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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

Collaborative research with the National Autonomous University of Mexico

Published: 1 August 2023
Sanzule, Ghana
Example of seaweed monitoring point installed in Sanzule, Ghana

Dr Victoria Dominguez Almela and Dr Sien van der Plank

The School’s TeleconnectedSARgassum risks across the Atlantic: building capacity for TRansformational Adaptation in the Caribbean and West Africa (SARTRAC) project is excited to announce its latest collaboration with the Institute of Engineering, National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) (Mexico).

To involve local communities in research efforts, the SARTRAC team received an ESRC Impact Acceleration Account (2019-2023) grant to build youth-led citizen science expertise in Ghanaian coastal communities in 2022-2023. This exploratory project yielded novel data on sargassum in Ghana, West Africa, and is expanding the team’s understanding of the region's coastal ecosystems.

Building on the success of the youth-led citizen science initiative in Ghana, the research team is extending this idea to Mexico. Funded by the UKRI Flexible Innovation Fund, the team will be working in the coastal areas of Quintana Roo, Mexico, in September 2023 in collaboration with Dr Christian Appendini (Institute of Engineering, UNAM) and Quintana Roo schools and communities. The objective of the research trip is to support the digital capacity in four coastal communities in Mexico (Puerto Morelos, Cozumel, Akumal and Xcalak) and involve schools in photo-based citizen science, to explore how these communities can be part of the monitoring and study of the nuisance seaweed “sargassum”.

The activities will involve:

  • building static seaweed photography points (CoastSnap monitoring points) in four communities;
  • talking to schools and community members about the importance of collecting evidence of the frequency and quantity of the seaweed arriving on beaches;
  • distributing teaching material about sargassum and discussing the reason for using citizen science approaches for data collection; and,
  • listening to school students and community members about their research questions and concerns about the sargassum seaweed.

This cross-continental endeavour exemplifies the power of collaboration, innovation, and community involvement in addressing environmental issues that transcend borders.

The UKRI/Global Challenges Research Fund funded project on monitoring and management Sargassum seaweed in the Caribbean and West Africa: “TeleconnectedSARgassum risks across the Atlantic: building capacity for TRansformational Adaptation in the Caribbean and West Africa (SARTRAC)” is based at the University of Southampton, UK, in partnership with the University of the West Indies, the University of Ghana and York University. The SARTRAC project started in November 2019 and will end in February 2024. This research is funded by UKRI ES/T002964/1 (UK Research and Innovation).

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