Pembrokeshire, puddles, and plankton!

Field courses are key part of our bioscience courses, the perfect opportunity to see for yourself and practise hands-on skills in biology. Here, Lucy Kitchen and Bobbie Hemmings write about our new NS5218 Marine Biology field course. (Check out #UoGmarine on Twitter for more…)

If you can withstand soggy sandwiches, gale force winds and water-filled wellies, then you’re officially cut out to be a marine biologist! Can you honestly say that you’ve experienced singing ‘I will survive’ by Gloria Gayner, on a 5-mile hike, in hurricane conditions?! Because that is what welcomed our level 5 marine biology class to Dale Fort FSC!

A porpoise sighting on our first day after dinner kicked off our trip to an exciting start (this pleased the animal biologists within Lucy and I), quickly dampened by the first mention of dissertations, drawing our attention away from cute animals. However, guest speaker, Mark’s lecture about marine conservation zones inspired and reminded us as to why we chose this intriguing module. After a few glasses of Seaweed Gin, a game of charades and a (sort of) early night, we were as ready as Bear Grylls to face what Pembrokeshire had in store for us.

With microplastics being such a prominent subject in the media in recent years, it made sense to focus on this as one of our themes for the trip. Expecting a couple of showers on our excursion to collect sediment samples, we were suited and booted appropriately, however, Regatta waterproofs aren’t designed to be practically underwater for 5 miles. It was only our clothes that were dampened as the sightings of Red-billed Choughs and seal pups kept our spirits high! Once at Marloes Beach, each group collected numerous sand samples along transects (PLEASE PICK UP YOUR LITTER!), before trekking back and analysing in the lab. It’s safe to say that a warm meal and more gin went down well that evening.

The next morning saw us focusing on rocky shore ecology and determining species diversity along a 10m transect at 0.5m intervals at a sheltered and an exposed shore (basically climbing up jagged rock faces to go rock-pooling). Learning new languages was not intended on this trip, however, the approach of a curious Grey seal (Gerald) forced the need to communicate in loud high-pitched ‘woos’. This was definitely a highlight of the trip and a new skill to add to the CV.

That afternoon consisted of an exciting RIB boat ride [check out this amazing video] out to a tranquil cove to collect plankton samples with plankton expert, Steve. Leaving for our trip out to sea, we didn’t expect the drama that was about to unfold in the form of the engine cutting out and the immediate mention of local shark species (‘we’re gonna need a bigger boat’ – Jaws, 1975, definitely crossed our minds). However, once we got going the ride was definitely one to remember!

It should be mentioned that during this trip, Bobbie and I did not expect to have the honour of naming a new species (Bobbius lucius) found when analysing the plankton, the next day. An unidentified creature (probably just a broken fishing line) was presented among other interesting plankton species and is still unidentified to this day. The importance of plankton and his role in Bikini Bottom was made very clear.
This trip included many laughs and good memories, whilst learning many new skills from species identification to sample collection.

We recommend any future students considering Marine biology as a future module or career, to get on board with this trip! We definitely wish we could go again (in better weather next time)!

Bobbie & Lucy, 2nd year Animal Biology

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