Big Seaweed Search encourages greater awareness along UK coasts
The United Kingdom has become a hotbed of activity for seaweed harvesting in recent years, and it's easy to see why. According to The Guardian, the coasts of Britain are home to over 650 different varieties of organic seaweed, many of which we know very little about. This can be especially disconcerting given findings of the ever-spreading presence of wireweed in these waters.
In order to help better identify these local seaweed species, the British Phycological Society and Natural History Museum turned to amateur and non-professional scientists for help in creating a thorough catalog of the plants. This collaboration spawned the Big Seaweed Search, in which participants use information provided on the 12 most common seaweed varieties — such as spiral wrack, channelled wrack and dabberlocks — to determine which species are growing where, and then report these findings afterward. The program thus far has been a resounding success.
"You go through the types of seaweed first, then try to identify as many different kinds as possible," said Jo Swift, a careworker who leads a group of hospital patients in weekly seaweed searches, a project that not only benefits scientists but doubles as a way for participants to stay focused and busy. "It helps you look at the landscape a little different. We always try to do something connected with the conversation. I've seen over the years what a positive effect it has on the group, and we look forward to it all week."
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