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Sea Search

The Sea Search program is a great way to learn and explore the marine environment while collecting important information on its health and condition. The information collected by Sea Searchers aids the management of marine parks.

There are a range of activities to suit all experience levels. Sea Search activities occur both on shore and in the water.

Forget the tropics, over 85% of the animals and plants found in Victoria are found only on the Southern Australian coastline. Become a Sea Searcher today and discover a world like no other.

Get involved

Sea Search can only be undertaken with the permission and supervision of a Parks Victoria ranger (permits are required to do surveys in all marine national parks and marine sanctuaries).

Individuals, schools and groups who would like to get involved can register on ParkConnect, Parks Victoria’s volunteer portal. ParkConnect allows you to see all planned Sea Search activities on offer with Parks Victoria’s rangers and register your interest to get involved!

Sea Search can only be undertaken with the permission and supervision of a Parks Victoria Park Ranger (permits are required to do surveys in all marine national parks and marine sanctuaries). Individuals, schools and groups who would like to get involved please contact us for more information:

Sea Search Manual

The new Sea Search Manual is a guide to a wide range of monitoring activities, all of which contribute to collecting useful information for improving the understanding of park values and threats, and assessing the benefits of management activities.

The manual includes all Sea Search methods detailed on this page. These have been designed to better provide for community interests through describing activities with a range of difficulty to cater for differing skill levels, while also improving the quality and usefulness of the information gathered to inform management of these areas.

Summary of methods

The broad range of Sea Search activities that volunteers can get involved with are outlined below. The easy methods can be used in any park, while the moderate and difficult intertidal reef and seagrass methods can only be used in parks with these habitats.

Beginners are best to start with the easy methods and work their way up.

Datasheets and further information can also be obtained from the local ranger.

Easy methods
  • Fixed Point Photos: Images of marine protected areas, taken from a fixed location, give a visual record of the park at that point in time. Repeated photos from these same locations over time are a valuable tool for detecting changes in the park, such as habitat area.
  • Species Image Library: Images of all life forms in marine protected areas helps to document the diversity within parks and can assist in developing identification guides.
  • Sea Search Patrol: Regular Sea Search surveillance patrols in search for specific visitor activity, disturbances or other things of note within the park helps identify potential threats at an early stage so that managers can take quick action.

Easy methods can be used separately or together, or in conjunction with moderate and/or difficult methods.

Moderate and Difficult Methods
  • Intertidal Rocky Reef surveys: Exposed to air at low tide and covered by seawater at high tide, intertidal reefs support diverse and unique combinations of plants and animals that have evolved to survive in this dynamic environment. Using quadrats at low tide, participants will record the intertidal algae cover to keep track of the health of rocky reef habitats. Difficult methods extend the activity to also count and measure key marine species such as snails and other creatures. If changes occur that are determined to be beyond the limits of natural variation, further research and management intervention may be required.
  • Seagrass surveys: Seagrasses play a critical role in providing habitat for a wide range of species including many fish, a diverse range of invertebrates, as well as being an important feeding area for birds. Seagrasses play a key role in binding soft sediments and preventing coastal erosion. Participants wade, snorkel, or dive over intertidal and shallow subtidal seagrass beds and use a combination of measures and observational assessments to assess seagrass health and monitor the boundary of seagrass meadows. Participants may use rapid or detailed methods (moderate and difficult respectively) which answer similar questions but with different degrees of confidence.

Resources

Details of all methods can be found within the Sea Search Manual. Additional resources to assist Sea Search monitoring include

Sea Search App and Database

The new Sea Search App and database make data collection easier and more fun. People can use any smart phone or tablet to collect data in the field (making sure not to drop them in the water!) and then instantly upload it to the database. The data can then be downloaded at any time by volunteers or Parks Victoria staff.

Traditionally Sea Search volunteers had collected data on hard copy datasheets on slates and then had to manually enter data into the computer. For many years it has been difficult to manage the data and volunteers haven’t been able to view the data they have collected. The Sea Search app is a great addition to the program.

Sea Search is a project within the Atlas of Living Australia’s (ALA) citizen science platform, Biocollect. When you join an organised Sea Search activity, the ranger running that activity will provide log in details for the Sea Search project. If you want to use your own smart device then make sure you download the Biocollect App from the App Store or Google Play Store before heading out. Alternatively, you can access Sea Search through a web browser on your mobile device via the Biocollect website.

The ALA provides free, online access to a vast amount of information about Australia’s biodiversity. It receives support from the Australian Government through the National Collaborative Research Infrastructure Strategy and is hosted by CSIRO.

Other programs

  • Reef Watch Victoria - Subtidal Reef programs for snorkellers and divers
  • Coastcare Victoria - Summer by the Sea a statewide annual program with a range of activities
  • BirdLife Australia - A great range of projects for bird enthusiasts
  • Redmap - A program focused on recording the arrival of warmer water species that are shifting or extending their usual habitat range
  • Reef Life Survey - Subtidal reef surveys for the most experienced diver and naturalist