Sponge recording project

Project summary

This project aims to help map the distribution of sponges in Irish waters, particularly cryptic and difficult to identify species, by marrying citizen science observations with expert spicule analysis of sponge samples. Seasearch divers will collect a small sample of sponges along with a photograph and some basic habitat identification and submit the sample for identification. Samples will be identified by Dr Maria Vittoria Marra a sponge expert working at the Galway Atlantaquarium.

What do I need to do?

SCUBA divers will photograph sponge in the water and then collect a small sample of sponge. This sample will be preserved in alcohol and collected by Seasearch Ireland for further analysis, along with a digital record of the sponge in situ. When your sample has been identified you will notified by Seasearch Ireland and you can either add the species to your own records for submission to Seasearch Ireland or the National Biodiversity Data Centre or Seasearch Ireland can submit the record on your behalf.

You can sign up to the scheme by emailing seasearchireland@gmail.com

Project objectives

To update and enlarge the records of distribution of cryptic sponge species in Irish waters

Demonstrate the potential for citizen science recorders to be used in assembling a sponge sample collection for future genetic analysis

Track the introduction of non-native sponge species

Create a gallery of cryptic sponges identified to species as a resource for the diving community

Rationale for project

Previously a lack of resources for photo-identification and a lack of expert knowledge on Irish sponges to ensure validation of records has contributed to the inability of Seasearch Ireland to expand recording schemes for sponges. However, with the publication of Sea squirts and Sponges of Britain and Ireland and the opportunity to collaborate with Dr Maria Vittoria Marra the potential to address these knowledge gaps now exist.