A group of tourists on a wooden walkway at the beach receiving information from a tour guide next to an informational signboard

Sargassum Invasion Combat: Citizen Science Project in Yucatan

The invasion of sargassum along the Caribbean and Mexican coasts has prompted a collaborative response from several organizations including the Institute of Engineering of the UNAM in Sisal Yucatan. Together, they've launched the Citizen Science on Pelagic Sargassum project. The project is spearheaded by Victoria Domínguez Almena from the University of Southampton, Christian Mario Appendini from the Institute of Engineering of the UNAM in Sisal, and Óscar Frausto Martínez from the Autonomous University of the State of Quintana Roo (UQRoo). The initiative also receives support from the Cozumel City Council, the National Commission of Protected Natural Areas (Conanp), Akumal Ecoprotection, and the Southern Border College (Ecosur).

Technology has been a vital component of this collaborative project. Mobile applications and online platforms have been employed to enable citizens to report sargassum sightings. This provides real-time data that supplements scientific observations. The community's participation has been invaluable, leading to increased public awareness about the sargassum issue, providing more data for scientists, and fostering innovative solutions.

The project also promotes a stronger connection between science and society, reinforcing shared responsibility for environmental protection. So far, several initiatives have been implemented in Cozumel, such as installing fixed cameras, a weather station, and citizen science stations at Chumul, Chen Río, and San Martin viewpoints on the eastern coast. These efforts have been supplemented with informative posters about turtles and the threats they face from beach erosion, sargassum, and plastics.

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This initiative is part of a broader monitoring effort already underway in Puerto Morelos and Akumal, and plans are in place to extend it to Xcalak. Meetings have been held with teachers from Cozumel, Akumal, and Puerto Morelos to collaborate on creating educational materials about sargassum. This aligns with the New Mexican School's curriculum.

Teachers from UQRoo have been trained to guide their students during visits to the viewpoints and to use the Citizen Science Stations (Coastsnap) for beach and sargassum stranding monitoring. These teachers have also piloted this initiative by bringing their students to these stations.