Cephalopod Citizen Science

Latest update August 23, 2019 Started on May 25, 2019

Citizen Science is an incredibly powerful approach to scientific discovery. But what happens when unique one-off observations are made? Well, we send in the drones!

May 25, 2019
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In The Field

A major part of this work is outreach - as such we are hosting a photographic exhibition in La Paz, Mexico. This part of work encourages and enthuses citizens to provide exciting observations that we can investigate with the Trident ROV.

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We have organised an art meets science exhibition in La Paz, Mexico in August 2019

Part of the exhibition provides information to the citizens about what cephalopods are and what we can do to help discover their secrets

We have also created infographics in English, and as importantly, Spanish that can help advertise our citizen science project and provide valuable information about what we do and how citizens can help.

The infographics were created by Nefer and Paola

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The citizen science project we running does not just focus on the UK, it has a global reach. As part of giving back to the citizens, whether scientists or not, we are holding an exhibition in La Paz Mexico to highlight how amazing cephalopods and citizen scientists are.


Can we do more than chase cephalopods that our amazing contributors are finding?

Yes, we can!

In many seas around the world, cuttlefish go through a yearly migration from the deeper waters, ~100m, when the sea surface temperatures begin to drop from late Autumn onwards to the shallows to breed. If you ever see a cuttlefish it will be in the shallows during this breeding phase when the waters are warmest. This probably allows the hatchlings a good temperature to grow in with lots of food around. This much we know.

We do not know anything about what they do during the winter months in the cool dark winter waters. Fisheries data suggests they are eating and maybe even mating but this evidence only comes from dead animals that have been trawled.

In addition, in UK waters, there are at least two species which are very rarely seen been by humans, the 'Pink cuttlefish' (Sepia orbignyana) and 'Elegant cuttlefish' (Sepia elegans), live all year round in the deeper water and do not migrate to the very shallows to breed.

The ROV is a key tool in discovering what these amazing animals are up to when they are out of sight of the SCUBA community.

The pictures below show how bathymetric data can aid us in determining where best to send the ROV to int the deeper waters.

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Love the bathy data Gavan! You'll be looking forward to getting the beast in the water! :)
Thanks, Chris, yeah I think the bathy data is vital for seeing where our winter migrants go...not just cuttlefish too!

So how would an ROV benefit citizen science?

Well, many of the amazing observations that the wonderful citizen scientists are providing need investigating. One of the downsides to citizen science s that many of the observations are one-offs, but good science needs many observations and the ability to test hypotheses based on observations. We would use an ROV to investigate what is being shared.

For example, in the last two years, we have 3 very exciting observations of a particular species of octopus that went extinct in UK waters in the 1960's...

Octopus vulgaris is a cosmopolitan species that has a global distribution, although it is likely that a few, or even many, subspecies will exist. In Europe, we see them throughout the Meditteranean Sea and down the eastern Atlantic coast off Portugal, Spain, and France. That is more or less their northern distribution ends...or it did. The images below show us that they are back in their northern limit in the English Channel. The really exciting this is the octopuses caught on film are huge!

The cooler the waters, the later a cephalopod will become sexually mature, but they will still keep growing. So, the big octopuses we see seeing appear to have have been born in the UK's cooler waters. This is a big step towards there long term future as it means they are not arriving through migration ut already here and breeding!

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Some more info on the citzen science project

Aims 1) To collect data for wild cephalopods from areas where data is missing 2) To make SCUBA divers aware of how best to interact with cephalopods 3) To engage with the citizen scientists in a number of meaningful ways

Methods • Having seen many videos and images uploaded to various forms of social media we created a Facebook group specifically for reporting observations of cephalopods • Due to the immediate success of this UK group, eight more groups were created with the help of students at Anglia Ruskin University • The new groups covered: Italy, Portugal, Spain, Netherlands & Belgium, France, Germany, Japan and Mexico • To help educate the public on cephalopods broadly, we wrote ID guides for the regions which were translated into the relevant local languages • Guides included potential warning signals provided by cephalopods (and see Cooke &Tonkins 2015) to help SCUBA divers avoid stressing then • I conducted a speaking tour of the SW UK SCUBA groups to promote the project in person and to engage with those providing the data • Surveys were conducted after the talks to measure behavioural changes in the SCUBA divers

Results Membership and observations provided • After 12 months the groups have ~1200 members who have provided ~ 1600 images or videos Scientific findings (being analysed) • New data on squid egg-laying sites and behaviours, vital for fisheries assessment currently being written up into a peer-reviewed article with CEFAS • Observations for key or new behaviours, such as: male-male competition (cuttlefish and bobtail squid); female aggression (cuttlefish); sleeping and resting (cuttlefish); schooling and shoaling (cuttlefish); burying behaviours (octopus); habitat preference (octopus); hunting strategies (cuttlefish, bobtail squid); egg laying preferences (squid, cuttlefish) and many more • Analysis of behaviours are ongoing but include; social network analysis; hierarchical cluster analysis of behaviours by species and reproductive phenotype; sequential analysis of agonistic interactions; alternative mating strategies and many more

Societal Impact The project has already received widespread national and international exposure: • BBC worldwide website (500,000 reach) • BBC Radio Wales (50,000 reach) • The Conservation article x 2 (36,000 + 4000 reach) • SCUBA magazine article on wild cephalopod welfare (25,000 reach) Self-funded public speaking tour of SW England saw a: • 2100% rise in observations posted to the groups • 96% of responders agreed to share more observations with 100% agree that they will change their behaviour when diving with cephalopods • The Royal Society Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) has invited the lead me to give a talk on wild cephalopod welfare in early 2019 • Observations provided to the project are being collated into an art exhibition to be displayed at Anglia Ruskin University Ruskin Gallery and at the Cambridge Science Festival (UK) in spring 2019

(https://www.facebook.com/groups/1772714999700580/) UK (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2174636599425322/) France (https://www.facebook.com/groups/517421225370635/) Malta (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2174636599425322/) Portugal (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1011071792400550/) Germany (https://www.facebook.com/groups/296286464253698/) Spain (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2643286519030143/) Cyprus (https://www.facebook.com/groups/227541027966588/) Italy (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1915579675410208/) Netherlands/Belgium (https://www.facebook.com/groups/554841448361864/) Mexico (https://www.facebook.com/groups/391158638313382/) Japan

Guides to cephalopods for the public

Drerup & Cooke 2019 – Cephalopod ID Guide for the North-East Atlanticv1 http://drgmcooke.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Drerup-Cooke-2019-Cephalopod-ID-Guide-for-the-North-East-Atlanticv1.pdf_

Drerup & Cooke 2019 – Cephalopod ID Guide for the North Seav1 http://drgmcooke.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Drerup-Cooke-2019-Cephalopod-ID-Guide-for-the-North-Seav1.pdf

Drerup & Cooke 2019 – Cephalopod ID Guide for the Mediterranean Seav1 http://drgmcooke.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Drerup-Cooke-2019-Cephalopod-ID-Guide-for-the-Mediterranean-Seav1.pdf__

Expedition Background

Thanks to the many excellent natural history documentaries, nearly all of us are familiar with exotic octopuses (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-UCJ7PPN84),,) maybe even cuttlefish (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K5CZ74ybnbE)) and squid too.

Fewer of us realise that what we see in these exotic locations can actually and relatively easily, be found around the UK coast, and often in only a few meters of water.

In some ways, scientists know a great deal about some cephalopods (the taxonomic name for all the alien-like squishy animals we marvel at). UK scientists have won the Nobel prize (1963) for their work on the Giant Squid physiology (https://www.nobelprize.org/nobelprizes/medicine/laureates/1963/)) and we know in intricate detail how cephalopods change colour so rapidly (for a review see: https://www.nature.com/scitable/topicpage/cephalopod-camouflage-cells-and-organs-of-the-144048968),,) and we have known this for quite a long time.

However, we know very, very little about their behaviour in the wild, especially Cephalopods in the UK. I wrote about a mass stranding of octopuses in October (https://theconversation.com/octopuses-invade-welsh-beach-here-are-the-scientific-theories-why-86646) and one of the odd things was that so many were so close together, they are thought to be solitary animals that are found at depths in rocky areas. Not together in the sand. We know little about their behaviour simply because they are hidden from view to nearly all of us, bar those brave souls who dive (all year round!) in UK waters.

To help understand the octopus stranding I created a citizen science project asking for help in learning more about these amazing yet secretive animals. The Facebook group I created (UK Cephalopod Reports) was designed to aid this, by encouraging citizens to become scientists, and we are finally beginning to learn what motivates these amazing animals, what they do with their time and how they do it.

For example, we have seen cuttlefish sleeping in groups for the first time, we have seen them schooling in a huge group of 30, a first for this species. We have been given videos of cuttlefish fighting, squid schooling and bobtails bobbing. There has been a sighting of a huge common octopus (Octopus vulgaris) which was thought to have gone extinct from our waters after a cool snap in the 1960’s. We have seen our cephalopods hunting a night, exhibiting different behaviours than that of those during the day (fig4). We have had over 200 sightings of our octopus (Eledone cirrhosa), including may in rock pools, which was a very exciting find.

The UK dive community have been amazing at providing observations of the animals in the water (and long may they continue – cheers guys!) but what we would also like to investigate these amazing phenomena and see what is going on. SCUBA diving can be very expensive, time-consuming and not without risk. In many areas of exploration if it's too costly for humans then we send in the drones...and this is exactly what we'd use a drone from the SEE initiative for...taking the amazing citizen science observations further.

If you have some of your own observations reporting these findings is very simple. My Facebook group allows you to upload videos and photographs (https://www.facebook.com/groups/1772714999700580/)) directly, just state where it was you saw the mini-Kraken in the post.

These animals are very delicate and are thought to genuinely experience distress (https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022098113000622)) so please respect them and treat them nicely. In other words, no touching, poking or prodding. If the tide has just gone out and you see one on the sand, wait and see what it does, one of the observations we have made is that they seem to bury themselves, perhaps to escape drying out.

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