Citizen Science

A few years ago my only approach to science was to read articles. In University, we kept reading papers about many environmental subjects, but most of the times this research was done far away from where I live, made it from people far away from me. Then for a long time, just the word science was something that sounded far away from me, and something from what I just could get knowledge, could be a receptor, but a thing that I will be part of soon.

Later, my approach came closer because of my internship. I had the option to do it in any subject that I wanted about the environment, and there was one thing that I had clear; I wanted something related with the ocean.

Three years ago I started to sail, I did some crossings that put me in strong contact with the ocean and made me love it. Then, like with everything, when you start to like something, you start to research and look more for that subject and in that way is how I start to figurate out about the big problem of plastic pollution in the ocean.

During my internship, I analyzed in lab the microplastic in the samples collected in the South Pacific Gyre, and all around the coast of Chile. But working there I learned more than how to analyze a sample. The department of research where I was working,  and the people working there showed me another side of the science, that is more active than only research a lab, and write a paper that will be read it from people in the same “world”.

The other side was programs of education, programs of citizen science, and all about the extent of public knowledge that was being generated from having the incidence on the media to have repercussions on policymakers.

The environmental impacts that we can see all around the world, from land to the oceans, are the repercussions of socio-environmental conflicts. To attack it and solve it, we need to look at the problem under a systematic view that keeps attention in every dimension, under an ecosystemic point of view, that includes the economic, educational, political, environmental, and cultural points, and that put focus on how are they related. That is what makes me strongly think that to attack problems like plastic pollution in the ocean, we have to act altogether. From everyone changing to environmental friendly acts, from the educators, from the publicist, from the politicians, from the people working in the media, from the children that give us more reasons and more reasons to change, from the artist that are able to touch us deeper, from the leaders that can inspire people to change, and I could continue and continue, because is actually EVERYONE.

Right after my internship, I knew about The Swim and the project seemed amazing, it was all together: An expedition across the Ocean, with a guy swimming to spread awareness about ocean pollution, with a sailboat supporting, with a citizen science program to collect data and samples. I thought: Yes, I wanna be part of that.

At the beginning, I didn’t have enough confidence in myself to do it, because it was so many different research components, a lot of different subjects, and I although I had experience working with microplastic,  I am not a scientist. But that is the point of the project, the citizen science is the best example to show how everyone can help and can be part of the solution. Citizen science means that the expert scientist drive the study, but they give you a  protocol to follow and they are able to explain to you all that you need and work together. They need someone collect the data in the middle of the ocean for them, and you need their instructions and experience. Then to find this kind of relations to make the research on The Swim work, is an example of how we should act together to contribute against plastic pollution, for any other subject that we think that we need to save our Mother Earth.

Written byL María Amenábar Cristi
23 years old
Research Assistant

I am studying environmental engineering, before The Swim I had been working in microplastic research. I was involved in a citizen science program for children, I was collecting garbage sample from beaches, and collaborating in studies about social weelling to change plastic consumption conducts.

I have spent time sailing through the Atlantic, Caribbean Sea, Patagonia fiords and Cape Horn. I also was part of a sail expedition to Antarctica, where we did sample collection and science logistic. Be part of The Swim is an opportunity for me to join my passion for sailing with my vocation to care about the environment.

During the expedition, I will be coordinating the sampling collection for the protocols that we are following with the science team on land. With The Longest Swim, I hope to spread awareness about caring for the ocean and the urgency to change our behaviour with nature. I want to show to the people around the world the impact of our acts, and try to spread a reflective message about this problem.

4 thoughts on “Citizen Science

  1. Maria, I am surprised to hear you say that you are not a scientist. Environmental engineering is a science. With a degree in Environmental Engineering you should have the confidence to know that you have all of the necessesary skills to develop the scientific expertise in your field of study. You have your whole career ahead of you. Regards. Conor (an Engineer and scientist).

  2. Thank you for the work that you are doing, Maria. And for your interesting and may I say, humble, write up. It is refreshing to read your article, in a world where the big thing seems to be to beat one’s own drum very loudly! The world needs more folks like you!

  3. Hi Maria & all in Team,

    Please go on with your important and valued work! You are a positive example to bei followed up by the Young!
    Blessed bei your Journey
    Greetings from Germany

  4. Hi Maria,
    As you are from Chile and I am from Peru the question is for you. Do you know why there are no sharks in the coast of Peru? I think there are towards Ecuador but it is not common. Can that change due to global warming?

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