SeaPaCS_Participatory Citizen Science against Marine Pollution

Chiara Certoma' (IT)

SeaPaCS proposed a participatory citizen science project led by social and natural scientists that mobilizes volunteers in data collection, elaboration and sharing on the biological consequences of marine plastic pollution (via in-situ samples collection for plastisphere DNA analysis, underwater video documentation of new ecological niches, plankton evaluation), and drafted a plan for sustainability-oriented practices based on interviews with fishermen and sailors in the coastal city of Anzio (Italy) on the  Mediterranean Sea.  

The innovative aspects of the project resided in overcoming the extractive approach in CS (citizens as “sensors”) by promoting a fully participatory process on the EU ACTION project model; advancing a multidisciplinary perspective and methods by combining cultural geography and oceanography; overcoming the problem of inaccessibility of the marine environment for lay citizens thanks to the collaboration with the LNI; tackling locally cogent issues already identified by stakeholders and mobilizing their tacit knowledge; feeding the European database on genetic diversity on plastic debris, filling important knowledge gaps worldwide and especially for the Mediterranean Sea. SeaPaCS entailed a co-design  phase with citizens, starting with artistic photos and videos exhibition; the data collection and result elaboration via citizens+scientists+sailors sailing boat expeditions for microplastic collection with a professional Neuston-net labs for genetic and chemical analysis; the collective expedition on a fishing boat for documenting macro-plastic debris trawling, and in-depth interviews with fishermen; two working groups on collection and recycling system for marine plastic and protocol for CS that led to a number of follow-up international projects (notably the EU Call Culture Moves Europe “Tentacular Thinking. Experiencing underwater assemblages of culture and nature”; EU NEB “FishArt. Participatory Art for Anzio Fishermen’s Harbour”; the Horizon EU project “PartArt. Participatory Art for Ocean and Water”), scientific outputs publicly available and local initiatives.

SeaPaCS has been funded by the European Union via the Horizon project IMPETUS4CS, coordinated by the DIGGEO@ESOMAS lab at the ESOMAS Department, University of Turin and with the support of the ESOMAS Public Engagement, partnered by the Italian Naval League Anzio and Raw-News, with the endorsement of the United Nation Decade of Ocean Sciences for Sustainable Development and the Municipality of Anzio. Special thanks to Saverio Lalli, Davide Rinaldi, Riccardo Aleandri, Giuseppe Certomà and Caterina Folco, Davide Rinaldi, Riccardo Aleandri, Giandomenica Becchio, Eugenio Monaco, Lorenzo Colantuono, Angelo Grillo, the fishermen of Anzio, the teachers and students of schools in Anzio (notably Valeria Schinzari, Anna Martinelli and Loretta Palomba), Martina Gaglioti, Luigi Ravioli, Massimo D’Eramo, Francesco Traversa, Andrea Petragnani Ciancarelli, Diego Capobianco, Ivan Martini, Francesca Massimi and Ivano Cotogno.

SeaPaCS multisectoral team specialized in multidisciplinary and radically participatory exploration, documentation and engagement techniques and informal tools to identify contexts-specific matters of concern and, by building on tacit competencies of local actors and multisectorial design skills, attempt at turning these into transformative knowledge for just sustainability. Chiara Certomá is a social geographer at the Sapienza University of Rome with international expertise in participatory process, marine social science, and environmental governance; Federico Fornaro is former director at the LNI-Anzio, oceanic navigator and CEO of the international hard-news agency Raw-News, Luisa Galgani is a chemical oceanographer at the University of Siena with extensive global experience in ocean carbon recycling and plastic pollution, Alessio Corsi is an Egyptologist by training and research manager at the CNR ISMAR, Giuseppe Lupinacci is a free-lance photographer specializing in underwater and marine photography, sailing instructor and oceanic traveler. 

Chiara Certomà (IT) is assistant professor of socio-political geography at the University of Turin, with over fifteen years of research experience in participatory methods for science and policy making. Engaged in 9 active national and international research projects and coordinator of the European projects “SeaPaCS”, “FishArt” and “Tentacular Thinking”, as well as PI of the project Horizon EU “PartArt. Participatory Art for the Ocean”. Expert in citizen science, environmental governance, and social innovation for sustainability, and engaged in the field of marine social sciences, participatory prosses and visual geography. She authored more than 30 papers and books.

Luisa Galgani (IT) is chemical oceanographer at the University of Siena with expertise in microbial biogeochemistry, ocean carbon recycling, and plastic pollution research. Former Marie-Curie Global fellow at GEOMAR Kiel.  She is a member of the Education and Engagement Committee of the IUCN and the Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography (ASLO). 

Federico Fornaro (IT) is former sports director of the LNI in Anzio, skipper, and sailing instructor. Over 20 years of experience in ocean navigation, 2013 Esprit Marin award for the Mini Transact solo crossing of the Atlantic. He is also CEO of the independent news agency Raw-News (Italy-UK based) with over 18 years of experience in documentaries and worldwide hard-news. He is a permanent Italian correspondent for Al Jazeera and NBC News; and recurring correspondent for CBS, Euronews, Sky, CCTV, France24, BBC. 

Alessio Corsi (IT) is technical manager of research at the CNR ISMAR, a qualified Egyptologist with international experience in archaeological field work management and a great passion and competence on marine biology.  

Giuseppe Lupinacci (IT) is a free-lance photographer specializing in underwater and marine photography, skipper and ocean sailor, with working experience in the Maldives, Turkey, Egypt, Antigua, Barbados, Martinique, Sint Maarten, Saint Lucia, Tenerife. Authors of three photographic exhibitions in SeaPaCS. His photographic catalogue “Making Science Public. Participatory Explorations on Plastic Entanglements with Life in the Mediterranean Sea”.

SeaPaCS explores the consequences of marine plastic pollution on local biodiversity via a participatory Citizen Science process in the coastal city of Anzio, Italy. It engages more than 250 fishermen, North African migrants, school children, teachers, environmental NGOs, marine lawyers, sailors, and divers in co-producing knowledge about the health of the Mediterranean Sea, contributing to scientific fields like oceanography, cultural geography, and marine chemistry. In doing so, the project demonstrates excellence in engaging a diverse range of stakeholders and innovating transdisciplinary collaboration models between them, pushing the boundaries between civil society, citizens, and science.  

SeaPaCS is especially exemplary for centering a community-led grassroots approach and for its attention to overcoming extractive tendencies in Citizen Science (citizens as “sensors”), by involving citizens beyond plastic sampling and data collection in activities such as plastisphere DNA analysis, documenting underwater ecological niches, creating photo and video exhibitions, testing DIY microplastic trawling instruments, and building marine plastic recycling stations. SeaPaCS hereby demonstrates how we can involve citizens not just in mapping problems but also in taking collective action towards restoring biodiversity and ecological resilience in European oceans, with attention to social inclusion and cultural diversity. For these reasons, we honor SeaPaCs with the Diversity & Collaboration Award.