#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: https://www.capturingourcoast.co.uk/specific-information/spermwatch or email us at: cocoast@mba.ac.uk

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: https://youtu.be/7JvOj573cK0

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: https://nationalaquarium.digitickets.co.uk/event-tickets/12665?catID=598

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.