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!

Assessing and mitigating the future risks of harmful algal blooms (HABs) to wild fisheries and aquaculture

Rope grown mussels (Mytilus edulis) in St Austell Bay

Author – Dr Ross Brown, Senior Research Fellow

HABs can result in the production of harmful algal biotoxins and oxygen depletion, therefore presenting a significant risk to shellfish and finfish health. According to the UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP), HAB occurrences are anticipated to increase with climate change and the influx of warmer water planktonic algae, including more toxic species, to UK coastal waters, MCCIP Report Card 2013. The impacts of these HABs are likely to include prolonged closures of shellfish farms and increased mortality of juvenile fish on nursery grounds, and these are major future concerns for UK inshore wild fisheries and seafood farming (aquaculture).

‘Real-time’ monitoring via in situ sampling and ‘remote’ satellite sensing can readily detect high biomass and surface forming algal blooms, but these strategies provide limited forewarning and are not appropriate for detecting the onset of low biomass blooms (e.g. Dinophysis sp.) or blooms that initiate below the sea surface (e.g. Karenia mikimotoi).  Another option is to use environmental data to predict where, when and how often such blooms are likely to occur. This information could then be used to inform mitigation strategies; allowing businesses to better plan the timing of shellfish harvesting, when and where not to feed finfish stock and furthermore, guide in the placement of new farms (i.e. locating new farms in areas that have a low risk of HABs forming).

Recent research undertaken in St Austell Bay by Drs Jamie Shutler and Wiebke Schmidt, at the University of Exeter, and Dr Peter Miller and colleagues from Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), has shown that the formation of HABs and the concentration of biotoxins in shellfish is associated with changes in environmental conditions, including sea surface temperature, solar radiation, rainfall and wind speed. Incorporating these factors in a site-specific predictive model enables one-week forecasts of biotoxin accumulation within the farmed shellfish.  This work was been carried out as part of the UK Biotechnology and Biological Science Research Council (BBRSC) and UK National Environmental Research Council (NERC) funded ‘ShellEye’ project.

Research studies such as AMHABs and ShellEye are key to informing and underpinning the sustainable development and management of marine ecosystem services, including capture fisheries and aquaculture (mariculture) …….,”  – Dr Grant Stentiford, Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and Co-Director of Sustainable Aquaculture Futures (Cefas and University of Exeter partnership).

 

Researchers including Drs Ross Brown, Chris Lowe, Jamie Shutler and Prof Charles Tyler at the University of Exeter are currently working with PML colleagues to extend the modelling approach to identify what causes the formation of HABs, and importantly where they are likely to form, around entire coast of the UK South West Peninsula. This project ‘Assessing and Mitigating risks of Harmful Algal Blooms (AMHABs)’, has been funded by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF).

 

 

The findings of these research projects will help to inform decisions regarding Marine Spatial Planning in UK coastal waters and aid the development of strategies concerning adaptation to changing climatic and environmental conditions.

#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!

Exeter MSc Students Sharing Marine Science Widely

Prof Brendan Godley  teaches a MSc module on Marine Biodiversity and Conservation at the Centre for Ecology and Conservation on the University’s Penryn Campus. The students learn about a wide diversity of topics and undertake independent study on two major topics within their specific interests. These are assessed by a dissertation and an oral presentation to their peers, respectively. This year, the tutor challenged his students to go a stage further and produce an infographic to communicate the message of their oral presentation to a wide audience that could then be shared on Twitter or other social media platforms. Brendan wrote;

Communicating science, especially conservation science, to a wide audience is a key skill we all need to work on. This was my initial reasoning for setting the task. I think. however, that the exercise really challenged the students to distil and clarify their key take-home messages in advance of giving their talks. They achieved both of these aims with some aplomb and were widely complimented on their work.”

 

The module sees a range of invited marine conservation practitioners sharing their sectoral experience with the students. Katrina Ryan of Mindfully Wired a consultancy which specialises in science communication was one of the invited experts this year and gave the students feedback on their infographics as part of her session. Katrina added;

“It’s wonderful to see vital communication skills being fostered as part of these students’ wider conservation science learning. Condensing such complex subject matters into compelling graphics is a real challenge, but the students did a superb job and, as a result, many had significant impact on social media”

Tweet from Hetty Upton

Click her to see a storify of the tweets, starting with the single most impactful by Hetty Upton.

 

#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!