A new project at the Huntsman Marine Science Centre in Saint Andrews is looking for citizen scientists to help catalogue the species living in the Bay of Fundy.
The centre, in southwestern New Brunswick, is asking people who live and work around the bay to keep an eye out for any interesting or unexpected finds.
Claire Goodwin, a research scientist at the centre, said the project, funded by Fisheries and Oceans Canada, is the formalization of ongoing monitoring already carried out by sea-life enthusiasts.
"People send us interesting records all the time … things they found at the beach or things they found when they're fishing," said Goodwin.
"At the moment we don't have [a] recording scheme … that's what we're trying to do with this project."
The centre has set up the project using the social media platform iNaturalist. (Jane Robertson/CBC)
The centre has set up the project using the social media platform iNaturalist, which allows users to post pictures and locations of animals and plants they encounter.
These posts can then be sent to the centre, where researchers on site, as well as across the iNaturalist platform, can work together to help identify the species in the photo.
"There's lots of fish experts like directors of fish museums and the things on there that can help identify weird specimens," said Goodwin.
People who send in the tips can also receive updates on identifying their finds.
Goodwin said more unusual and invasive species are moving into the bay as a result of climate change, and data found by citizen scientists can help determine how the biosphere is changing.
This example of Violet ascidian, a type of sea squirt, was found on the beach by a local school group. (Submitted by Claire Goodwin)
"We've had records of invasive species," said Goodwin. "Just the other week we had a school group at Huntsman and they found a record of the Violet ascidian, which is an invasive species, on the shore."
Other species can be more unexpected.
"We had some records of seahorses that were found on Grand Manan, and I didn't really know that we had seahorses in the Bay of Fundy," she said.
"We're getting fish moving in that we haven't had before," said Goodwin.
"That'd be [a] really interesting record for us and sort of seeing when these species pop up, it will help us understand how things are changing."
Goodwin said the data that would best help the centre would be a photo or video of the unidentified species and as close to an exact location as possible.
If on land, GPS co-ordinates would be best, although iNaturalist does have a map function. If something is discovered while diving, the depth of the find would also be helpful.
Goodwin said people can also email their discoveries to the centre if they don't want to use the app.