Sustainability - Education - Conservation by Dr Charlotte Braungardt


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Sustainability - Education - Conservation by Dr Charlotte Braungardt

We take young people to the beach to transform…

STEM (science technology engineering maths) education has become a core activity on board the sail training ship Pelican of London. Being at sea and along the coastline lends itself to a wide range of topics, from wind, waves and weather to the marine food web and ocean chemistry.

We’ve been collecting litter from beaches for several years, taking the opportunity to log every item of rubber, plastic, metal, fishing gear, hygiene products and more for the Marine Conservation Society‘s Citizen Science project Beach Clean. Of course, what’s in the bin bag at the end of the survey provides food for lively discussion and reflection:

  • what are the main sources of the litter washed up – recreation, fishing industry, cargo, sewage…?
  • what kind of litter is present – single use plastic, fishing twine, ghost nets, plastic bags, food wrappers, bottles, cotton buds, glass, tins, tiles…?
  • what am I personally doing to reduce the potential for my waste to reach a beach – from what I buy to how I dispose of waste…?
  • what else can I personally do to reduce ocean pollution?

This year, we have added value to our beach combing sessions: after starting a partnership with the Shark Trust and welcoming their outreach officer ‘Shark Mark’ on board as Scientist in Residence, we’ve learned so much about shark conservation that we now contribute data to their citizen science project and use the Shark Trust App to identify and record shark, ray and skate egg cases (or Mermaid’s purses) we find on the beach.

Young people getting involved in identifying the species an egg case comes from doesn’t only engage them in getting to know more about sharks, rays and skates in our waters and their endangered state, it is also an exciting way of contributing to their conservation.

Very special was our visit in the National Marine Aquarium at the end of our 10 day sail training and ocean science voyage from and to Plymouth, because we could watch a shark embryo develop in an egg case! We also joined the Shark Talk by one of their experienced guides. Watch my video of the shark embryo here and check out what the little fish will grow into here.

So, we cleaned a beach of litter and found six egg case fragments, we contributed the data to citizen science projects and discussed the results, we enthused young people to do more of this with friends and families and hope that we’ve had a small, transformative, positive impact on sustainability, learning and conservation.

Then we went swimming and enjoying the moment…

Featured Image: aspiring citizen scientists combing a shingle beach south of Dartmouth for litter and mermaid’s purses, led by Scientist in Residence Jeremy Woolfe. Photo (c) C Braungardt 2023.

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