First and second year students studying the Marine Science Foundation Degree at Falmouth Marine School have spent the day on the Isles of Scilly surveying the marine benthic environment as part of a research project.
The trip was organised by the second year students to survey the marine mega fauna - whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals - from the deck of the ferry and to introduce first year students to surveying techniques and species recognition at sea and on land.
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, sea birds and a ‘super-pod’ of common dolphins, estimated at 150 to 200 individuals.
Student Richard Morley said: "The absolute highlight of the day was the clear sighting of a Minke whale. Minke whales grow to about ten metres in length, and weigh about ten tonnes; they are rarely seen because they do not spend much time on the surface.
On arrival to the Island, students were met by Clare Lewis, Environmental Awareness Coordinator for Isles of Scilly Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. After an informative talk, Clare arranged for the students to take part in a beach clean, which provided useful data for one group of second year students who are undertaking a comparative study on amount and types of litter found on the Scilly Isles and a site in Cornwall.
The students were then rewarded for all their hard work by Jaclyn Pearson from the Isles of Scilly Lifelong Learning Centre, who took them on a very informative bird spotting ramble encompassing three very different habitats.
On the return journey the students once again took up their surveying positions and were rewarded with sightings of rare birds such as the Pomarine Skua (Stercorarius pomarinus) and a Manx Shearwater (Puffinus puffinus).
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.”
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