Citizen Science

Monique bio and boat

An interview with Founder Monique Mills
Ambassador to The 5 Gyres Institute

What is Citizen Science? A citizen science is scientific research conducted by a nonprofessional person – people like you and me – the average citizen. Scientists often need very basic data. The kind that anyone can collect. Simply recording and reporting whale sighting is an act of a citizen scientist. Reef monitoring can be a photograph of the same location repeatedly and sharing that photo to be recorded is valid data. Identifying and counting the fish in a fisherman’s net is also important data. In this photo we asked a fisherman if we could have the stomach of his 50 pound catch of tuna in order to inspect its contents.

What projects is Making Waves Sailing involved in? I am an ambassador for The 5 Gyres Institute who are the leading research on global plastics pollution. The 5 Gyres Institute has provided us with a trawler that floats on the surface to capture water samples. The samples are filtered for plastics and the information collected is sent to 5 Gyres institution. I am not a marine biologist. I am a citizen scientist providing this information to scientists which is an invaluable contribution to developing conservation initiatives and awareness campaigns.

What other programs are you involved with? We are also partnered with local dive shops to assist in lionfish culling, education and beach cleanups. We are partnered with Lumba Dive on the island of Carriacou for education like their one day, PADI Marine Biology Course and other events.

I will be volunteering with the 2018 Grenada Sailing Week to assist in the Sailors for the Sea Clean Regatta program which was initiated last year. This year we will do more to reduce plastics and waste. My belief is that because sailors love to sail then we are naturally motivated to protect the places we play – our oceans and lakes.

What’s in the future for Making Waves Sailing? Expeditions and our Sail with a Scientist Program. We are building a program called “Sail with a Scientist” where a scientist is conducting research on board as we sail with guests. This will be a bit more engaging than our recreational vacation sails where the focus is on our guests. As for our Expeditions, each season, Making Waves Sailing will be donating a boat and crew on one or more of our sailing vessels for scientific purposes on a designated expedition. We hope to raise funds for these critical expeditions. We will be reporting our findings here and on social media.

A 5 Gyres trawler collects data on marine plastic pollution, to raise awareness about this important issue, and contribute to a more robust global dataset. The information is used to update the Global Estimate of Marine Plastic Pollution. This program provides a unique hands-on experience to carry out research that is essential to the 5 Gyres mission.

How do you define sustainability? The term ‘sustainability’ means ensuring the resources we use and consume are replenishable. Let’s use fishing as an example. Over fishing means that a species isn’t able to reproduce sufficient offspring to maintain a healthy population. Protecting the ecosystem ensures the fish have enough food and habitat to reproduce so that we can consume fish season to season, year after year. We all have a responsibility and each person makes a difference. We often talk about what we do to the environment, but now we need to talk about what the environment is doing to our health. What we put into the ocean, we also put into our bodies – which means stopping pollution before it gets into the ocean, which is degrading the ecosystem and getting into our food. It’s a closed loop.