The Big Seaweed Search

There are many big issues impacting our oceans right now… plastic, pollution, sea level rise, noise pollution, over fishing, the transfer of non-native species, acidification, rising sea temperatures to name just a few! The Big Seaweed search is a citizen science project, commissioned by the Natural History Museum and the Marine Conservation Society, to look at the impacts of the last 3 of the issues listed above.

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Why is Seaweed important?

Seaweeds provide a home to more than 650 species. They also create the underwater structure and habitat that provides shelter and food for thousands of marine creatures, such as urchins and fish.

Seaweed at Birling Gap
Seaweed at Birling Gap

What is the Seaweed search?

The Big Seaweed search is a citizen science project, created in partnership between the Natural History Museum and The Marine Conservation Society.

It encourages people from all walks of life to get out on to the beaches around the UK and report back on what seaweed was seen (ideally with pictures) and how sparse or heavily populated the seaweed is. The data is then collated and a national view is built up, which helps scientists understand the impact that acidification and sea level rise is having around the UK, as well as gaining a view how wide spread non native species are.

My contribution to the Big Seaweed Search…

I took a trip to Birling Gap in Sussex with my children to do a study. Birling gap is a very unique beach, on the South Coast. It is famous for its chalky cliffs, known as ‘the Seven Sisters’ and also unfortunately for the infamous ‘beachy head’. The beach itself is rocky, with a splattering of chalky boulders from the cliffs above, and pebbles on the foreshore. It really is a special and beautiful beach. I spent many days here as a child, prawning in the rock pools with my Dad.

Identifying seaweeds
Identifying seaweeds

My children and I chose a 5 metre wide section of the beach, and starting at the waterline we worked our way up the beach to the cliffs. Looking closely and trying our best to identify the wide variety of seaweeds, and we were excited to find a rare non native species. It was a lovely day out and great to contribute our little bit to the project, the results of which you can find here .

Sam McClements

The Big Seaweed Search is still ongoing, so if you’re visiting a beach and fancy taking part in a bit of citizen science, why not take part?

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