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University and The Seal Project join forces to encourage citizen scientists to support seal conservation - University of Plymouth

The Seal Spotter project on the Epicollect app enables people to log an individual seal's location, appearance, behaviour and condition

People are being encouraged to report seal sightings as part of efforts to learn more about the local grey seal population and engage more citizen scientists in marine conservation.

The University of Plymouth and The Seal Project have joined forces to launch the Seal Spotter project on the Epicollect app through which people can log an individual’s location, appearance, behaviour and condition.

The app, which is free to download, features advice from the project team on how members of the public can report sightings and how they should behave around the seals themselves.

It then enables people to record whether the seals are alone or in a group, if they are resting, feeding or fighting, or whether they have become entangled in plastics or are showing other signs of injury or ill-health.

The resulting data will be used by the charity to accurately map the health of the local population.

It will also be shared with similar charities, including the national Seal Alliance and The Seal Research Trust, and used to create a clearer picture of seal communities right across the UK.

The project came about as a result of discussions between Lecturer in Physiology and Behaviour Dr Katherine Herborn and Duncan Kenny, Co-founder of The Seal Project, about how to monitor the impacts of an injury or short-term environmental stressor on seals’ long-term health and behaviour.

It has since been taken forward by Laura Cook, a Masters student in Zoo Conservation Biology within the School of Biological and Marine Sciences, who developed the app project and has been monitoring the responses.

Since it was launched over the Christmas break, more than 60 sightings have been recorded on both well-known South Devon individuals and new pups recruiting to area, while others have also come in from across Devon and Cornwall and elsewhere in the UK.

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