New smartphone app boosts citizen science literacy

Smartphones tracking sealife

18 October 2013

New smartphone app boosts citizen science literacy

A free smartphone application which allows fishers and divers to easily report sightings of unusual fish and marine species has been developed by marine biologists from the Universities of Newcastle and Tasmania, and will be launched at the 'Under the Sea Film Festival' at Avoca Beach this weekend. The application is designed to boost science literacy and "citizen science" participation while capturing valuable insights into the changing behaviours of sealife.

As they are warming at three to four times the global average, some seas along the coast of Australia are impacting marine ecosystems and species, affecting fish growth, reproduction and behaviour. Fish may respond by searching for their preferred water temperatures, often heading southwards to cooler waters in Australian oceans. The new smartphone application, Redmap (Range Extension Database and Mapping project), uses crowd sourcing and community data to track such changes in species distribution along Australia's vast coastline.

"It is hoped the smartphone application will encourage people to log sightings," said Redmap New South Wales leader and University of Newcastle Associate Professor Natalie Moltschaniwskyj.

"The application will simplify the logging process for our network of citizen scientists."

Redmap encourages Australians to upload photos and sightings of marine life that aren't commonly found at their local fishing, diving and swimming spots. These community observations help scientists track which species are shifting their usual home range in response to warming seas. Already divers, fishers and the public have shared hundreds of sightings on Redmap including fish, turtles, sharks, rays, lobsters and sea slugs.

A network of over 60 marine scientists across the country review the sightings submitted to Redmap to verify the species identity and ensure high-quality data.

The application is supported by an Australian Government Inspiring Australia grant, which aims to boost science literacy and teach the value of science in caring for our environment; the New South Wales Environmental Trust and the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies (IMAS) at the University of Tasmania. 

The Redmap smartphone application complements the successful log-a-fish website, www.redmap.org.au. The app makes it easy to log information with just a few clicks on a phone.  The Remap application launch will be held on Sunday 20th October, 10.30am at Avoca Beach Picture Theatre.

Contact: Sheena Martin
Contact Phone: +61 2 4921 8714
Contact Email: media@newcastle.edu.au