Paper No. 12-7
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM
CITIZEN SCIENCE, PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT AND GEOCONSERVATION IN THE JURASSIC COAST WORLD HERITAGE SITE OF SOUTHERN ENGLAND (Invited Presentation)
The Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site of southern England spans 95 miles of coastline and attracts 6 million visitors per year. From the time of Mary Anning through to the present-day, there has always been a strong public interest in the coast’s rich fossil and geologic heritage, which means that it is a relatively straightforward step to engage members of the public in ongoing scientific research. This process has been greatly enhanced by the World Heritage Site team’s strong personal links with researchers, professional and amateur fossil collectors, museum curators, and key local and national authorities, such as Natural England who manage sites of special scientific interest along the coast. Events such as the annual Lyme Regis Fossil Festival play a central role in fostering and strengthening this network, as well as in educating the general public. A wide range of geoconservation and engagement work is currently ongoing. One recent, novel initiative has been the ‘Jurassic Fossilblitz’, which is now in its third year. Using the ‘bioblitz’ concept as a template, the fossilblitz brings together paleontologists and members of the general public of all ages for a race against the tide to find, count and record Early Jurassic marine fossils through the Blue Lias Formation, exposed on the rocky foreshore around Lyme Regis. Quadrats are used for counting, so there is no damage to, or collecting of, in situ fossils. Although primarily an outreach activity that enables the public to gain an appreciation of past biodiversity change through a critical period of past environmental change, analyses have shown that the bed-by-bed data collected during the fossilblitz have real scientific value.