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Susie Goodall appointed first Secchi Disk ambassador seafarer

by Richard Kirby 6 Nov 2016 10:31 GMT 6 November 2016

Susie Goodall, the only female entrant in the 2018 Golden Globe, solo, non-stop, round-the-world yacht race, has teamed up with the global, citizen science Secchi Disk study to become its seafaring ambassador. The Secchi Disk study, which was begun in 2013, is run by The Secchi Disk Foundation charity and it is the world's biggest citizen science study of the marine phytoplankton with data collected by seafarers from all around the world.

Like so many sailors who love the ocean, Susie has a keen interest in helping to conserve the marine environment and said about becoming a Secchi Disk Ambassador "I'm very excited to become an ambassador of this amazing project, to collect some data, and spread the word amongst other sailors about the help that we can give scientists in understanding the sea's biology."

Dr Richard Kirby the project leader said "It's fantastic to have Susie as a project ambassador. Susie is inspirational and her enthusiasm and love for the marine environment are second to none"

The phytoplankton are the plant-like microalgae that form the base of the marine food chain. Research published in 2010 by three Canadian scientists suggested that globally, the phytoplankton had declined by 40% over the last 50 years due to the sea surface warming as a result of current climate changes. Other, more recent studies have also suggested that the phytoplankton are changing in their abundance around the world. Since the phytoplankton begin the marine food chain, their abundance determines the abundance of the other life in the sea, from fish and crabs, to whales and polar bears, and also to the seabirds in the sky. Consequently, it is very important to understand how and why the phytoplankton are changing. But the ocean habitat of the phytoplankton is vast and there are not that many scientists to study them, and this is where any seafarer can help by becoming citizen scientists and taking part in the Secchi Disk study.

The Secchi Disk study combines a tried and tested piece of equipment called a Secchi Disk with a free smartphone app called Secchi.

The Secchi Disk is a DIY piece of scientific equipment that was first invented by the Pope's astronomer Pietro Angelo Secchi in 1865 to measure the clarity of seawater; it is a round white disk of 30 cm diameter attached to a tape measure and weighted from below. When the Secchi Disk is lowered vertically into the water from a boat the depth below the surface at which the Disk just disappears from sight is noted and called the Secchi Depth. Away from estuaries and coasts (1km offshore and in water deeper than 25m) the main determinate of water clarity is the amount of phytoplankton in the water column, and so the Secchi Depth is a measure of the phytoplankton.

The free Secchi app enables seafarers to submit their Secchi Depth readings to a central database. The Secchi Disk study has no end point and the data collected becomes more useful the more seafarers that take part, the greater the area covered, and the longer the study continues.

Susie's yacht for the Golden Globe race is a Rustler 36 called Ariadne and prior to the race Ariadne's hull is going to be carrying the Secchi Disk project logo and website address to promote the citizen science phytoplankton study. This winter Susie and Ariadne will be crossing the Atlantic and taking Secchi Depth readings along the way, so keep a watchful eye and say hello if you see them berthed in a marina. Even better, Susie encourages you to make your own Secchi Disk, download the Secchi app, and take part in the study yourself and become seafaring citizen scientists like her. You can find full details on how to do so in the Secchi app and on the project website www.secchidisk.org.

Susie says "The oceans are a remarkable place, our second home, so what better way to leave a legacy for the oceans than collecting some data on the phytoplankton to help understand the sea better; why not take part?"

The solo non-stop, round-the-world Golden Globe race is the ultimate test of mental and physical endurance. The Golden Globe Race was born in1968 to prove whether it was humanly possible to sail solo, non-stop around the globe and 2018 will be the first re-run of this historic race to celebrate its 50th anniversary. The 1968 race was won by Robin Knox-Johnston's in his 32ft ketch Suhaili, in a total of 312 days. Just as in the first race the 2018 version will be run without GPS by using entirely by traditional means. That means no iPhone, no mod cons, just solo with the sun, stars and horizon. In the spirit of the original race, boats will be borderline classic, not the 60 ft, multi-million dollar machines of today, but 32-36 ft classics of yesteryear with the technology of the time; as close to the boats that were entered into the original race as possible.

The Golden Globe race starts in June 2018 from Falmouth, UK and heads South down the Atlantic Ocean passing through 'gates' along the way, the first of which is the Canary Islands, then the Cape Verdes, and on to round South of the 3 Great Capes; the Cape of Good Hope, Cape Leeuwin and finally Cape Horn, before heading up the Atlantic back to Falmouth. The other 'gates' are Storm Bay, Tasmania and the Falkland Islands. As a test of sailing skills and determination it has no equal. Perseverance, stamina, and sheer determination to get round the world, will ultimately win the race. The winds and waves that Susie will encounter for months on end will challenge every reason she has to do the race, but sheer determination to get round will see her on the finish line.