Fantastic Grandmothers and Where to Find Them

Seven snorkeling grandmothers helped scientists uncover a large population of venomous sea snakes in a bay popular with residents and cruise passengers

Amateur enthusiasts are changing the game for science and research. Citizen passion for hands-on experience with nature is helping scientists gather more and more data each day. Many of these citizen-science led projects rely on enthusiastic children and working-age adults. But a study in Ecosphere, on highly venomous sea snakes in the Pacific island of New Caledonia, near Australia and the Coral Sea, relied on a group of seven local women in their 60s and 70s.

Two of the grandmother dive team around a greater sea snake Hydrophis major, photographing the snake’s tail for identification.
Photo courtesy of Claire Goiran.

The “Fantastic Grandmothers,” as they call themselves, are expert snorkelers and swimmers who offered to take photos of the venomous sea snakes, which are highly tolerant of divers in the popular Baie des Citrons beach area. The resulting photos blew researchers away and gave them the idea that perhaps these sea snakes are not as rare as they thought in this area.

A greater sea snake Hydrophis major in the Baie des Citrons, New Caledonia. Photo courtesy of Claire Goiran.

In fact, there is over 250 individual sea snakes in the popular Baie des Citrons alone. Combined with The Fantastic Grandmothers’ accompanying observations, the new and updated count means stronger, more accurate research.

Read the article in Ecosphere.

Cover image property of Claire Goiran / University of New Caledonia

Author: Zoe Gentes

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