“We are incredibly impressed with the enthusiasm and contributions of our volunteer community. Your skill and conservation capacity as a national community is hugely valued and we don’t want to lose this. We intend to build on our collective successes to forge ahead with a second phase of this project, which for purposes here, we refer to as ‘CoCoast 2’. We hope you will continue to work with us and that your experience so far has been positive.

‘CoCoast 2’ will most certainly retain many elements that are similar to the original project. We know we share the same goals of working towards greater understanding of how marine species interact, what affects where they occur on our coasts, how they are negatively impacted. So, continued learning about marine life and surveying together will be a core element of the next phase. Certain tasks and questions require longer term datasets to fully explore the issues, and you will see some familiar topics reappearing, such as addressing the spread of invasive species and monitoring particular shores to examine closely how breeding is affected by environmental change. We also plan to run some exciting, short term experiments where the results can be revealed after 4-8 weeks: our ‘Short Sharp Shocks of Science’. We hope you will agree that all of this is very worthy and inspiring, but we also want to be really innovative and move beyond what we achieved in Capturing our Coast.

Citizen science is evolving; it is becoming remarkable in the way it empowers people, and increasingly volunteers are shaping the projects and the scientific issues that are being addressed. We want you, our Capturing our Coast community, to be part of this movement of ‘co-enquiry’ and work with us to shape the structure of the next project. This may sound daunting, but we believe that you have the valuable insights and ideas to progress UK marine conservation and further marine research. Together we will build CoCoast 2 communities around the UK, where volunteers have much greater say over data collection priorities.

As I am sure you will appreciate, this all requires funding. And sourcing funding requires development and time. We will collate evidence, not only to convince funders that CoCoast 2 is valuable, but to ensure for ourselves that we get the structure right. To this end, over the next year we will be researching perspectives from volunteers and relevant organisations. We will be holding workshops to brainstorm ways of working, and to find out what volunteers really want. We will update all on our communication database about our progress in autumn 2019. There is a real opportunity here to develop something truly innovative, that not only captures important information with immediate and direct benefits for the marine environment, but that develops a new model of collaborative working between professional scientists and marine citizen scientists. The longer term ramifications for marine conservation could be really significant.

We hope that you will feel as we do, that the wait will be worth it.”

Dr Jane Delany, CoCoast Principle Investigator, Newcastle University.