Millport field course by Gavin Arneill

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After our 6 days at the FSC marine research centre in Millport, I think it’s fair to say all fifteen of us students that went really enjoyed ourselves.

Leaving Cork on Tuesday morning, we landed in Glasgow international airport after only an hour’s flight. A short bus trip down to Largs gave us a chance to taste the wonderfully healthy deep-fried everything from the local chipper! After a few minutes on the boat, we were on the Isle of Cumbrae. We had a chance to drop our gear to the rooms before heading out to White bay for a couple of hours on the shore looking at species richness in rock pools of different sizes (note: no zonation was studied on this visit!).

During Tuesdays White Bay visit, Dr Rob McAllen, Dr Sarah Culloty, Prof. John Davenport and Mary-Catherine Gallagher collected a few organisms that would make up the following morning’s activity. After the Rocky shore ID Wednesday morning, we went down to Kames Bay for the afternoon to assess biodiversity on the sandy shore. It only made sense that Meadhbh, the smallest of the group, digs out the box cores! We carried out two transects to test the effect of freshwater run-off on the sandy shore biodiversity.

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Thursday morning, we hit the sea to carry out a Beam Trawl and a Grab sample to study the subtidal fauna. After the two groups had been out on the boat, we identified all organisms (50+ species) as a group. In the afternoon, we looked at plankton samples taken during the boat trip, as well as a lecture on Leatherback Turtles by Prof. John Davenport.

Friday morning, we had an ID test, where 36 of the many organisms we encountered on the previous days were on display in the lab for us to ID. The remainder of the work was focused around our individual projects, where in most cases we worked in pairs. The projects ranged from shell selection in the Hermit Crab Pagurus bernhardus to Cockle dropping in Carrion Crows.

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Saturday, we finished up our projects by 16:30 and cleaned up the lab. After dinner that evening, we went into town to witness the September weekend festival in Millport. With a few thousand people on the streets, a number of performances that can only be described as “interesting” and a 20-minute fireworks display. It was a good send off as we left the island the following morning for a mid day flight back to Cork.

A bit of advice for the Zoology/Ecology students yet to reach fourth year, ZY4020 Temperate Marine Biology is a good module, do not be put off by the words “rocky shore” – the fieldwork on this course we hadn’t done in first, second or third year.

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