‘Walking under the Rocks’ – promoting citizen science in Gouritz

09 November 2016

GCBR citizen scienceThe Gouritz Cluster Biosphere Reserve (GCBR) recently launched a new initiative around marine conservation. ‘Walking under the Rocks’ is organised together with Oceans Research in Mossel Bay, who do ongoing research and conservation work on intertidal organisms at Kanon Private Nature Reserve. The new initiative aims to evaluate the effectiveness of small nature reserves on the marine environment as well as understanding the driving factors of the intertidal ecosystems at Kanon.

Intertidal ecosystems have a huge impact on subsistence provisioning and on ecotourism. But there is not much local knowledge about the intertidal organisms. Everyone knows dolphins, whales and sharks, but very few realise the unique combination of living organisms under our feet in intertidal zones.

To make it easy for the public to participate, workshops were held on Saturday mornings. Suitable dates had to be picked according to the cycle of the tides to get the most suitable conditions. The first event took place on 21 May 2016 in Gouritsmond, followed two weeks later on 4 June at Stilbaai, and two weeks after that at Tergniet on 18 June. The final event at The Point in Mossel Bay was postponed several times due to weather conditions, but finally went ahead on 16 July. ‘Walking under the Rocks’ gained popularity with more-and-more people taking part in each successive workshop, and some participants coming all the way from Oudtshoorn. In total, the events attracted around a hundred people – young and old.

Acheley Nortje of Oceans Research did a superb job in explaining, with flair and passion, the basic functioning of the intertidal ecosystem. After a short lecture the search began for interesting little creatures living under and around the rocks near the tidal pools. Nortje is a veritable fountain of knowledge on the subject and everyone was constantly amazed at how much beautiful life exists right in front of our feet. Some people who walk the beach every day admitted that they never suspected that there were so many organisms about – never mind the relationships between them. Participants found things like sea anemones breakfasting on a crab, whelks predating on other organisms, sea urchins of so many colours, many gorgeous starfish, brittlestars, an octopus, sea cucumbers, colourful sponges, lots of chitons, a bright orange nudibranch, alikreukels and thousands and thousands of periwinkles.

‘Walking under the Rocks’ has ended, at least for now. But the GCBR is keen to hear from you: What do you think of the initiative? Should it continue? Are you interested in becoming more actively involved in the research? Would you like to start your own resident citizen science project in your local area? Suggestions are welcome!

‘Walking under Rocks’ was co-sponsored by the Mossel Bay Municipality.

For more information contact Annelise-Schutte Vlok avlok@capenature.co.za

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