Citizen science growth through POLARIS in the Calanques National Park

In the frame of MPA Engage, the Calanques National Park (NP) has reinforced its partnership with the association Septentrion Environnement to engage citizen divers in the monitoring of climate changes. Lucky us, Septentrion Environnement has already developed a collaborative, scientific and pedagogic platform named POLARIS, which applies citizen science and marine ecology to environmental management. It was then the perfect opportunity to strengthen this local and experimental tool with climate change related protocols and to promote the development, through it, of a marine environmental observatory of climate change in our MPA. Several protocols are currently implemented in POLARIS, which could bring us helpful information on the Calanques NP emblematic habitats (e.g. CIGESMED for coralligenous assemblages).

 

Thus, recreational divers have learnt and were trained to the environmental observation through pedagogic workshops onshore, and specific training dives supervised by marine biologists offshore. Not only, they collected field data for scientists and managers such as the Calanques NP, but they also became aware of climate change impacts and became new ambassadors! This year 2020, in several sites of the Calanques NP, our citizen divers assessed the recent or old mortality of the red gorgonians, counted fish species indicative of climate change via the Fish Visual Census method, and carried out an environmental watch on the noble pen shell presence. They seemed to appreciate both the training on the new fish protocol, and their improvement on the red gorgonians protocol, implemented since 2017 in POLARIS.

 

The mobile application “POLARIS” developed for this platform (available on smartphone and Iphone) will also evolve according to MPA Engage needs and continue to be a useful raise-awareness tool accessible to the public. From now on, Septentrion Environnement has to work to involve more diving clubs of the Calanques NP territory into the POLARIS platform, in order to train new climate change protocols trainers in these diving clubs. The sanitary crisis is not helping, but will not stop us from spreading out this great citizen science initiative!