In 2000, the HMCS Yukon, a 366 foot-long Canadian warship, was sunk off the coast of San Diego to become an artificial reef. Since then the ship has transformed into a home for marine life, while becoming an international diving destination. Find out how you, as a citizen scientist, can take part in monitoring the Yukon Reef with Ocean Sanctuaries.

ocean sanctuaries Yukon reef david hershman artificial reef, marine life citizen science project

In 2004 a joint study by the San Diego Oceans Foundation (SDOF) and Scripps Institution of Oceanography was undertaken to better understand the effects the reef was having on the surrounding marine life. Adding to that study was data collected by the area’s Citizen Science divers, information that generated a baseline for measuring the health of the marine life surrounding the ship. (photo – David Hershman)


Citizen Science Projects offered by Ocean Sanctuaries

Beginning in 2015 the citizen scientists of Ocean Sanctuaries began the Yukon Marine Life Survey intending to update the data on the marine life species which have established themselves on the Yukon since 2004. (video courtesy KPBS TV)


This is the way it works:

  1. Advanced divers who are certified to 100 ft, dive the Yukon as they normally would and simply photograph either invertebrates which are attached to the vessel, such as anemones and sea fans, as well as any vertebrates, ie: fish seen on their dive.
  2. Upon returning home, they go to their previously created account with iNaturalist and upload the photographs taken on their dive to
  3. iNaturalist is run by the California Academy of Sciences and has both resident marine scientists as well as experienced divers/naturalists who can assist in the identification of uploaded species. This is known as a ‘community identification process.’ Final determinations are made by CAS scientists.
  4. Because the Yukon rests on the bottom at 100 ft., only advanced divers are qualified to go to that depth, so our pool of regularly contributing divers is small: 8 so far–but, we hope to increase that number moving forward. However, because many of these divers are extremely proficient with a camera underwater, they are able to photograph quite a few species on a single dive, so a large pool is not always a requirement for this study.

As of, March 20, 2018 Ocean Sanctuaries has collected the data from 137 observations, successfully identifying 47 individual species. (photo – Mike Bear)

Yukon reef mike bear citizen science project monitoring artificial reef citizen science scientist ocean sanctuaries

To Better Understand the Ocean

To further our understanding of the marine environment, Ocean Sanctuaries, encourages and supports citizen science projects that empower local divers to gather marine data under scientific mentorship.  In addition to the Yukon Marine Life Survey, Ocean Sanctuaries has two citizen science projects that are shark related: ‘Sharks of California’ and the ‘Sevengill Shark ID Project.’

For additional information visit the Ocean Sanctuaries website.

By Mike bear, a Blue Ocean Network contributor


See these Related Blue Ocean Network Articles:

Tide Pool Monitoring with Ocean Sanctuaries
Ocean Sanctuaries and offer Marine Citizen Scientist Course
Reef Life Restoration Teams with Environmental Moorings to Save Coral from Anchors, Rebuild Caribbean Reefs
Summit: 2015, Citizen Science, Dive Tourism as tools for conservation, The value of coral reefs. Local activism and engagement.
Summit 2015: Engaging Guests in Citizen Science and Sustainable Business Operations.
SOS: Girls’ Science Club Seeks Feedback, Insight from Marine Experts


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