A group of 30ish students and lecturers left Cork on Monday the 24th Sept, and headed to the University Marine Biological Station, Millport, on the Greater Cumbrae Island, Scotland writes Lean O’Connor.
We completed a week long 10-credit field course in 6 days, which meant a jam-packed but none the less an extremely enjoyable week. The fact that the course was focused on marine biology meant that all aspects of study we partook in over the week were interlinked, and we got to participate in a variety of marine studies, such as a beam trawl, day grab, rocky and sandy shore studies.
The last 2 days of the course were spent on projects, undertaken by small groups of 2 or 3 students, and I feel that everyone appreciated the opportunity to both choose and design our own projects. We had large tanks full of the specimens collected during the beam trawl which we identified ourselves and had access to for the week. These specimens, along with those in the station’s aquarium and their fantastically well stocked library, provided us with a very different way of learning about the various groups of marine invertebrates, and the few vertebrates, that we had found.
The UMBSM must be commended for the second to none facilities they provided us with, labs, boats to carry out the beam trawls, equipment, an onsite aquarium and 24 hour access to the library and computer labs. The staff there were amazing, and so willing to help, especially one technician who got me a hand net after seeing me being pinched trying to extract crabs from the tank!
We also stayed on site in the hostel, and were taken care of amazingly well, especially by the kitchen staff, who somehow weren’t daunted by the mad dash to the queue when the food shutters were opened!
Although the week was fairly packed with work, we managed to get some time to ourselves and explore a bit of the island. The town/village of Millport was a ten minute walk away and the people were so friendly, and as Rob McAllen promised, we stuck out like sore thumbs.
The island itself was a beautiful place, inhabited by just over a thousand people, and a number of us rented bikes and a few even managed to make it around the whole island…with just a few stops!!
As always with residential field courses, it gave us a chance to grow closer as a class group, and one night I will always remember is the night/morning before our identification test, when a large group of us were studying in the cafeteria area, coming up with the most obscure and random ways to remember species names (Archidoris pseudoargus, the sea lemon, was not easy!).
The class cannot thank the staff of the UMBSM enough for the wonderful opportunity. Huge thanks are also due to Dr. Rob McAllen, Dr. Sarah Culloty, Dr. Mark Jessop and Prof. John Davenport, for taking us on this fantastic field course, teaching us so much, and listening to us complaining about the cold and rain!
Possibly the best time of my life (I promise I was “not” told to say this by anyone!!)