Alys has been a volunteer with #CoCoastSW since October 2016, shortly after starting her undergraduate degree at Plymouth University. Even though she was both new to the area and new to marine science, Alys jumped straight in to help us with all our field projects whatever the weather and has since proved herself a hugely valuable citizen scientist for us here at the MBA.
Here is Alys's story of her #CoCoastSW journey in her own words:
"I’m 19 years old and I am in my 2nd year studying marine biology and coastal ecology, at Plymouth University. Marine life and the outdoors have always been a big interest of mine from a young age. This is mainly because I grew up in a small fishing town called Solva in Pembrokeshire, Wales. So, the sea, boats and rock pools were pretty much rooted into my childhood. When it came to decide what to do after school it was a no brainer that I wanted to study marine biology, and Plymouth University ticked all the right boxes for me.
During my first year at university I came across Capturing our Coast South West, based at the Marine Biological Association on Plymouth Hoe. I signed up to do a training day at the MBA where I met Leoni and Kathryn who kindly invited me to join them to do Sargassum muticium surveys at Wembury. Sargassum muticum are an invasive species of seaweed which has come to Britain from Japan. The aim of the surveys, was to measure the abundance of the seaweed within the rock pools and take samples to assess what effect this species may be having on other native species on the rocky shore. Taking part in these surveys was what really got me interested in the project, and ever since I have been very involved with Cocoast. I was lucky enough to be invited by the Cocoast team to do Sargassum surveys with them in North Wales. This was an awesome experience as it really improved my ID skills of rocky shore organisms, and meant I got to go back to Wales for a few days."
"Now that I have started my second year in university, I have been participating in more lab-based work with capturing our coast, which I have really benefit from. There are two different lab projects which I am currently involved with. These are the Sargassum ID project and the top shell study. The Sargassum ID project entails measuring the holdfast, circumference, and length of the Sargassum. Weighing each individual plant and separating all the fauna and flora that is growing or attached to the Sargassum. This is quite tricky work but very enjoyable. It is so interesting to see all the tiny fauna species that are attached to the Sargassum, that I had never noticed before when surveying them. I haven’t yet started on the identification of flora and fauna, but I am very much looking forward to it.
The top shell study is also very interesting. It involves crushing the shells to remove the operculum and take slices out of their gonads. These parts are then placed under the microscope to be measured and photographed. After this is done you have to sex the top shell to determine if it is male or female and record all the data. It is very detailed work but very fascinating. I never thought that when I joined Cocoast I would be looking at top shells’ reproductive parts in such detail, but I guess that is science for you!
Over Christmas I was back at home in Pembrokeshire so unfortunately, I couldn’t be involved with my usual top shell crushing and Sargassum identification work, but I kept myself busy by doing some Marine Invaders and Wading birds surveys.
Volunteering with Capturing our Coast has given me so many amazing opportunities to study current science and get out in the field to some beautiful locations. I have met some lovely and enthusiastic scientists, that have really motivated me to work hard to achieve my future goals within marine biology. Cocoast has been great because it has enabled me to gain essential skills needed for a career in science. Lastly it has meant that I can contribute and support ecological research in my own area and be part of a UK wide project."