In May of this year, MWDW were joined by students from Capel Manor College London, for a five day marine mammal science placement run by Jen and Bryony. The group of 10 students are studying for a degree in Animal Management and Conservation, and were keen to develop skills and knowledge of cetaceans, and the techniques used to study these animals in the wild.
The project came about over a year ago, when we were approached by Glo-Ed, an educational tour operator, with personal links to the Isle of Man. They asked if we would consider working with them to offer an educational work placement for students in further and higher education.
We developed detailed lesson plans for 3 days’ worth of classroom lectures covering; cetacean biology, identification, hunting, socialisation, conservation, study methods and research techniques. Other sessions looked at the threats to cetaceans on a global and local scale, and the importance of public engagement. Outdoor field work included a boat-based research survey and a land-based survey. Chris and Jason from Shona Boat Trips kindly took the group out in 2 split 1 ½ hour trips from Port Erin around the Calf of Man, up to Sugarloaf and also further offshore on the west coast. The students were given an introduction to vessel-based data collection, form filling and GPS use. We were so lucky to have a calm day of weather, perfect for cetacean spotting, and the group were lucky enough to spot various pods of Harbour porpoise, as well a pod of Risso’s dolphins. Photo-ID of the Risso’s was conducted and sightings forms were filled out by the students.
The following day was spent collecting land-based data during a 3 hour survey at the Sound. The group were taught our methods of collecting effort (environmental data) and sightings data, and how to use a compass to record the bearings and distance of a sighting. One eagle-eyed student spotted a Harbour porpoise and the group tracked its movements for 30 minutes.
At the end of the placement, the group were given an informal talk on pursuing a career in marine mammal science, the importance of volunteering and networking, courses and workshops available within the UK and relevant conferences worldwide.
We would like to thank Glo-ed for organising the whole trip; Chris and Jason for taking us out aboard the Shona; Peel Sailing Club for kindly allowing us to run the classroom sessions in the venue free of charge; Ardwhallan Adventure Centre for their accommodation of the group, and of course to the girls at Capel Manor for being such a wonderful, enthusiastic group to work with.
We look forward to working with Glo-ed on an annual basis, and training various college and school groups from across the UK in the art and importance of marine mammal science.