Falmouth Marine Conservation Group – a collaboration between #ExeterMarine academics and the local community, powered by our students

Author – Jade Getliff , Marine Biology Undergraduate, Founding Member of Falmouth Marine Conservation.

Falmouth Marine Conservation Group (FMC) is a community conservation organisation of active volunteers raising marine awareness to empower our community in protecting the local marine environment, founded in October 2016 by our very own Marine Biology students, including myself!

A little bit about me… I’m Jade, a Marine Biology undergraduate in my second year at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus. I am the Biosciences Subject Chair for the CLES college, as well as a Student Ambassador, so I work closely with our fabulous academics! My favourite marine animal has to be the Green Turtle, which themselves are threatened by everything from sea level rise to plastic pollution. My work with marine turtles drives my passion to protect our marine environment and lead the fight against single use plastics! When I arrived for the first time in Cornwall in September 2016, I was enthused by the passion of our #ExeterMarine academics and wanted to connect that with the love that the local community has for the marine environment here in Cornwall! And so, with the incredible initiative of Meg-Hayward Smith (Chair of FMC) and the support of the Cornwall Wildlife Trust, FMC was born…

When we set up FMC almost two years ago, we agreed our four main aims to allow us to achieve our goals of increasing awareness of marine issues, backing up our campaigns with solid research and making a positive impact on our local community here in Falmouth and Penryn!

Education – Our education and outreach team visit local school and youth groups every week, teaching the next generation of conservationists, biologists and policy makers about a huge range of marine topics! More recently we have been focusing on the growing marine plastic pollution issue, which has been grabbing more and more media attention. Through fun games and activities, we encourage the kids to think about how they can reduce their plastic waste and encourage their friends and family to do so too!

This week we visited the Brownies in Falmouth,

where we tested their recycling knowledge in a fun recycling relay game, it shocked all of us how much plastic is really hard to recycle! The kids then made their own never-before-discovered marine species out of plastic waste and presented them to the group, telling us all about how their marine species might be threatened by plastic pollution – some chose to use unrecyclable fruit netting to symbolise how their species might be vulnerable to entanglement by fishing gear. They pledged to not only recycle and reuse, but also refuse single-use plastics!

We hope, through the younger generation, to inspire the community to protect the marine environment and learn how to live alongside our marine wildlife harmoniously.

Research – We believe backing up our campaigns with research is so important! We encourage and run lots of citizen science projects throughout Falmouth, collecting data and recording local wildlife sightings to support our conservation efforts and understand more about the local coast and how we can conserve it in the best way possible. We are currently surveying and tackling the invasive populations of Pacific Oysters around the Fal river, as well as running regular cetacean surveys and microplastic trawls – so there is lots for volunteers to get involved in!

Events and Campaigns – From Rockpool Rambles to Snorkel Safaris and engaging Academic Talks, we run a vast variety of regular events to inspire and educate the local community through fun and motivational activities! One of our most successful events has been an Academic Talk, delivered for us by our very own Professor Brendan Godley and Sarah Nelms on the subject of marine plastic pollution. A whopping 290 people attended, raising a huge £530 to support the vital work of Falmouth Marine Conservation and the Cornwall Wildlife Trust! Many of our members and the student community were inspired and have pledged to ditch single-use and back us in our campaign to make Falmouth a Surfer’s Against Sewage Plastic Free Coastline!

Business – We collaborate with business to improve the Falmouth marine environment by helping them decrease their negative impact – many have taken the plunge to ditch straws, plastic bags and single use coffee cups!

I could go on forever about the amazing work of FMC… I hope you enjoyed my whistle-stop tour of what we have been up to over the past two years! Please find us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with our exciting events and news – and stay tuned on the #ExeterMarine blog for more turtle-y awesome (and hopefully shorter!) blog posts by yours truly.

#ExeterMarine is a interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

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