Flatford Mill Marine Science Camp February 24th and 25th 2018
As the 'Beast from the East' was scratching at the door of the UK and temperatures were taking a nose dive, a group of Field Studies Council instructors and MBA scientists spent a weekend on the shore of the east coast in Suffolk, with young people braving the elements for an immersive crash course in marine biology. The two day experience was the first in program of camps being held around the country this coming year by the Field Studies Council who have teamed up with the MBA to run a series of Marine Science Camps (More Details Here) at centres around the UK.
Saturday started with the usual introductions and briefings, but we quickly loaded the minibus and headed for an estuary site at Holbrook. The group explored and surveyed the mudflats and saltmarsh, collecting sediment samples to meiofauna explorations in the laboratory later.
On returning to Flatford, we recharged with cake and tea and defrosted before starting to work through the sediment samples, extracting and exploring the meiofauna (microscopic animals living within the sediment). The samples contained a range of species including copepods, amphipods nematodes and small polychaete worms.
The 'mud session' was followed by a session learning about plankton and exploring a marine plankton sample to compare the morphology of closely related animals living in open water with those living in mud. Exploring a completely new microscopic world is always magical and the study went on into the evening.
Sunday began with a fish dissection in the classroom, using fish provided by the MBA. Species such as Whiting, gurnard and dragonettes were first illustrated and studied externally before dissecting and studying the digestive, nervous, circulatory and reproductive internal workings of the fish. Stomach contents, otoliths and inflating the swim bladder were highlights!
Following another briefing, and an introduction to rocky shore ecology and a brief talk about the CrabWatch Project . Again, we quickly loaded and embarked the minibus before heading to the rocky shore at Harwich were the group carried out a CrabWatch survey and 'mini BioBlitz' of the shore. As well as a range of seaweeds, crabs and marine gastropods, the group found a previously unrecorded population of the invasive brush-clawed crab (Hemigrapsus takanoi) and collected new records of some other non-native species not previously found in the area.
After the shore visit it was time for more tea and cake and a final session looking at how to upload species data to the NBN using i-Record and an informal discussion about. And of course the obligatory team photo!
If you are interested in getting involved in this year's Marine Science Camps. Take a look here for more information. It is probably worth mentioning that all participants receive a year of MBA membership as part of the price of registering too!