As we search for a new Education and Outreach Assistant this summer, we asked our 2017 volunteer, Amanda to talk about what she got up to last summer.
Outreach and education are important parts of Sea Watch Foundation’s aims. Events last summer ranged from bake sales to dolphin Olympics…
A happier kind of beached whale in the summer holidays in Wales.
Bake sales have featured at intervals throughout the summer, in part due to our volunteers’ and staffs’ love of baking and because, who doesn’t love cake?! In the interests of catering for all, our baked goods ranged from vegan gingerbread to diabetes friendly lemon cake and blue icing covered cupcakes to celebrate World Oceans Day. For those with less of a sweet tooth, we baked scones for national cream tea day on the 29th June with jam and clotted cream kindly donated by Tiptree and Rodda’s respectively.
The main focus of the summer holidays was Sea Watch Foundation’s National Whale and Dolphin Watch. A period of nine days from 29th July – 6th August, dedicated to encouraging as many people as possible to get involved with monitoring and conservation of cetaceans in UK waters. This involves conducting land watches and boat surveys to record any animals present. Although super important, there is more to National Whale and Dolphin Watch than data collection. This nine-day event is an excellent opportunity for public awareness. Every year events are organised for each day, these aim to be both educational and fun. This year we kicked off National Whale and Dolphin Watch with Dinner with a dolphin – not feeding the dolphins, but enjoying a picnic whilst conducting a landwatch; we found a beautiful spot along the coastal path from New Quay to conduct our ‘cliff’ watch.
Day two was unfortunately a rather rainy Scavenger Hunt – photographs of various marine animals were hidden around the beach, the participants were given clues as to where they might find a photo, when found they would bring this back to the leader who explained a little about the animal found.
By far the most successful event (possibly due to the lack of rain on this day) was our rockpool safari which entailed a talk on the organisms likely to be found on the rocky shore in Wales and examples of organisms found earlier in the day, this enthralled the adults as much as the children. Following this we ventured onto the shore so the participants could look for organisms themselves. Whilst not directly cetacean related, the intertidal environment is important for the health of the entire ocean and is a more easily accessible part of the ocean for anyone to explore.
Laura leading a rockpool safari for beach-goers in New Quay, West Wales.
Our next event was the most fun to put together. The Dolphin Olympics, a marine themed take on the Olympic games. The idea was for all the games to be educational, sticking close to the games dolphins play themselves, such as: jellyfish volleyball (although not with a real jellyfish!), a jelly and fin race, balancing a jellyfish on a fin and a fin-barrow race.
Sandcastle competitions are a chance for everyone to get involved without them having to move from their spot on the beach. Again, adults and children alike became very competitive and with so many incredible sculptures, judging was tough but Sea Watch’s Sightings Officer Kathy managed to narrow it down to the top three.
The final day of National Whale and Dolphin Watch was the day with the worst weather! ‘School of Fish’ aimed to raise awareness of the impacts of overfishing on fish stocks, especially the main prey species of whales, dolphins and porpoises as a reduction in prey abundance will impact their own abundance in Cardigan Bay and other areas known for being cetacean hotspots. Alongside this was a dolphin stranding practical session using our inflatable dolphin – Frank, to explain the basics of what to do if you ever find a stranded cetacean.
Emily helping to retrieve litter from the side of the beach.
On the surface, the beaches in New Quay look very clean, but take another look and you will notice the litter hidden between the rocks. Beach cleans are important for preventing plastics and other materials that are slow to biodegrade from entering the ocean. Beach cleans are a really simple way of raising awareness of the issue of litter and keeping our beaches clean at the same time, and what is better – they cost nothing to run after purchasing gloves and a litter pick and can be conducted anywhere at any time. We were very lucky that Wayne and Koda (his dog), who are walking the entire coast of the UK collecting litter as they go happened to be passing through New Quay at the start of our season so we teamed up with them for our first beach clean of 2017, an hour and 3 full bin liners later, Dolau beach was looking a bit tidier than before. Our following two beach cleans took part during National Whale and Dolphin Watch. The first, on Dolau beach again, this time in collaboration with Surfers Against Sewage representative Laura and the second alongside Quay West caravan park, this time on Llanina beach. Our final beach clean of the 2017 season took place at the end of the summer holidays as part of plastic free oceans day.
Amanda, our Education and Outreach Assistant for 2017.
Public awareness this year has not been limited to New Quay pier, to widen the range of people we can reach we have set up skype sessions with schools during which the children have the opportunity to ask questions about what Sea Watch Foundation does and generally about cetaceans. These are really good for children in schools that don’t have easy access to the marine environment as some of the children may never have seen a dolphin in real life or in the wild.
More recently we attended a session with a local sea scout group during which we used activities focussed on photo identification, identification of marine organisms and a quiz on whales and dolphins followed by a game to help explain how echolocation, used by many cetaceans to hunt and navigate, works.
If you’d like to be responsible for inspiring folks to care about cetaceans and other marine-life, then consider applying for the Education and Awareness role for this summer.