Introducing... Alys Perry!


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."




Happy New Year 2018!

A very happy new year to all our CoCoasters!

Apparently, the top new year's resolution in the UK is to "slim down" so our CoCoast surveys have done just that...

Introducing CoCoast LITE:

Do you struggle to find time to do a CoCoast survey? Can’t face the prospect of 10 whole quadrats? Or maybe you’re a weary super surveyor in a quadrat quandary? We have a solution for you!

CoCoast Lite is a way of contributing to the CoCoast general transect survey, without needing to complete 10 quadrats per transect.

We understand 10 quadrats is a lot, and can be overwhelming. However any data you submit can be used by our scientists, to increase our understanding of how marine life varies across the UK and how things are changing. So why not try a few and see how you get on?

For super surveyors that are completing 10 quadrats regularly, this may give you the opportunity to fit in a few more surveys and sky rocket your survey stats!

Complete 1-3 quadrats (or more if you like) using your chosen species pack and submit your data to be in for the chance to WIN exciting survey rewards including tickets to our CoCoast awards night!

If you have any queries or concerns about uploading your data, please contact and we will help you through the process.

There are plenty of upcoming opportunities for you to join us on the shore, just take a look at our hub calendar and get in touch at:

If you can’t wait to get surveying or these dates / locations aren't suitable, just head down to your local shore and give it a go!


Beach Babies

 Winter is still upon us, but it won't be long before signs of Spring start greeting our shores. As early as February, species start preparing for the reproductive season and start laying eggs. Our Beach Babies campaign is all about searching for and recording eggs of many species and other signs of reproduction in simple short surveys. As if we needed an excuse to get out on the shore and have a good hunt around! 

If you'd like to know more about Beach Babies, please get in touch.

As for all our field events, if you plan to join us, please wear appropriate clothing - it does get cold at this time of year so plenty of layers, waterproofs and wellies or walking boots are definitely recommended. Where there is a suitable establishment nearby, you are welcome to join me for a hot beverage, following the field session to warm the cockles (ideally not the shelled variety...)

We look forward to seeing you on the shore soon and getting our 2018 surveys off to a raring start!


Turf War: Seaweeds vs Limpets in North Wales

We had a fantastic time conducting our Seaweed vs Limpets surveys on 10 North Wales shores in Autumn and after a busy few months, we are now really pleased to present you an update on the ‘turf war’ between these two species since we began surveying in Spring 2016.

Why we survey…

Limpets graze on young seaweed and consequently determine the amount of seaweed on a shore. However in some years there are more limpets and so we would expect to see less seaweed and vice versa. This study aims to understand the balance between these two species across UK shores and across time.

So far so good…

Check out the following infographics which give a cool snapshot of our findings so far!

Missed out?...

Fear not, Seaweeds vs. Limpets will be running again between February and March 2018. If you would like to get involved send us an email on and let us know which of the following sites you could help us survey: Cemlyn Bay, Porth Cwyfan, Porth Dinllean, Porth Nobla, Porth Swtan, Porth Trwyn, Porth Ysgaden, Trearddur Bay or Trefadog, you will receive one of our highly sought after 'Like it or Limpet' reusable shopping bags or beanie.

Doing your homework…

More information about this survey (including a video tutorial) as well as the protocol and a brown algae ID guide can be found on the following page:

New Year Recording Resolution - Data Drop-in Day

We need your data!


Have you been out with CoCoast on a Survey Day since we started collecting data for the project in January 2016?     

Forgotten to upload the data online?     

Forgotten how to upload it?   

No problem!

We all know that fieldwork is the most enjoyable part of the Capturing our Coast data collection where you to get to don your wellies, paddle through the rock pools and have loads of fun in the sun (or take soggy selfies when it's a tad drizzly)!
But without all that crucial data being uploaded to our website, we would have nothing to analyse and nothing to feed back to the National Biodiversity Network at the end of the project... therefore we really need your help!


Here at #CoCoastSW we are hosting a Data Drop-in Session where you can bring in all your old (or new!) recording sheets and we will show you how to upload the data to our website... or you can even leave it with us and we'll be happy to upload it for you!


Data Drop-in Day - MBA, Plymouth (#CoCoastSW)

Wednesday 7th February, 15:00 - 20:00

(Don't forget to bring any images taken during your surveys on a USB stick/CD/DVD or email them to us in advance:


Alternatively if you would like to give it a go yourself at home, here are a few easy steps to getting your data and images uploaded to our website:

(Don't forget to login first)

If you can't make it to our drop-in session with the #CoCoastSW team in Plymouth (contact your local CoCoast hub for drop-in sessions near you), then please feel free to email images of your data sheets to Hannah and Leoni and tell us what issues you are having:

Thanks again for your continued efforts to help us collect data... we need as much as you can collect!

#CoCoastSW Christmas BioBlitz Events!


In December 2017, CoCoast southwest ran 3 Christmas BioBlitz events in Devon and Cornwall to explore the marine life living in different sites that have been infrequently studied during the project.

The main aim of these events was to gather a snapshot of the species living in each of these rocky shores, collect data to add to our final datasets and finally… to explore and have fun!



Mount Edgcumbe is a stunning location, home to the National Trust's beautiful Mount Edgcumbe House and Gardens that sits on the Cornish coastline fringing Plymouth Sound.

We were eager to survey this site to explore what the rocky shore here might be hiding... and we were not disappointed!

Volunteers found a vast number of invasive Pacific Oysters, a single Wakame frond and various other interesting critters including emerald worms, crabs galore and even an eel sat in a rock pool! A fantastic day with a great number of surveys conducted to add to the CoCoast dataset and finished off with a hot drink in the Mount Edgcumbe Arms when it all got a bit chilly in the brisk wintery winds!




Firestone Bay is a stone's throw away from Mount Edgcumbe, sat on the opposite side of the Tamar estuary and on the western tip of Plymouth Hoe.

This was an interesting site as it was almost entirely different to the previous day, with far more silt covering the low shore and a great number of overhangs and boulders just waiting to be explored!

Great fun was had by all who attended this BioBlitz day, with many interesting finds such as sea squirts, bryozoan mats, the invasive Asian Shore Crab, cushion stars and there were gorgeously coloured painted topshells absolutely everywhere!




We couldn't have chosen a wilder day to visit the North coast of Cornwall in gusts of 20-35 mph!

We were however spoilt by local rocky shore expert David who very quickly found a Stalked Jellyfish (Haliclystus octoradiatus) that just so happened to be my very first ever seen!

This shore was very unusual, as the high shore extended right out to the edge of the bay, with many rockpools hiding lots of strawberry anemones and jellyfish. We also completed field training for many of our new volunteers, and worked on barnacle identification skills... a fantastic day!




This has just been completed (January 2018) and emailed out to volunteers. If you are interested to read a copy of the report, please email:


Thanks again to everyone that joined us for these BioBlitz events... they were hugely successful and we're grateful to everyone who collected data and has already uploaded it!

CoCoast Christmas Celebrations!


Christmas is a great time to celebrate the end of a successful year and here in the southwest... we certainly made the most of it!

We celebrated 2017 by asking a variety of our volunteers, both long-term and newly registered, to present their experiences as CoCoast volunteers... and we were certainly in for a treat!

To kick off the evening, CoCoast intern Bethan Follis (on her placement year from Plymouth University) discussed the variety of field and lab projects she has assisted with; from learning how to conduct quadrat surveys, measuring Sargassum Muticum (Japanese Wireweed) and kelp species in the field, dissecting topshells to examine their reproductive status in a special investigation, to identifying invertebrates that have been using invasive wireweed as a habitat/grazing opportunity.


We were then treated to a talk by recent addition to the CoCoast volunteer team, Dr Colin Munn, who retired this year from Plymouth University where he conducted research and taught as an Associate Professor (Senior Lecturer) in MicroBiology. Colin was only recently trained with CoCoast to conduct quadrat surveying in the field, which he admitted has been an amusing talking point for his recent colleagues, since he repeatedly avoided taking part in rocky shore work during his career! Thankfully, he seems to be thoroughly enjoying his experiences so far and even dedicated much time to helping us with our recent #Spermwatch campaign!


Up third was long-term volunteer Michael Puleston, who gave us a hugely insightful talk on one of his favourite surveying sites; Sprey Point near Teignmouth. Mike is quite smitten with the little treasures that you find amongst rock pools and under overhangs on the rocky shore, especially his barnacles! We were very impressed to see some beautiful location photography that undoubtedly has enticed us to pay a visit to this remarkable site with both natural and artificial habitats to explore.


Finally, we were treated a presentation by 2nd year Plymouth University Marine Biology & Coastal Ecology student Alys Perry, who has been a volunteer with CoCoast for nearly a year and a half. Alys has mainly been involved with our special investigative projects, including much of the Sargassum muticum studies in the field both in the southwest and on a field trip to North Wales, also becoming more heavily involved in lab work in recent weeks.

We were and still are incredibly thankful to all the volunteers to gave up their time to put together their outstanding presentations for the benefit of other volunteers - it was fantastic to demonstrate the variety of ways that volunteers can and do get involved with the CoCoast project!

Last but not least, Hannah Wilson, the newest member of the CoCoast team having joined in October, gave an update to all volunteers (in a gingerbread man onesie I hasten to add) on the progress of the CoCoast project so far. It was fantastic to see how many volunteers around the UK have been contributing to the final quadrat survey dataset, with some species packages more popular than others... especially in some areas of the country!

After all the presentations, we were delighted to present our volunteer speakers with little Christmas gifts for their contributions, and also announced our photography competition winners... congratulations again to Barry Pettifor, Michael Puleston and Luka Wright!


CoCoast volunteer and MRes Marine Biology student Jennifer has a Plymouth University blog and will soon have a written summary about the evening here:


The Plastic Tide

A guest blog from: The Plastic Tide

The plastic tide is swamping our ocean; the 8 million tonnes of plastics pouring into our oceans a year today are set to reach 80 million by 2025[1]. 

Yet, once plastic enter of our ocean the fate of 99% of it is unknown[2], although scientists believe coastlines are a major sink. understanding how much and what type of plastics accumulate where is vital to understanding the impacts[2].  Indeed, due to the difficulties of generating scientific data on the level of contamination, it is believed we’re underestimating coastal litter by as much as 10 times[3]

The Plastic Tide harnesses the power of cutting edge machine learning algorithms and drone technology in an innovative and revolutionary way; surveying beaches to autonomously detect, measure and monitor the accumulation of plastic pollution.

But we need YOU! Our machine learning algorithm, or computer program, learns from our citizen science volunteers! By tagging the plastic litter in our drone survey images, volunteers teach the computer program to detect and identify plastic litter on its own. Another part of the program then goes on to calculate an estimate of the volume and therefore the weight of plastic litter on the beach!

This technology could revolutionise our understanding of the plastic menace in our oceans and coastlines, by revealing how much of the missing 99% of plastics are in our coastal waters and potentially what type. This would not only allow for more positive evidence led action against the causes the of plastic pollution, it would also allow us to more effectively keep our coastlines clean. Perhaps even eventually allowing us to predict where and how much plastic will wash up on our coastlines.

However much time you have spare is all that is needed, simply log into our webpage and click the "Tag Plastics Now" link, have a look at the tutorials and get tagging! We'd encourage you to post messages on the message boards about what you find, there is a great community of support and also share what you find on social media!  

All the data gathered, the computer program and the method for surveying beaches will be made publically available, when complete, allowing anyone, anywhere to monitor beach litter in the same way.  The results will be uploaded to an online global portal and map showing where and when the litter is accumulating and making it freely available to download.

Introducing Hugh Tooby

Exploring the rocky shores of Scotland

“Hugh is a great example of our fantastic Capturing our Coast volunteers. Hugh is one of these people who is fascinated by so many different things, and loves actively getting out and discovering more about the world. Hugh’s insatiable thirst for knowledge, dedication to citizen science and sense of adventure has been a brilliant addition to the Capturing our Coast Scotland team, and we look forward to having him as a key part of the team next year!” Hannah Grist, Capturing our Coast Scotland.

I'm 55 years old and used to be a GP. I left the NHS in 2013 to give myself time to pursue a different career path. I'm a great believer in the health - and other - benefits of active engagement with the natural world and wanted to do something to support this. Over the last few years this has taken various forms including supporting friends and family to get involved in outdoor activities such as hill walking, canoeing and cycling. I've also volunteered with conservation charities such as the John Muir Trust and Scottish Wild Land Group supporting them in their campaigning work. However, my main focus - and great passion - over the last year or so has been citizen science wildlife surveys. This started with the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative in central Scotland where I live but has steadily expanded since. As a lover of the sea and mountains I'm drawn to doing surveys in these places and I can use a lifetime of skills acquired in wild camping / backpacking / canoeing / mountain biking skills to support this - which will hopefully help to fill in some of the blanks on the data map.

So, when I became aware of Capturing our Coast (via my membership of the Marine Conservation Society) in early 2016 it seemed like an obvious fit. March 2016 saw me travelling to SAMS near Oban for my initial training day. We were lucky to have good weather for this and, much to my surprise, I found myself volunteering for the barnacle package at the end of the day ("there's always one" Hannah our trainer informed me). To be honest, this wasn't due to any great prior interest in these amazing little creatures - it was the compactness of the kit required (a 3cm square quadrat rather than its 1m square big brother which is required for all the other packages). Such minimalism fitted better with my plan to go to more out of the way places once I'd honed my skills. I was back at SAMS in May for a brilliant field support day getting more detailed barnacle training from Prof Mike Burrows and then it was time to get going. Since then I've completed seven surveys and have another four pending upload of the data when some rainy days stop me getting out and about. I've visited sites on the west coast from Clach Toll in the north to Carsaig Bay in the south and on the east coast from Kingsbarns to Coldingham - it's already been fascinating to see the differences between the west and east coast barnacle scene. Volunteering with Capturing our Coast has given me the opportunity to have some amazing days out visiting stunning locations whilst contributing data to support ongoing ecological research and learning new things about our coastal environments. I very much like the fact that Capturing our Coast is also aiming to get some evidence base around how best to utilise citizen science - and this is leading me to develop an interest in its potential health benefits; which brings me neatly back to where I started in medicine all those years ago.

#Spermwatch Success in the Southwest!

We are delighted to say that our special seasonal investigation to further scientific knowledge on lugworm spawning around the UK has been amazing so far!

2016 was a disappointing year for the southwest team as we discovered no lugworm sperm puddles on our beaches, yet this year we have already discovered a mass spawning event in Torbay!


The #Spermwatch surveys started in October, running through to the beginning of December. Volunteers are asked to walk 3 transects of 50 m (150 m total), counting lugworm casts and sperm puddles as they go... if they find any that is! Surveys are to be conducted every 3 days if possible, as lugworm spawning is thought to last up to a maximum of 3 days per annum... so we definitely wouldn't want to miss it!

To read more about this project and to get involved, visit: or email us at:

Our sites in the southwest this year have been at Wembury, Bovisand and Broadsands (Torbay) beaches in Devon, with one dedicated volunteer working on his local beach in Cornwall too.

Our survey season in the southwest started off a little bumpy, as we had some rubbish neap tides that made it impossible to reach the transects on the shore. We then felt the wrath of storm Brian, which not only made it a bit risky for volunteers to be heading out to the beach with the high swell, but also threw up tons of vegetation at sites such as Wembury!

Surprisingly for us though, volunteer Brian remarkably discovered many lugworm sperm puddles at a beach in Torbay on Friday 3rd November, which we think was a mass spawning event as no puddles have been found in the area since. Torbay is a very sheltered coastline on the eastern edge of Devon, therefore we think the protection offered by its location from our recent storms means that Torbay has seen optimum conditions for spawning this season... and we're hoping that our other sites follow suit!

Thanks to Mike, Tony, Brian, Gary and Colin for their dedication in surveying both our Devon and Cornish sites - these fabulous volunteers have been heading out routinely to check our selected sites and are even prepared to take puddle samples should the opportunity present itself!


John Spicer Talk - November Wine & Science 2017

Earlier this week, we were privileged to welcome Professor John Spicer to the MBA to talk about his experience in Antarctica over the summer.

John had obviously conducted many lectures and seminars around the world, however he did manage to let slip beforehand that the MBA Common Room was the one place he has always wanted to visit and present in since he was a child... so we knew we were definitely in for a treat!

John began his lecture discussing his arrival into Antarctica, how the beauty of the landscape completely overwhelmed him and created an unforgettable impression.

We were treated to some extraordinary photographs of the landscape, research station, people and wildlife, with a number of heartwarming and awe-inspiring stories. Most incredibly was John's thorough descriptions of a Biologist's lifestyle on this incredible continent, where safety is a priority with the ever-changing weather; winds can easily change the flow of icebergs directly past the research station with drastic damage possible to the waterside infrastructure, whilst sightings of leopard seals are met with immediate retreat from the waters edge due to their lethal reputations.

John spent up to 85% of his 3 month trip within the lab of the research station assessing the energy efficiency of various sizes of amphipod species (sand hoppers in particular) in response to oxygen levels in the nutrient-rich waters of the Southern Ocean.

Not only was John's discussion engaging and beautifully captured in photographic form, his enthusiasm and passion for the protection of this remarkable place was unmistakeable.

If you would like to watch John's talk at the MBA for our volunteers, you can do so by clicking through to the CoCoast YouTube channel:

Alternatively, John will next be presenting again at the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth on Wednesday 6th December, discussing his experience in Antarctica as well as the historical influence of Plymouth scientists to further marine scientific knowledge of the continent and its waters over the past 100 years: