BioBlitz Bournemouth

Hengistbury Head are delighted to present their 2019 BioBlitz event, the Great Wildlife Exploration.

Bioblitz 2019 event will be held in King’s Park, Bournemouth (BH7 7AF). It is an amazing opportunity for you to discover and connect with the wildlife right on your doorstep and unleash your inner scientist!

For the last 4 years we have held the Great Wildlife Exploration event at Hengistbury Head Local Nature Reserve, and it has given us a wonderful insight into the species we have on the reserve. However, we felt that it was time for a change, and that another green space deserved its time to shine!

King’s Park has a variety of habitats that have yet to be surveyed for wildlife. As a huge park in the Bournemouth area, the King’s Park Great Wildlife Exploration will give members of the public and experts alike a better understanding of local nature and increased familiarity with resident species.

Work alongside experts

Blitzers will work alongside experts within a 24-hour period (10am, 25th May to 10am, 26th May) to identify and record as many varied species of wildlife as can be found.

What’s happening

Saturday

The Saturday will host the majority of our activities: join wildlife experts on fantastic guided walks; from moths to mammals, there will be something for everyone!

There will also be stalls hosted by a range of participating organisations with fun family activities on throughout the day.

This is a chance to explore your local park and search for wildlife using real scientific techniques.

We will also be running interactive workshops and craft tables.

You can ask the experts questions, create your own environment-themed masterpieces and spend some quality time out in nature.

Sunday

Start the day with wildlife! Join us for a special 6am dawn chorus bird walk.

Full programme

Download our poster to explore the full programme.

Be part of something special

Your discoveries will contribute to the knowledge base on our local biodiversity!

No prior experience is needed, and all ages are welcome – but children aged 15 and below should be supervised by an adult.

For more information or to sneak a peek at our preparations, find us on Facebook and Instagram.

Source: Hengistbury Head

‘Sustainable’ fishing is harming the planet and something needs to be done

‘Sustainable’ fishing is causing major environmental problems according to new research published by Bournemouth University.

While fishing to sustainable targets as aspired to by the UK, EU and many other countries, prevents year on year decline of fish stocks, it still requires ecological devastation in terms of fish numbers (a removal of up to 80% of the initial level) to reach a population capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.

Changes caused to the ecology of the ocean from ‘sustainable’ fishing can have far reaching effects, including limiting the potential for the ocean to absorb greenhouse gasses. Hence, poor fishing practices can exacerbate climate change. 

The research, published in the journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, also provides a solution to the problem of overfishing.

Over-fishing

Over-fishing

Professor Rick Stafford, from the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences at Bournemouth University, says, “The key is to restrict offshore fishing. Generally, offshore fishing uses bigger boats, which can cause more environmental damage with their fishing techniques. Reducing, and maybe eventually eliminating, these boats will create big marine protected areas in the offshore Economic Exclusion Zones of countries and the high seas and allow fish stocks to grow again.”

The focus of fishing then falls on smaller-scale inshore (or artisanal) fishers, which often use less environmentally harmful techniques. They will also benefit from enhanced fish stocks as they ‘spill over’ from the protected offshore areas. While fewer fish would be caught overall, the local supply to coastal communities may increase. This would benefit many people who rely on fish, from struggling coastal economies in the UK through to ensuring protein from fish is readily available to these communities in the developing world.

Such a transition could be timely for the UK in post-Brexit negotiations, and especially beneficial for smaller fishing ports. However, there is a problem, which is the British palate.

Professor Stafford explains, “We don’t eat the fish we catch in the UK, and mainly rely on exports to France and Spain – for the maximum benefit of this approach, we need to change our tastes and eat more shellfish and flatfish. It’s a change which would hugely help the marine environment and coastal jobs and economy.”

The researchers also highlighted the need for more to be done to highlight the problem of over-fishing compared to, say, plastics in the ocean. The latter often gets more media coverage, but actually has less of an impact on the environment when compared to over-fishing.

Rick Stafford continued, “We all know the problems caused by ocean plastic on wildlife and the mess made to our coasts and beaches. To address the issue, many of us carry around refillable water bottles, coffee cups, try to avoid over packaged food, and may even participate in beach cleans, and these are important issues – but not necessarily the most immediate concerns when it comes to climate change and our oceans.”

In a new article in the journal Marine Policy, Rick and colleagues from University College London argue that this is environmental greenwashing, encouraged by large corporations and many governments, but ultimately distracting us from addressing the major environmental issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.

The actual environmental implications of plastic pollution are unknown, but many studies show little direct toxicity effect, and while plastic has been shown to result in death of seabirds, whales, fish and seals, there is little data on the population level effects of plastic on wildlife. This contrasts with the urgent need to address climate change and reduce biodiversity loss, which have been well established in recent international scientific reports.

Professor Stafford concluded, “In terms of reducing plastic pollution, there’s a huge emphasis on individual choices, such as refusing reusable coffee cups or plastic straws. There’s also a range of technological solutions, from the Ocean Cleanup project which is trying to ‘sieve’ plastic from the ocean directly, through to new plant-based plastic alternatives.

“These individual choices and technological ‘fixes’ are simply minor tweaks to a political and economic system which needs a major overhaul, and allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.

“We need to place environmental issues at the heart of our political and economic systems, and address overconsumption and overuse of natural resources as our number one priority – including over-fishing. Unless we do this, we can’t save the planet from plastics, biodiversity loss or climate change.”

Source: Bournemouth University

Family Science Festival

Family Science Festival

We are excited to announce that on Sunday 17th March 2019 we will be hosting the first Family Science Festival in Dorchester.

We have invited scientists to bring a range of interactive activities. Bring along all the family and check out the pop-up museum, handle bugs, observe living microbes, augment your reality, identify fossils, and much more!

The event is suitable for all ages, with open access and free entry

The festival will run from 1.00 pm to 5.00 pm at The Corn Exchange, Dorchester

If you have any further questions please contact us via email:
Professor Genoveva Esteban gesteban@bournemouth.ac.uk or Katie Thompson  thompsonk@bournemouth.ac.uk 

New Ichthyosaur Display at the Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Photo credit: Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre

Charmouth Heritage Coast Centre will be opening a new display (14th January 2018) of the incredible ichthyosaur that starred in the BBC documentary ‘Attenborough and the Sea Dragon’. The fossil was discovered by local fossil collector Chris Moore. The centre has free entry and is on the beach at Charmouth, one of the best areas to collect fossils on the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site.  Visit the centre and discover how the pieces of this 200 millions year old murder mystery were pieces together, and take part in guided fossil hunting walks.

Biodome carnivorous plants reveal hidden microbial diversity

Some carnivorous plants hold ‘pools’ within the plant consisting of rainwater and secreted substances such as sugars, used to lure and trap insect prey. Microscopic analysis of this fluid collected from pitcher plants (Sarracenia sp.) and bromeliads (Brocchinia sp.) growing in BU’s Biodome has revealed a rich diversity of single-celled microorganisms. These microbes, less than half a millimetre in length, are known as ciliates and distinguished by hair-like cilia that they use for locomotion and feeding.

Ciliates are incredibly important grazers, feeding on bacteria, algae and organic matter, and are a crucial part of the microecosystem within the bromeliad and pitcher plant pools, which also includes algae, bacteria and insect larvae, such as mosquitoes. In turn, they are also fed upon by mosquito larvae and copepods that also grow in such pools, playing an important role in energy transfer from microbes to animals.

One of the microbes found within the pools was the ciliate Euplotes, pictured above. © J.Dazley
Exploring Plankton Diversity in Southampton Water

Exploring Plankton Diversity in Southampton Water

Undergraduate students in the department of Life and Environmental Sciences investigated the diversity of phytoplankton and zooplankton in Southampton water as part of their third-year Biological Oceanography module. Using the research vessel RV Callista at the National Oceanography Centre Southampton (NOCS), samples were collected at 5 locations, or “stations”, between Calshott and the Itchen River.

Environmental data was collected at each station using an array of sensors, measuring parameters such as temperature, salinity, chlorophyll and oxygen concentration. Phytoplankton were collected at two depths at each site, representing deep and shallow water. Zooplankton was caught using a plankton net, with a 120µm mesh to catch zooplankton in the net. These samples were subsequently analysed back at the university.

Trawls and grab samples were also used to investigate the benthic (bottom dwelling) communities living on the seabed and to analyse the oxygen content of the sediment. Benthic animals found included starfish, fish such as gobies and flounders, cuttlefish, crabs and ‘moss animals’ (bryozoans).

Back at BU, the phyto- and zooplankton samples were analysed using microscopy. A variety of diatoms and dinoflagellates were found in the phytoplankton samples, and barnacle larvae, copepods and the larvae of marine worms were found in the zooplankton samples. Microbes too small to be seen under the microscope were counted using flow cytometry, a technique used to identify cyanobacteria and other minute cells.

The study demonstrated the great diversity of planktonic and benthic life in Southampton water, and highlighted the importance of monitoring and understanding the microscopic life of the sea since the microscopic life , as the base of the food web, is crucial in sustaining the larger and better understood forms of marine life.

‘Signs of hope for the environment’ – Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough has stated that he is more encouraged about the future health of the Earth. This is due to a “worldwide shift” in attitudes about concern for the natural world and the damage humans are causing.

He states “The effect human beings are having on the natural world is profound. We are having a great damaging effect. Because we are out of touch with the natural world in a way that we weren’t 2oo years ago that means most of us don’t see the effect we are having. What is more, we don’t understand the processes of the natural world, which makes natural history broadcasting of crucial importance to the future of humanity.”