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Yacht Data Collection

September 18, 2014

A plan to turn recreational sailors into citizen scientists.



Sailing for science. I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Thousands of sailing ships ply the oceans, piloted by recreational sailors. Microbiologist Joseph Grymski, at the Desert Research Institute wants to use these pleasure craft as scientific data collectors, checking water conditions and collecting plankton samples.

JOSEPH GRYMSKI (Desert Research Institute):

That would be a fantastic way of collecting some data and really gauging how organisms are responding over very short time scales and over decadal time scales, which is really what we need to properly calibrate all of the models that we rely on.


In the journal PLOS Biology, he and his colleagues describe preliminary tests aboard a boat traveling from South Africa to Thailand. They concluded that sailors with just a little training could collect useful information from much of the world’s ocean surface, so that more expensive research vessels could focus on remote, less accessible waters. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.