YVETTE BATTEN/FAIRFAX NZ
This is an online research project at hotspot.org.nz where the public keeps an eye out for orca, little blue penguin, reef heron, and the New Zealand fur seal and then reports sightings, ideally including photographs.
"Taranaki provides valuable habitat for quite a few different threatened species but it's important that we know about these species and where they are in order to protect them," Taranaki Regional Council marine ecologist and project leader Emily Roberts said.
"It's to capture that local knowledge, to value that local knowledge so we're using a citizen science platform called NatureWatch NZ to collect the sightings."
This project already involves schools and is supported by scientists and community groups.
It started eight months ago with a cash injection from the government's Curious Minds initiative of $20,000, which has gone towards building the website and funding science specialists' time.
More recently the project was given a further $20,000, which will be used to take the programme to South Taranaki schools.
Anyone can use the information gathered, from conservation groups and schools, to decision makers in environmental regulation or even oil-spill response teams.
Roberts will speak more in depth about the project at the Nga Motu Marine Society's annual meeting, to be held on July 29 at the Val Deakin Dance Centre at 7.30pm.
"It's our annual public event really and we always have a good guest speaker and we update everybody on what the marine reserve society's been up to for the past year," said society chairwoman Anne Scott.
Project Hotspot is the society's newest drive and it spring-boards off the Experiencing Marine Reserves programme run in schools.
"Taranaki's very wild and windy and it's not so easy for children to come back from their snorkelling experience up north in Leigh Marine Reserve and snorkel safely in Taranaki. They come back and do a home-based action project on marine protection.
"The hotspot project has enabled them to do home-based projects using the citizen science of technology so that's been great for them, our programme and great for ongoing marine education and awareness, and protection," Scott said.