Intrepid Explorers Ready for Action
Forty-five students studying the Marine Science Foundation Degree at Falmouth Marine School have spent a week on the Isles of Scilly surveying the marine benthic environment as part of a research project.
The trip, which involved both first and second year students on the course, was organised for the first years, by the second years and organising the research project actually formed part of an assignment.
The students’ efforts were supported by Course Manager Dr Claire Eatock, lab technician Luke Marsh and two PGCE student teachers called Phil Sylvester and Andy Wheeler.
The students made their way to Penzance and on to the Scillonian to the Scillies. The research began straightaway with students tasked to scour the seas and record anything they found, providing a fantastic opportunity to spot several groups of porpoises and many sea birds.
Across their six days on Bryher, the students conducted a range of benthic surveys including intertidal biodiversity comparisons and timed searches for climate change indicator species. The high point of the trip for many of the participants was the snorkelling. Led by lecturer Trudy Russell, snorkel trips enabled the students to sample the variety of spectacular underwater life off the coast of the island.
Students and staff were granted access to the local community centre where several evenings were spent collating and analysing the survey data. The intensive survey days were followed by a day trip to Tresco where, once a final rocky shore survey was conducted, the students spent several hours exploring.
Second year student, Emma Dobinson, said: “The trip provided the group with a valuable opportunity to gain an insight into the pitfalls of scientific research. It was a great success.”
The return journey home was once again filled with Cetacean watching which yielded several sightings of porpoise and sea birds. Matthew Wheeler, First Officer of the Scillonian, invited the students up to the bridge of the boat to demonstrate some of the key controls and systems. He also pointed out that the crossing on the Scillonian provides a great opportunity for Isles of Scilly Wildlife Trust surveyors to record marine mammal sightings.
Dave Linnell, Principal of Cornwall College of which Falmouth Marine School is part, commented: “Studying at Falmouth Marine School gives students a great deal more learning time in the ‘outdoor classroom’. It is visits such as these that greatly enhance their studies as well as giving them a real insight into the marine industry.”
All undergraduate courses are approved by the University of Plymouth.