The communities of organisms that live under docks and ship hulls, known as fouling communities, are full of a wide variety of invertebrate animals, algae, and microbes. Because fouling communities are in shallow, coastal areas, they are strongly influenced by local environmental conditions, such as changes in temperature and salinity. Fouling communities are also impacted by human activities. Recreational and commercial boats and ships can move organisms from one place to another. Sometimes, these new, introduced organisms won't survive in their new environment, but if they do, they may become established as invasive species. Invasive species can have major impacts on ecosystems by competing with native species for food and space, which can change the whole structure of the fouling community. Coastal communities spend millions of dollars a year to detect and remove invasive species. By better understanding fouling communities and the impacts of invasive species, we can help people in coastal areas respond to these invasions more effectively.
By looking at how the groups of organisms change through time, we will better understand how human activities affect coastal environments. We can understand these patterns most effectively when we have data from lots of places over several years. Currently, our scientists do all of the identifications by looking at the actual tiles. This is a time consuming process and limits the number of bays that we can survey.
With the help of citizen scientists, we hope to be able to increase the number of tiles (and the amount of data) that we have to work with. So, we’re excited to have your help! We look forward to building a community of citizen scientists who are interested in marine animals to learn more about fouling communities in more places, find new species, or watch as these communities change over time – something that we predict will become more important as climate change affects coasts worldwide.