Crowdfunding and Scientific Research: How a New Approach to Funding is Helping a British Columbia Indigenous Group

After a moratorium that has lasted nearly half a century, Semiahmoo First Nation is hopeful that a new research project will help the Indigenous group near Surrey, British Columbia gain access to shellfish on its traditional territory. More than $50,000 has been raised to support environmental research that could have significant health and social impacts for the community.

Smart Shores and the Semiahmoo First Nation raised $12,629 in public donations to support pollution testing in Semiahmoo Bay. Based on its successful crowdfunding campaign, Smart Shores received a federally-funded research grant of $37,500, awarded through the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) to support research on coastal pollution.

“Historically our primary source of substance came from shellfish harvesting in Semiahmoo Bay,” says Chief Harley Chappell of Semiahmoo First Nation. “Semiahmoo Bay has been closed for shellfish harvesting since the mid 1970s and Semiahmoo has been activity pursuing options to having access to shell fishing within our traditional territory.”

Using drone technology and advanced pollution testing, Smart Shores will map contamination along the coastline, providing information to help restore the shellfish fishery in Semiahmoo Bay. The technology developed for this project will be applied to other future projects and will reduce the cost of pollution testing and mapping for coastal communities around the world.

This is the first project supported by MEOPAR’s new science funding program, the Fathom Fund. The Fathom Fund was announced in December 2018 and blends crowdfunding and traditional grants to make innovative community-focused science a reality. The project was awarded the funding after passing a scientific review and raising a minimum of $12,500 in public donations.

“The Semiahmoo Nation has been working to re-open their fishery for over 40 years and despite being within an hour drive of six universities they still don’t know what’s in their shellfish or where it’s coming from.” says Dr. Nathan Vadeboncoeur, President and Founder of Smart Shores, and the study’s lead scientist. “Our publicly-funded universities can do more to reach out to their communities but there are few incentives to do so. Requiring researchers to prove a minimum amount of public support in order to receive funding is a great incentive to grow connections between universities and the communities they serve.”

The research team will provide regular project updates through videos and blog posts, giving a behind-the-scenes look into how biotech and drones can be used to enhance coastal science. Anyone interested in following this project can sign up for the Coastal Pollution Mapper newsletter at or follow updates on Facebook and Instagram (@smartshores).

About the Fathom Fund: The Fathom Fund ( is a new science funding program that blends crowdfunding with traditional research grants. Launched in December 2018 by the Marine Environmental Observation, Prediction and Response Network, the program involves the public in choosing which marine research ideas become funded projects.

About Smart Shores: Smart Shores ( is a social enterprise that uses drones and machine learning to map and monitor coasts and wetlands. Smart Shores provides environmental data and visual media to help people protect and engage with the natural world.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

 Tara Wickwire
NATIONAL Public Relations

Nathan Vadeboncoeur
Smart Shores