What is COMBER?

What is COMBER? COMBER (Citizens' Network for the Observation of Marine BiodivERsity) is a pilot project that aims  at engaging citizen scientists – all persons interested in nature, not necessarily professionals – in a coastal marine biodiversity observation network. It operates under the ViBRANT project  funded by the EU under the e-Infrastructures instrument (7th RTD Framework Programme).

What do we actually do? We are working with local diving and sailing clubs that offer short theoretical seminars for divers and snorklers that are interested in participating in the project. During these lessons, divers will get an overview of the local fish fauna and how to identify the different species. Afterwards, specially trained guides will accompany the participants on their dive or snorkling trip to help observing  and recording fish. After the dive, participants enter their observation into the COMBER database. The data will be used in the future to assess the marine biodiversity along the local coasts. 

Where do we dive? This project is initially implemented in several coastal locations of Crete (Lygaria and Agios Nikolaos), in collaboration with the local diving schools, the European Diving Institute in Lygaria, Creta's Happy Divers in Agios Nikolaos and Diver's Club Crete in Agia Pelagia and Malia. Here, the areas are already established and regularly studied for coastal biodiversity monitoring in the Eastern Mediterranean  within the context of the NaGISA (National Geography In Shore Areas) international project. You can also participate in the COMBER project while doing a sailing tour. Contact the yachting organization altersail if you are interested.


Why do we do this? The purpose of the pilot project is to assist the understanding and sustainable management of our coastal biodiversity through its continuous observation and monitoring. This is the only way to gain reliable data and information about the coastal marine environment. While it is relatively simple to monitor the abiotic environment (e.g. temperature, salinity, light, currents), it is a long and labor-intensive process to record and analyse the marine flora and fauna of an area. Therefore, scientists, stakeholders, and citizens, must collaborate in order to achieve this objective at global scales.

How is this project organised? Under the supervision of scientists and assistance of instructors, a simple protocol elaborated will be implemented. This includes professional lectures on coastal biodiversity and instruction on data recording and up-loading, questionnaires and safety provisions. After these short seminars, divers will be able to recognise and record the fish fauna of the Mediterranean by using the BIOWATCH underwater fishcard, will be familiar with the recording software and can therefore independently contribute with observations during future dives. Divers interested in participation can either contact one of the two diving centres or the special information desk in Cretaquarium, where scientists from HCMR will be happy to provide detailed information

Perspective: The outcomes of this initial step will be used to further raise public awareness of biodiversity issues, to encourage more divers to become citizen scientists and to channel the resulting data and information to publicly accessible portals and electronic publishing media, while at the same time praising the endeavors of the participating individuals.