STOKED: Smartfin surfers at Peregian Beach with Dr Javier Leon (front left) and Dr Kylie Scales (back right)
STOKED: Smartfin surfers at Peregian Beach with Dr Javier Leon (front left) and Dr Kylie Scales (back right) Contributed

New wave of surf helpers for climate study

SLICING through the climate change scepticism by having surfing citizen scientists catching waves all day while collecting vital data long sounds like a something out the Best Jobs in the World CV.

This use of surfboard "Smartfins” by University of the Sunshine Coast lead researcher Dr Kylie Scales and senior lecturer Dr Javier Leon is going to be one of the real attention getters at the Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing Sustainability Day on Friday March 16 from 9am-4pm.

Their team of volunteer surfing "scientists” have been helping collect data in the coastal environment, including sea surface temperatures in surf zone and have displayed their technology at a Peregian Beach media call.

The research is part of an international collaboration with scientists from the acclaimed Scripps Institute of Oceanography in California, and Plymouth Marine Laboratory in the UK.

Dr Scales, who lectures in animal ecology, said near-shore water temperature was an essential climate variable that had been largely uncharted.

"The east Australian current is warming up very quickly, which is influencing the distribution of marine life,” Dr Scales said.

"If we can monitor this important variable in the coastal ocean, then we can figure out with better precision what is happening in marine ecosystems.”

Dr Scales said satellites currently collected broad-scale marine data, including water temperatures, but there was poor coverage in coastal areas where the data are most needed.

Dr Leon, whose field is physical geography, hoped these Smartfins, which attach to a board through a Futures fin box, would plug that gap.

"If you tried to fill that gap one scientist at a time, it would never happen. We need lots of data from lots of surfers to improve the information available.”

Dr Scales said data, collected by board riders, could be downloaded via an app using bluetooth and shared worldwide with other scientists. Free-surfer and marine animal crusader Dave Rastovich is already on board, using a Smartfin and encouraging partnerships among surfer, scientists and environmentalists.

To participate, contact Dr Scales on kscales@usc.edu. au or Dr Leon on jleon@usc. edu.au.


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