The Big Seashell Survey | Lifewatch regional portal

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The Big Seashell Survey

Before the Big Seashell Survey started, there was little quantitative information on the species and numbers of shells that wash ashore at the Belgian coast. However, beached shells can say a great deal about climate change, environmental pollution, impact of human activities at sea and changes in biodiversity.

Keywords: Citizen Science, long-term data

"What species of shell are common or rare, and how do they relate in terms of relative abundance? What about exotic species? Are there differences between the West and the East coast? And what species may be crowned as the absolute topdog?"

Big Seashell Survey

The Big Seashell Survey is a unique citizen science initiative on Belgian beaches. It is organised by the Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ), EOS, Natuurpunt, the Province of West Flanders, the Strandwerkgroep, Kustererfgoed and the ten coastal municipalities.


Citizens active during the Big Shell Survey, help researchers in collecting and identifying massive numbers of shells (140,000 shells during four editions) and thereby examining patterns in biodiversity of shells along the Belgian coast. In addition, it contributes to ocean literacy and environmental awareness among citizens.


One day in March every year, citizens go to the beach and collect, count and identify shells according to a fixed scientific method.

Each participant collects a hundred shells and identifies the species involved with the help of the experts and a shell identification card, a field guide or the digital app ObsIdentify. After a quality check by the experts, the data are transferred to a database where it is further processed.


Used components of the LifeWatch Infrastructure

The training sessions provided under the LifeWatch program, allow citizens to become ‘experts’ in identification of seashells. This new community of engaged citizens is an important asset for further biodiversity research along the Belgian coast.





News and outreach



Nancy Fockedey (coordinator VLIZ)


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