters (12 miles from shore) of the small village of Anzio (60 km south of Rome, Latium region, 50.000 inhab.) whose local economy is highly dependent on the sea (fishing, commercial boating, and tourism).

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