Spermwatch 2017

The secret life of lugworms – citizens scientists are needed to help shed light on the sex life of this sediment-dwelling worm

Love is in the air again this year along our coastlines and University of Portsmouth needs your help to keep an eye out for signs of passion in the lugworm population.

The lugworm, Arenicola marina, is a vital source of food for wader birds and fish as well as playing a key role in fisheries as a source of bait.

Volunteers are being asking to keep an eye out for any signs of love within the lugworm population on sandy shores around the UK.

This species spends its life in a burrow in the sediment so opportunities to meet a mate are limited. Instead, the males release sperm which collects in “puddles” on the surface of the beach. When the tide comes in, the sperm is washed down into the burrows of the females and fertilises her eggs.

Not a lot is known about the process - all that we do know is that specific environmental conditions are needed to trigger the release of the sperm and the egg at the same time. So scientists are calling on members of the public to join them as “citizen scientists” to help fill in the knowledge gaps.

The “Spermwatch” project is part of a wider conservation project called Capturing Our Coast funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. It is a partnership led by Newcastle University including Portsmouth, Bangor & Hull Universities, Marine Conservation Society, Marine Biological Association, Scottish Association of Marine Sciences and Earthwatch Europe.

Zoe Morrall, Capturing Our Coast Project Officer at the University of Portsmouth’s , Institute of Marine Sciences, said “Not a lot is known about lugworm reproduction and it is fascinating how the entire population of a species spawn, just for a few days every year, only when the environmental conditions are perfect.”

“By continuing last year’s study, and adding temperature data loggers to some sites it means we can better understand which conditions are important for a spawning event. We will also be able to understand how climate change may affect these events. By going out for a walk on any sandy beach across the UK, members of the public can get involved and help us answer these questions.”

The study starts on the 22nd October and runs until 1st December 2017 and people are asked to collect data every three days from one of 12 different sites around the UK. It should take around 45 minutes and it is an ideal way to take part in ‘hands-on’ science whilst just walking along a beach – all you have to do is download an instruction book and get recording. 


Get in touch with your local hub to find out more information and to get involved!

Seaweeds vs Limpets Survey at Kimmeridge

We’ve been keeping busy in the last few weeks with training days, beach cleans, film screenings, and of course collecting data for some of our specific investigations! Seaweeds vs Limpets was one of the projects we focussed on this month. Limpets, as grazers, can massively affect the amount of algal cover and the ratios of the two can vary greatly between years. CoCoast South East is focussing on Bembridge, Portland, and Kimmeridge for this campaign.

We set out bright and early for Kimmeridge last Saturday, prepared for all eventualities with wellies, waterproofs, and sunscreen. Thankfully, traffic wasn’t bad and we got to Kimmeridge in plenty of time to enjoy the blazing sunshine with an ice cream on top of the cliffs overlooking Kimmeridge Bay. Once the Solero and Mint Feast were devoured, it was time to get to work and start surveying!

We set off down to the mid shore with our quadrat, clipboard, and ruler – we didn’t need much equipment for seaweeds vs limpets, mostly just enthusiasm and willingness to get down on our hands and knees and measure some limpets! The survey is very easy, involving simply estimating the percentage cover of canopy algae, turf algae, and barnacles, and counting and measuring any limpets found within the quadrat.

In our 15 quadrats, we found just 13 limpets varying in size from 7mm to 43mm (lots more fell just outside our quadrat – but we made sure to avoid bias!). Whilst rooting through the seaweed canopy for limpets, we came across lots of other species including periwinkles, crabs, and topshells – including a monster thick topshell (Phorcus lineatus) 2.5cm in diameter!

We’ve passed on our data to the seaweeds vs limpets lead hub (Bangor) to do some number crunching. Hopefully we’ll see some of you at our next field support day!

A crabby Coastal Curiosity: meet the Porcelain crabs

Coastal Curiosity gets crabby with Porcelain crabs

These crabby-creatures are commonly found hidden on rocky shores, but can be found throughout the world's oceans, from the Arctic, through the tropics all the way to the Antarctic! Believe it or not, Porcelain crabs are not 'true crabs' and you can tell them apart by the number of walking legs (three instead of four pairs) and long antennae. 

The UK is home to two species of Porcelain crabs - the broad-clawed and the long-clawed. Have you seen any on your local beaches recently?

Coastal Curiosity takes on Chitons!

Coastal Curiosity's Camouflage Champion : Chitons

Hidden across most UK shore lines you will be able to find cleverly camouflaged chitons - these rock-dwelling molluscs are sometimes called 'coat-of-mail shells’ due to their armour like shells. These shells act like a coat of armour to protect the chiton from predation and wave action on the low intertidal. 

If you turn a chiton up-side-down, you will see a big muscular foot which they use to stick to the rock like a limpet! They also have a structure called a radula which has many rows of teeth that scrape off prey items such as algae and other small organisms from rocks. 

Keep your eyes peeled for these champion camouflagers on your next survey!


CoCoast MCS Autumn Events

I hope you've all enjoyed a fantastic summer. We've been busy planning our Autumn events, which is resulting in a busy, fun-packed calendar of activities! Check out the MCS Hub Calendar for our new events including:

  • Marine Invaders campaign - An exciting new campaign looking for non-native species on our shores. Events running between 8th - 11th September and onwards
  • Great British Beach Clean - As always, the third weekend in September (15th - 18th) is MCS's Great British Beach Clean which is set to be bigger and better than ever this year with a fantastic new partnership with Waitrose. There are numerous beach cleans happening during that weekend and throughout the year in our region and across the country. Visit www.mcsuk.org/beachwatch/events for further information
  • Our next round of Seaweeds vs Limpets surveys will be carried out during September / October continuing to quantify seaweeds and count and measure limpets
  • Micro Lives experiment will continue bi-monthly alongside crab and mollusc egg surveys
  • Training, Field Support Days & Social Events
  • The long awaited return of #Spermwatch!

Finally, I wanted to pass on a HUGE thank you to all of you who registered and took part in MCS's Plastic Challenge this year as we completely smashed all previous records. A total of 5035 people joined in, with a whopping 804 CoCoasters taking part - WOW! Our MCS Ambassador, Simon Reeve, had this to say: "Over FIVE THOUSAND of you went head to head with single-use plastic whilst speaking up about how ridiculously dependent we've become on the stuff. If you've started using less single-use plastic please keep going - let's build this movement to make our seas cleaner and safer."

Way to go CoCoasters and thank you for your support!

Marine Invaders - National Campaign


Day of reckoning for marine invaders

Volunteers are being asked to help track an alien invasion taking place around the UK’s coastline.

For centuries, marine species have moved around either by hitching ride on the hulls of ships or as stowaways in ballast water. In many instances, species have been deliberately introduced for commercial purposes. Now, a national campaign to record non-native marine species is taking place to map the extent to which non-native marine species are present and to help scientists understand the impact they are having on the coastal environment.

The ‘Marine Invaders’ campaign will run September 8-11th 2017. We need your help to tell us which species are in your region and on shores near you. It’s easy to get involved and is an activity all the family can share. The survey only takes 10 minutes of your time. All information is valuable for us to have, including records of where you surveyed and didn’t find your chosen species! This really important information will allow future management decisions to be made on the control of non-native species.


To choose your species, find protocols and recording forms and to upload your data and photos please visit: www.mba.ac.uk/marineinvaders  

Tweet @CapturingRCoast with #marineinvaders, #invasivespecies and share the species you find (or don't find!) on our facebook pages. 


Volunteer Day

Volunteer Boat Trip!

As a thank you for some of our volunteers that have submitted lots of data and got really involved with CoCoast to date, we organised a boat trip. The boat is owned by the University of Portsmouth and Dr. Paul Farrell took us out on Tuesday 1st August to see the local seals in Langstone Harbour. 

We started the day with some coffee and cake and headed out to meet Paul and the boat. Sarah and I and the 8 volunteers doned the life jackets and off we went. We were lucky enough to see two seals, one basking in the sunshine and one popped his head up now and again. The seals are common seals and there are usually 8-10 around Langstone harbour. One of which is tracked and heads to Brighton and back again almost every day.  Cathy Currie got this great shot from the boat! 

After we had seen the seals, paddleboarders, sailers and windsurfers, we headed over the the research raft that is looking at biofouling and also housing some native oysters for one of our PhD students research to see what we could find. We found a hairy crab, a broad clawed porcelain crabs as well as a lot of anemones. Just take a look at a few of this great pics our volunteers sent it!

It was a great day and the sun was shining. If you want to get more involved in the Capturing Our Coast project have a look at upcoming training days near you, and get involved in our current competition here: https://www.capturingourcoast.co.uk/content/competition-time 

Stay tuned for more updates from Portsmouth! 

Zoe :) 

Environmental Study Day

Environmental Study Day

On Thursday 27th July, CoCoast hosted an environmental study day for the University of the Third Age or U3A.

The University of the Third Age (U3A) movement is a unique and exciting organisation which provides, through its U3As, life-enhancing and life-changing opportunities. Retired and semi-retired people come together and learn together, not for qualifications but for its own reward: the sheer joy of discovery.

The group arrived at 11 for tea and coffee and then we cracked on with the day. I gave a presentation about the environmental stressors that our intertidal species face and then gave an overview of some of the broader issues our marine environment is facing such as coastal squeeze, sea level rise and temperature changes. 

Sarah then gave a little introduction about the species you can find on the rocky shore around the UK and then we headed down to the lab to see the critters up close and personal.

The weather was holding out so we got to take the group on to top of the roof for a panoramic view of the Solent. Afterwards, we broke for lunch and some really good discussions about the current issues facing the marine environment.

Later on in the day, Luke Helmer, one of the first year PhD students gave a talk about the Solent Oyster restoration project he is working on and again, lots of questions about what can be done and how the oysters could be restored!

We finished off the day with some more coffee and biscuits and an overview of Capturing Our Coast and whats involved if anyone wanted to sign up, and lucky for us they did. 11 more volunteers registered and we’ve got some takers for the training day on the 20th August. If you are interested in finding out more, please book on to our Eventbrite page for the training day here:Training Day

Competition Time!

For the month of August we are running a competition to win tickets to the screening of your choice of the Ocean Film Festival Tour. It's back for 2017 and screening some of the world’s most inspirational and mesmerising ocean films around the UK this September and October. 

Dive into this brand-new collection of films, each featuring incredible cinematography from rarely explored corners of the ocean! Take the plunge with world-champion freedivers as they explore a haunting shipwreck, cast off with nomadic sailors tackling Antarctica’s treacherous waters, and meet the most mind-blowing marine creatures imaginable. See the trailer. 

Photo credit: Perrin James. Diver: Kimi Werner.

How to be in with a chance of winning...

To win a pair of tickets to the screening of your choice all you have to do is get out surveying and submit your data online atwww.capturingourcoast.co.uk. The volunteers who carry out the most amount of quadrat surveys & submits the data online will win 2 tickets…it is as simple as that.

The competition runs from the 1st August until the 22nd August so that gives you 3 whole weeks to get out and enjoy your local rocky shores.



Terms & Conditions:

Winners will be chosen by the number of quadrat data submitted. Only 2 winners per hub location. Data submissions will be counted from 12:00pm on the 1st August until 22nd August at 11:59pm.  Cost of getting to screening location is not covered. Winner will be contacted by email by 26th August where you pick the screening date and location of your choice and tickets will be available to collect on the door. Guest of winning volunteer does not have to be a CoCoast volunteer.