Scientists use app to engage citizens in ocean acidification study

Clam populations throughout Alaska have steadily declined for over 20 years, affecting subsistence, recreational and commercial harvesters. The exact causes of the decline are unknown. Suspected factors include habitat changes, environmental stressors, predation and, possibly, ocean acidification.

Woman in black cap in web lab working with white bucket

UAF assistant professor Amanda Kelley works with graduate students on an experiment involving bivalves and ocean acidification. (Photo by Paula Dobbyn)

Under the supervision of University of Alaska Fairbanks professor Amanda Kelley, PhD student Ashley Rossin is studying the effects of ocean acidification on littleneck clams and cockles, two clam species harvested for subsistence across the state.


UAF graduate student Ashley Rossin holds a shark fin during a marine biology class. (Photo courtesy of Ashley Rossin)

With funding from Alaska Sea Grant, Kelley and Rossin are studying physiological effects on the clams from a laboratory study and comparing them to environmental conditions in the field and to observations from citizen scientists across the state.

The team created a project on the app Epicollect5 to allow community members to post clam observations from the coasts using their mobile devices. Anyone walking along a beach can use the app to record their location, what species they’re seeing, fill out some information about the environment, and add images.

By collecting these observations, the scientists hope to gain a better understanding of current clam populations, and how those may change throughout the next few years. More information is on the project website:

The public can view the current observations through the Epicollect5 project page, or see the updated list on the Local Enviroment Observer (LEO) Network website.