The International SeaKeepers Society (SeaKeepers) is a non-profit organization uniting the yachting community for ocean conservation. They partner with scientists, drive oceanographic research, and promote ocean stewardship awareness. At the heart of their mission is Seabed 2030, a global initiative striving to map the entire ocean floor by 2030.
Currently, only a fraction is accurately charted, and SeaKeepers mobilizes vessels, including private yachts and research ships, for crowdsourced bathymetry to fill this knowledge gap.
This article delves into Seabed 2030’s importance, how boaters can contribute, and the pivotal role of citizen scientists. For that purpose, we had the pleasure to talk with Katie Sheahan, SeaKeepers’ Citizen Science Manager, who will shed light on the project’s progress and its crucial role in safeguarding our planet’s oceans.
Who are The International SeaKeepers Society?
The International SeaKeepers Society (SeaKeepers) is a non-profit organization that supports ocean conservation by leveraging the yachting community to support scientific research and marine conservation efforts.
Their mission is to support oceanographic research, foster ocean conservation, and raise awareness about the importance of the ocean through the boating community. They achieve this by partnering with scientists, researchers, and organizations to provide access to yachts and their crews for research expeditions, hosting educational events, and promoting responsible ocean stewardship.
SeaKeepers accomplishes this through the DISCOVERY Yacht Program, which provides scientists with the opportunity to participate in research expeditions onboard private yachts and enables individuals to contribute to scientific research by collecting data on the ocean while on yachts.
Additionally, they provide educational resources and hands-on marine science experiences to students with the primary focus for ensuring the future wellbeing of our planet.
SeaKeepers also recognizes individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions to ocean conservation through their annual SeaKeeper of the Year Award.
Overall, SeaKeepers aims to protect and preserve the ocean for future generations by bringing together the yachting community, scientists, and ocean conservationists to address the pressing issues facing our oceans.
What is Seabed 2030 and how does it work?
Seabed 2030 is a global initiative that aims to map the entire ocean floor by the year 2030. This ambitious project was launched in 2017 at the United Nations Ocean Conference as a collaboration between the Nippon Foundation of Japan and the General Bathymetric Chart of the Oceans (GEBCO).
The program aims to provide a comprehensive, publicly available map of the world’s ocean floor to help scientists, governments, and industries better understand and manage the ocean.
Currently, only about 20% of the world’s ocean floor has been accurately mapped, and much of the existing data is outdated or incomplete. The Seabed 2030 project is using a combination of technologies, including ships, autonomous underwater vehicles, and satellites, to gather new data and improve existing maps.
By providing a more complete picture of the ocean floor, the Seabed 2030 project aims to support a range of activities, including marine conservation, resource management, and disaster prevention.”
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Seakeepers Society : Katie's interview
Who are you and how did you get involved in the project?
“My name is Katie Sheahan and I am the Citizen Science manager for The International SeaKeepers Society. SeaKeepers attended the UN Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow in 2021 where Seabed 2030 spoke as part of the Schmidt Ocean Institute panel centered on climate impacts in the deep sea and how we can better understand and mitigate this in order to improve the overall health of our planet.
Seabed 2030’s mission aligns with ours and we knew his project would resonate with our global community. Our formal partnership began in early 2022, and we have now installed bathymetric loggers on over 50 vessels around the world that are contributing data to this project. We also equipped our own vessel, Discovery, with a Seabed 2030 logger to collect data around South Florida. Currently, this is SeaKeepers largest Citizen Science project and we are excited to help reach the goal of mapping the entire ocean floor by the year 2030.”
2030 Why is it important to map our ocean and sea beds?
“When Seabed 2030 launched in 2017, only seven percent of the ocean floor had been mapped. As of May 2023, this statistic has increased to twenty five percent. Bathymetric data includes information on the depth and shape of underwater terrain. This information can help identify uncharted features such as reefs and canyons, provide accurate nautical charts for safe maritime exploration, create hydrodynamic models that may predict tides, currents and hazards like tsunamis and coastal flooding, and help scientists understand our drastically changing coastlines. Crowdsourced bathymetry can help fill the spaces on charts where no data exists and fill scientific research gaps. The more we know about our ocean, the better we will be able to protect it.”
How can boaters get involved?
“Any vessel with a navigation system and depth finder can participate in crowdsourced bathymetry. By reaching out email@example.com, vessels join our DISCOVERY Yacht Program and can choose to participate in Seabed 2030. From there, SeaKeepers will either send a bathymetric logger to the vessel, or if located in South Florida, a team member may come out to install the logger.”
Why is it important that boaters get involved?
“Boaters have a unique access to the water and with constant marine traffic around the globe, involving citizens in this project ensures we can log accurate and widespread data in hard to reach and drastically changing places. No organization can map the ocean floor alone and by crowdsourcing this bathymetric data, the entire boating community can help us reach our goal.”
How does the system work and how fast can you get it installed on your boat?
“We use three different models of bathymetric loggers that will fit a vessel according to the brand of navigational equipment. The loggers are very simple to plug into the NMEA backbone and the data will be stored on a microSD card in the logger. We ask our participants to send in their data every other month, and in return, they receive maps of their recorded data, recognition on SeaKeepers website, and access to our Seabed 2030 newsletter that highlights vessels making important contributions to crowdsourced bathymetry. “
Is it anonymous and where will the data collected go?
“Vessels have the option to be credited with their data contributions or remain anonymous. Because the data is not uploaded in real time, SeaKeepers will only see the traveled routes after the data is submitted to us. For vessels who would like to be acknowledged for their data, they will be recognized on our website as a Citizen Scientist and their data will be added to the global seafloor map with their vessel name attached. When vessels send their data to SeaKeepers, we format it and submit it to the Data Center for Digital Bathymetry (DCDB) at the International Hydrographic Organization. The DCDB then adds it, either anonymously or with credit, to the ever-growing map of the ocean floor.”
Is there any barrier to adoption or all boats can get involved?
“The only requirement for participation is that the vessel needs a depth finder on either a NMEA 2000 or NMEA 0183 system. New bathymetric loggers are being released that will widen the scope of vessels that can be involved. Many boat owners assume that they can’t make important contributions to this project because they only travel in shallow or coastal areas, but that’s not true! Our coasts are changing rapidly under anthropogenic influence, and we need more accurate data points now more than ever to understand how these influences are affecting marine life, changing navigation routes, and shaping our coastlines. “
What’s the state of the mission as of today ?
“Currently, twenty five percent of the ocean floor is mapped. This is eighteen percent more than when Seabed 2030 launched in 2017, but we still need to map seventy-five percent of the seafloor in the next seven years. Along with installing loggers on vessels around the globe to record new bathymetric data, Seabed 2030 is working with organizations who have been taking bathymetric readings for years to release their findings publicly and contribute immensely to the map. We have some way to go, but in the past year, more vessels than ever have been involved in crowdsourced bathymetry. We know there are dedicated Citizen Scientists out there who can help us accomplish this feat, and we look forward to building a strong community of ocean advocates over the years to come. “