The Devon County Show is a large event with an estimated 100,000 visitors between the 16th and the 18th of May. The event boasted an Ocean Discovery Zone, organised by Sea Dream Education CIC with stands, activities and artworks by a range of marine organisations including the MBA (Marine Biological Association).
Our work focussed on the weird and wonderful plankton in our ocean. After seeing the inner workings of a CPR (Continuous Plankton Recorder), children and adults were tasked with drawing what they believe we catch using our CPRs (pictured). The imagination of those who took part produced plankton that were astoundingly similar to those that are found in Plymouth Sound.
We also had live plankton from Plymouth Sound under microscopes, where there was lots of interesting plankton to see. One particular highlight was a spinning epitoke, the reproductive organ of a polychaete worm, which looked like a Catherine wheel as it whizzed round!
Our plankton challenge tasked visitors to make their own plankton, which had to sink as slowly as possible to the bottom of a tank of water. An incredibly important feature for plankton is to change or maintain its position in the water column to avoid predators. This also ensures they get enough sunlight and food.
Plankton is a term to describe marine species that drift with ocean currents: A common misconception people have is that all plankton are small. In fact, some of the longest and largest species in the ocean like the lion’s mane jellyfish, which can reach over 30 metres long are actually plankton.
This event was incredibly successful, with an estimated 12,000 people visiting the Ocean Discovery Zone over the course of the event. It was really heart-warming to see the interest from all age groups in the marine life living off the coasts of Devon and the feedback was inspiring, with so many budding marine biologists asking how to pursue a career in marine biology and even one person who asked how to dress like a marine biologist!
by Nicholas Helm