Project Seagrass

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3 YEARS TODAY – What a difference a year makes!

Sitting down to write this I really don’t know quite where to begin! What a year it has been, in fact, what a 3 years! Although for me it seems that soooooo much has happened in just the last 12 months! Before I start, on a personal note, I remember our second anniversary so clearly, as if it was yesterday. Just one year ago today I was in Greece on a trip to map the coastal seagrass meadows around the island of Lipsi in the Dodecanese, using our (then new) DJI Phantom UAV (I remember because my girlfriend bought me a Spanakopita with a candle in it!). It was also the day we announced our successful application to be a charity in England and Wales. Now today, twelve months on, I find myself in Edinburgh having applied for (but as yet unable to announce) our charitable status in Scotland! We had much success communicating the importance of seagrass both through newspapers and television. Since 29th July last year we have spent time working in both Greece and Sri Lanka. That was last August. Work then continued in the Wakatobi National Park in Indonesia last September followed by our annual #AutumnSurvey in Wales last October. The next major date in the calendar was then the presentation of our work at the CERF conference in the Portland, USA in November. CERF2015 was a fantastic event, and a great platform to share our success stories #OceanOptimism With just a few week back in the office we were soon back to Indonesia once more, taking us from early December and into January and the new year. Director Dr Richard Unsworth led a workshop in Makassar in collaboration with Hasanuddin University. In 2016, after returning from overseas, the new year got off to a flying start with our #WinterSurvey in Wales in February and then our subsequent success in the ITV peoples project. Director Benjamin Jones running SEA (seagrass education and awareness) activities with children from Ysgol Morfa Nefyn Our ‘official launch’ at Cardiff University took place in March, and we were thrilled by the turnout and support we received. April was über busy, witnessing the welsh #SpringSurvey, our expansion into Scotland and research trips to both Cambodia and Myanmar. Our ‘official launch’ took place at Cardiff University in March. Thanks for ALL your support! In May we were in California for a fabulous week of Zostera Experimental Network collaborations, and the first of our summer outreach activities began with a weekend at The Deep in Hull, England. Director Dr Richard Unsworth was also present at a Zostera Experimental Network gathering in Davis, California. These were swiftly followed by outreach activities at Glasgow Science Festival, Scotland in June and Kate Humbles ‘Big Day Out’ in Monmouthshire, Wales in July. The last activity was our #SummerSurvey at which we hosted a work experience student for the first time. We conducted outreach activities and training with local stakeholders and government organisations such as Natural Resources Wales and the National Trust We were also proud to support the growth of young marine ecologists both at school and University via our Work Experience and Internship programmes. We have been humbled by the support the public has shown us over the last 3 years, so thanks to each and every one of you who are helping us champion our cause. Together we really are making a difference, and providing a global platform for dedicated seagrass science communication. I look forward to continuing this journey with #TeamSeagrass and we look forward to both the challenges and successes that our 4th year in operation will inevitably bring! Starting with the International Seagrass Biology Workshop this October! We look forward to welcoming the international seagrass community to Nant Gwytheryn in north Wales this October. Keep up the good work everyone and you’ll hear from us again soon. Until then, best fishes!

Project Seagrass goes to Cornwall

As masters students from both Swansea and Glasgow Universities, we’re both currently carrying out seagrass related research projects. Beth is performing her masters project, and Lauren is performing her final year honours project.  Beth is studying the impacts of chain moorings on seagrass, particularly looking at how chain width effects the size seagrass scars. Beth uses a drop down camera frame and GoPro that she drops to the sea floor around moorings while snorkelling. Seagrass mooring scars in St Mary’s Bay, Isles of Scilly Lauren is studying the fish communities associated with Seagrass and non-seagrass habitats. Lauren drops baited cameras called BRUVs and leaves these for an hour, when the video is watched back the numbers and species of fish seen in the video are noted. Mono BRUVs ready to be deployed at Durgan, Helford Some of our first BRUV drops in Seagrass a couple of weeks ago resulted in us spotting a Cuttlefish, an amazing and unanticipated sighting! Last week we managed to get out on the Tigerlily, Cornwall IFCA’s research vessel to deploy some of the BRUVs in less accessible sites and also deploy some larger camera equipment. This week we have been to the Isles of Scilly to study the moorings in St Mary’s bay. We have managed to find some fantastic seagrass beds in the Helford River and Trefusis channel, and some great examples of seagrass scars too. Mono BRUVs ready to be deployed at Durgan, Helford So far the weather hasn’t been all that fantastic, but our last few days have been especially sunny, particularly the weather today in the Isles of Scilly, we’ve very much enjoyed being in the water for our research.  This has been our first time in Cornwall and it has been fantastic, it’s just a shame we’ve been too busy to actually have a look around and be tourists for the day! We’ve both said though that we’d love to come back on holiday to this beautiful part of the country in the future.

Intern Spotlight: Laura Pratt

As a third year Biology Student from Cardiff University, I’ve been lucky to get involved with Project Seagrass, which has its offices within the University. I first started working with the team last summer when I took part in an 8 week CUROP placement (Cardiff University Research Opportunities Programme) at the Sustainable Places Research Institute. The project itself, focused on studying the role of seagrass meadows in fisheries productivity in the Philippines and mainly involved searching for research papers linked to the topic. Relevant information was then incorporated into a literature review which focused on the status, importance, threats and conservation efforts currently taking place within seagrass meadows of the Philippines. Any details on fish species found to inhabit to seagrass ecosystem specifically in the Philippines were also added to an extensive database, to track known species in the country. I then presented my findings in a poster presentation and had the opportunity to talk to other students at Cardiff University and members of the public about the importance of seagrass meadows in the Philippines. My poster, created as part of my CUROP placement  From this project, I have then gone on to study the status and distribution of another seagrass species, Zostera noltii, found closer to home, along the South Wales coastline. Z. noltii is one of the two seagrass species found in the UK and due to previous taxonomic confusion within the Zostera genus, there is a severe lack of understanding of the distribution of this species. Using historical records in the form of papers, reports and GIS layers I have been able to determine all the historical locations of Z. noltii found in Wales. This information along with details provided from Greg Brown’s (Project Seagrass Regional Ambassador) predictive mapping tool created for his MSc at Swansea University, has enabled me to generate a list of sites where Z. noltii has the potential to grow and survive. For my project, I have been visiting these specific sights and recording if Z. noltii is present or not, while also using out new Project Seagrass app, Seagrass Spotter ( If Z. noltii is present I am then using various methods of ground truthing and aerial work using our Project Seagrass UAV, to generate accurate maps of the seagrass meadows, in hope that mapping the Z.noltii distribution will help aid its conservation in Wales. Extremely dense patches of Z. noltii observed in the Pembroke Dock Aerial image of dense seagrass meadow in Pwllcrochan, Pembrokeshire, taking on DJIGlobal Phantom 3. Drone work at Angle Bay with James Duffy, a PhD student from Exeter University. Whilst working for Project Seagrass I have also been able to get involved with some of the charity work aside from my own project, including taking part in multiple Seagrass-Watch surveys, in Porthdinllaen, North Wales. My first trip to Porthdinllaen in November 2015 was an unforgettable experience, seeing a Zostera seagrass meadow for the first time and being able to take part in Project Seagrass’s first seed restoration trial! I have also had the opportunity to participate in some of Project Seagrass’ educational outreach programs in North Wales, assisting and helping children from a local primary school understand the importance of seagrass meadows and learn more about some of the animals that live in their nearby ocean. I have thoroughly enjoyed this aspect to my placement, getting involved in other events such as Project Seagrass’ Mission Sea campaign for the People’s Project competition back in February and Project Seagrass’ official launch at Cardiff University, to help promote the charity amongst members of the general public. Furthermore, my placement year with Project Seagrass has given me the opportunity to get involved with some of the social media branding and simply helping to spread the Project Seagrass word. From writing blogs for organisations such as the Ian Somerhalder foundation to getting local volunteers and students from Cardiff university involved in seagrass sampling for my own research project. The Project Seagrass team is continuing to grow and I have loved teaching others about the great things Project Seagrass is doing to help protect this vulnerable marine ecosystem. I look forward to the rest of my placement here at Project Seagrass and hope to be just as involved next year when I return back to Cardiff University for my final year of my undergraduate degree.