British Columbia

University of Victoria researchers invite ferry passengers to become citizen scientists

UVic scientists are asking Queen of Oak Bay passengers to take photos of the Salish Sea during trips this summer to help calibrate satellite data.

FOCOS project asks passengers to use special tablet on ferry to take photos of water colour

Passengers aboard the Queen of Oak Bay can help researchers studying the health and productivity of the Salish Sea this summer. (Kam Abbott/Flickr)

University of Victoria geography professor Maycira Costa is turning BC Ferries' Queen of Oak Bay into a research vessel and its passengers into their lab assistants.

Costa is the leader of the FOCOS project — Ferry Ocean Colour Observation System — which is inviting ferry passengers to take photos of the sea using a special tablet onboard.

The images will be used to record the colour of the water, with greener water meaning a healthier and more productive ocean.

"The main focus of my research is using satellite data to understand the dynamics of the ocean. Specifically, the productivity of the ocean," Costa told All Points West host Robyn Burns.

"One of the main things we need to calibrate, the satellite image, the satellite data, is in situ information — information acquired close to the water."

Costa says Department of Fisheries and Oceans boats are usually used for gathering this data, but by using BC Ferries passengers, they can get a lot more data much more frequently.

She also hopes the system will help passengers connect with the ocean ecosystem and learn more about the health of the Salish Sea, and in particular, its salmon populations.

"We really hope people will understand the dynamic of the Salish Sea as they look at the water, and from then on, they start to care about it," she said.

"People are naturally interested in learning and contributing to research. So we're expecting that people will volunteer."

The FOCOS project will be on the Queen of Oak Bay until the end of August.

With files from CBC Radio One's All Points West

To hear the full story, click the audio labelled: You don't need a degree to do research — just ride the ferry