Big Seaweed Search/Sussex Kelp

Image: Big Seaweed Search

Big Seaweed Search

This is a great half-term activity for the children, or indeed for anyone at any time. The Big Seaweed Search is a partnership between The Natural History Museum and the Marine Conservation Society.

Why are seaweeds important?

The UK is globally important for seaweeds, being home to more than 650 species. Seaweeds create underwater habitats that provide food and shelter for thousands of marine organisms. They support commercial fisheries (providing nursery grounds for juvenile fish; they absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere; they are used in foods, cosmetics and medicines; and they protect our coastlines from storm damage.

Strandliners volunteers at a Big Seaweed Search in Eastbourne

What am I looking for?

By exploring the seashore and recording the living seaweeds you find, you are helping to monitor the effects of environmental change on Britain’s sea life. You are taking part in a real citizen science programme which focuses on three key environmental changes: sea temperature rise, ocean acidification and the spread of non-native species.

Image: Dive magazine

What do I have to do?

The instructions can be found on the Big Seaweed Search website, but are basically as follows:

  1. Start around an hour before low tide.
  2. Select a 5-metre width from the top of the shore to the sea.
  3. Walking away from the sea, explore the whole plot for about an hour, recording only living seaweeds attached to rocks or another hard surface. You only need to record the species from the guide. It is important that photographs are taken as evidence. Photographs are essential for the BSS to be able to use your results.
  4. Upload your results and photographs, using the online form or the app.

Remember to stay safe on the beach. Tell someone where you are, take a mobile phone, wear sensible clothing and footwear (rocks are slippery and may be encrusted with barnacles), don’t go out in bad weather, and wash your hands afterwards.

You can find the Big Seaweed Search guide here
and the Big Seaweed Search recording sheet here.

Meet seaweed researcher Juliet Brodie and Big Seaweed Search participant Jazz in this short video and learn more about why seaweeds are important and how to take part (3:46 mins).

Sussex Kelp Recording Project

What is kelp?

Kelp are large brown seaweeds found along rocky shores. Like marine trees, kelp create a ‘canopy’ beneath which many species takes shelter and find food.

Why is kelp important?

The organisms that shelter and feed here include commercial fish and crustaceans, so kelp supports local livelihoods as well as providing other benefits for nature, people and the planet. Kelp locks away carbon, filters the water and protects our coast from storms by dissipating wave energy.

Vast kelp beds along the Sussex coast (mostly towards the west of the county) once supported a wondrous diversity of marine life. But by the late 1980s, 96% of Sussex kelp had disappeared. This project aims to bring it back.

The journey to kelp recovery started with the Sussex Nearshore Trawling Byelaw. This pioneering legislation created one of the largest trawling prohibited areas in the UK in March 2021. At the same time, the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project was formed to champion, study and facilitate the return of kelp through through progressive, coherent and collaborative action. Find out more here.

There are more videos on the website, but this one, narrated by David Attenborough, launched the project.

You can be part of SKRP’s research programme

Citizen science is a growing discipline that enables us to participate and collaborate in real scientific research and increase scientific knowledge.  We can get involved to help deliver SKRP aims.

Everyone can contribute to restoration efforts via a handy app from the Sussex Wildlife Trust. Whether you’re an occasional beach walker or an avid scuba diver, you can record any kelp you’ve seen on the beach or out to sea, and play your part in the Sussex Kelp Recovery Project. You can register here and find out more about this citizen science project.