Tuesday 22nd October- Plastic ‘not’ fantastic

Today we had a lovely day with a group of year 6 pupils at Argyle school in Kings Cross.

The event was to raise awareness about plastic pollution and the damaging effects of it on our environment, oceans and us!

 

The morning began with a fun and informative presentation by Fatemah from Global Ocean.

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The pupils were so quiet and engaged that it felt like we were underwater in a calm, clear, plastic free bay….

To test their listening skills and knowledge, the pupils all took part in a game of Ocean Quiz Bingo. It was so encouraging to hear how much they had all taken in and the enthusiasm was infectious…. But the tranquil bay vibe very quickly became more like a turbid, surging, wreckage!

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Bingo Bonanza!

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Three winners were announced and the sound of Bingo was a little softer than your typical Essex Mecca Bingo establishment!

Next up…the fish making workshop!

The class was divided into 6 groups. Each table was drowned in empty plastic materials and wrappers….It went from bay, to wreck to mild storm.

 

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Kate and a student creating a delightful dolphin from actual garbage! Recycling dream…

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The greatest thing about the workshop was seeing sad and empty used materials transform into intricate and colourful creations of pure, innocent imagination.

A member of each group presented their masterpiece and were awarded with admiration and applause.

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The boys create a giant swordfish and whale! From trash to triumph..

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From muck to mammals…..

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And disused jars to jellyfish….

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To potential sewage becoming a swordfish…

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Angela from Bobble UK also attended to present the students with a simple and easy way to help reduce plastic bottle waste. She explained to them how a water Bobble only needs to be changed after 300 uses so therefore saves the equivalent of 300 plastic water bottles.

The ‘Recycling Rangers Ambassador scheme’:

Each class member was labelled with the honourable and noble title of ‘Recycling Ranger’

 

Each lucky pupil was then handed a free water Bobble, Sea Urchins magazine and the responsibility to think about plastic in their everyday lives.

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From the group of rangers, two of the students were carefully selected as Ambassadors for their school. The two plastic purists will now be responsible for reporting back to Sea Urchins, Global Ocean and Bobble about the plastic usage of the class, including water bottle inspections.

The event was successful on many levels. It was reassuring to be reminded how open, and enthusiastic children can be about the marine environment. They were engaged, excited and responsive the entire time. They absorbed and actively immersed themselves in the topic and will now hopefully go home and tell their parents, grandparents, siblings or anyone else who will listen.

The day was further confirmation of how important it is to involve and empower the next generation.

With the combination of Samantha and Kate from Sea Urchins magazine, Fatemah, Emma and Sarah from Global Ocean and Angela from Bobble UK, a serious, frightening, escalating problem of plastic pollution was translated into a fun, engaging, activity packed event.

The children came away happy, motivated and knowledgeable and we came away wanting to do more……

Lots more events to come…a stroke closer to saving our oceans!

Scuba Sammy x

 

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‘Recycle Rangers’ ready for action!

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Issue 4- The Seahorse special goes global!

ISSUE 4 has arrived!

The new front cover!

The new front cover!

I am very excited to announce the release of issue 4. This issue is  the best and biggest so far. It has been printed in its highest quantities ever and will be distributed globally!

30,000 copies have been printed, with copies being distributed across the UK, US, Australia and New Zealand in selected Sea Life Centres and Parks.

In this issue: 

Leafy seadragon

Leafy seadragon

1. Learn about 6 different species of seahorse in ‘Creature Feature’.

2. Explore a range of conservation projects in Sea Life centres around the world.

3. Be informed on the problems of plastic pollution with Global Ocean, but find out ways that you can help. 

Harvey snorkels with sharks and Stacey..

Harvey snorkels with sharks and Stacey..

 

 

4. Be inspired by our new committee members- Harvey, Huey and Charlotte.

 

 

5. Find and attend fun and helpful events in your area

6. Cook with a conscience- a tasty sustainable recipe.

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7. Be encouraged to embrace the wonderful natural world with Kate Humble.

 

Our bubbly new character

Our bubbly new character

 

 8. Find out about the super hero powers of the new character Stacey the Seahorse.

Download the app version for extras including  video content and exclusive underwater sounds:

Get App Happy!

 

SEA URCHINS APPhttp://www.pocketmags.com/viewmagazine.aspx?titleid=1245&title=Sea+Urchins+Magazine

Twitter: @Sea_Urchinsmag

 

I hope that everyone enjoys this issue and takes it on all of their summer trips with them…Get outside and enjoy the amazing natural world!

Sam x

 

 

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Star Gazing at Sealife…The Sea Urchins humble ‘cousin’ steals the limelight!

 

The ‘Ocean of Stars Opening’

Last Sunday Sealife launched a super stylish and colourful new display of Starfish.

It was a star filled morning both with the guests and animals on display….

It is a really exciting new exhibit with interactive and tactile sections:

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KEY IMAGE 5 - Interactive touchy feelyand fun viewing areas:

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You could look through a window and see the smallest starfish in the world and also see live  moving Sunflower stars- the largest starfish in the world

Did you know that the sunflower star has 24 arms??!! Don’t try and ‘High Five’ one of those guys!

It was very exciting to see our lovely Sea Urchins close family member get so much exposure. Sea stars and Sea Urchins are part of the same Phylum (type of group) called the Echinoderms- this makes them quite closely related.

They share a few characteristics such as a hard outer surface (don’t be fooled by the starfish that is called the cushion star- I wouldn’t quite cosy up to it) and tubed feet.

Did you know that starfish and Sea urchins actually move? They use their tubed  feet with the help of water movement and muscle contractions to maneuver themselves around….some of the Sunflower starfish had traveled over a large portion of their tanks while I watched them for a few minutes on Sunday- very therapeutic!

There were also some human stars with their family’s at this exciting preview day:

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Overall it was a starry starry day and I absolutely loved having such an array of areas for one special type of creature.

The greatest thing about this new section was that it can encourage everyone to get outside and go exploring. Some of the starfish were tropical varieties, but some can be seen in many parts of the UK.

Starfish can be found in lots of different places and they are fun, funky and fascinating!

What type is your favourite?

 

 

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The London Dive show and Sea Urchins/Sealife Competition

 

The London Dive Show fun!

On the 23rd and 24th March we attended the London Dive Show at Excel.

As always it was a buzzy and excitable affair!

There was an interesting mixture of stands and two very different ‘Try Dive pools’- one for technical skills and the other for new divers to blow bubbles for the first time with the London School of Diving.

There were some informative talks and some inspirational speakers such as Paul Rose too.

Sea Urchins had a lovely, fun packed stand.

We had drawings, fish ID competitions and jelly fish modelling.

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During the weekend we ran an exciting competition…we asked visitors to use their imaginations, drawing skills and maybe a little undersea fish knowledge. The task:

‘Picture yourself underwater diving through dark, murky, turbid waters….suddenly you find yourself swimming through a cavern and into an open cave area.

Draw us what you would imagine you would see! It can be real, completely made up or a combination!’.

We had some amazing entries and it was difficult to chose, but we picked our winners.

The amazing prizes were generously donated by London Sealife.

THE WINNER:

 

Winner

 

The amazing prize: A shark snorkel for two at London Sealife!

Second place:

2nd

The prize: 4 x family tickets (2 adults and 2 kids) to London Sealife.

Third & Fourth:

 3rd 4th

The lucky winners will be contacted by email.

Well done and come and see us at our next event on the 5th May at the Ecotales Festival.

We will be creating undersea costumes from recycled products and objects and there will be a Marine Morphology Catwalk show for all.

Keep looking out for more details :)

Sam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prizes:

A special goody bag for each.

All winners will be contacted by email soon. Congratulations and Well Done.

 

 

 

 

 

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Issue 3 is here!

Hello!
I am very excited to announce that issue 3 of Sea Urchins magazine has now gone live on the App.
 Front cover
It is a really eclectic issue, packed with a lot more content and a variety of topics.
The main focus for this issue is whales. It will feature sections on:
Discovery: Whale Creature Feature pages with facts,  and images.
Learning: Conservation- learn about some great organisations that work to help study, monitor and protect marine mammals in different areas.
Can you identify a whale by its dorsal fin?? Try our little quiz on these pages.
Creation: Turn a humble plastic milk bottle into an epic whale. This is recycling at its best, using a wasteful, everyday material and turning into a fun and creative activity. Once made, the imagination can be let loose with colours, accessories and finish with a funky or maybe exotic name.
Geting involved: Whale week at Sealife…either get down to Sealife for this great event, or follow the activities of the week online. Watch out for the blog here!
Calf
There are…
Interviews: With a range of interesting Q&A’s in this issue:
3 amazing shark characters share some personal information from phobias (I bet you thought sharks had no fear) to favourite pop groups.
They also tell us about their mission in shark and ocean conservation. It takes these type of charismatic and determined types to make a real impact on the world! We are honoured to have them involved…..They also tell us what they think of their fellow shark campaigners!
We have Shark Stanley from the US, Finley from Project Aware in the UK and Hector the shark from New Zealand.
We also have a human hero interview with TV star and adventurer Ben Fogle…read about his plans to swim the Atlantic this year to raise awareness about environmental threats to the ocean. A brave and extreme mission to get attention for a major cause for our amazing oceans!
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Fun:
 
Check out Stacey Solomon and Jeff Brazier in a shark tank with snorkels! (There is a rather substantially sized sand tiger shark in that tank!).
Seaurchins 092 {c} D Solmon 2012
There is a page where you can identify the adaptations of a toothed whale and a baleen species.
Fish Fact Cards- There is a new card game to collect. Learn some quick facts about 2 new species in every issue and watch out for the ‘Beware’ cards that are different threats to the ocean.
Important: There is so much beauty in the ocean, but it is also crucial to be aware of some of the problems too.
We have a feature on a range of issues including plastics and noise pollution.
Read about some of the causes and implications and listen to our sound clip…a two part clip on how the ocean should sound to a whale and how it is thought to sound for most whales due to a range of destructive human activities.
And finally….our new character Whoa the whale.
Whoa is…..not the shy retiring type. Read about his story and keep looking out for the animated version coming soon….
Whoa the whale
Don’t forget to play the video’s and sound clips too….
I hope everyone enjoys this issue, there is always so much to learn about the ocean. Fall in love with its wonder and awe and use this passion to motivate yourself and everyone around you to make changes and create awareness.
Make conservation cool!
There is such variation on this planet, so don’t feel bad about being fickle, my relationship with nature started with birds, evolved into elephant fondness, dolphin delight to now shark fascination and pure nudibranch obsession.
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Nature is one of our greatest blessings, don’t let it fade into the background :)
Samantha x

 

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Marine morphology catwalk fun- London Sealife for ‘Ocean of Stars’

Ocean of Stars- London Sealife

On Monday 19th November London’s Sealife team led by Jenny and Becky hosted a wonderful evening of marine themed chat and engagement.

London aquarium is always an ideal venue for such an event. I never get bored of the colourful variety of organisms and tank displays and am always happy to  see new arrivals such as their new glowing and curious puffer fish. It seemed excitable yet content in its new tank (the turtle tank where I have fond memories of scuba diving with the charming but clumsy Theo Paphitis :) ).

The event started in a rather civilised manner with champagne and delicate canapes. Guests mingled and chatted and gathered information from the different exhibiting organisations including Biteback, The MSC, MCS, Blue Ventures….

At 8.00pm the speeches began. They were kicked off by the lovely organisers Jenny and Becky from Sealife. There were three guest speakers…these included Biteback (the leading organisation with proceeds from the night going to their organisation) and the WDCS.

First up though was Sea Urchins. We were all given a strict time limit of 10 minutes to give a brief synopsis about our projects.

Sea Urchins is not a conventional project, so I chose to not take a normal ‘speech’ approach.

I introduced myself, the name of the magazine and my Marine morphology catwalk show.

The music began- first up was ‘Under da sea’- courtesy of Sebastian from The Little Mermaid…

I chose to give a fish fashion show to teach the audience about some adaptations of marine organisms. I am sure a lot of the viewers were aware of many of these facts, but the purpose was to show Sea Urchins’ approach to marine education…fun, engaging, interactive, approachable yet informative.

To start proceedings we had the Sea Urchin:

Perfectly modeled by my little brother Joshua (aged 8)…one of the fine ambassadors for the magazine. I talked about the purpose of the spines and their ability to regenerate them. I also talked about the fact that their mouth is on their underside (no demonstration included for this point).

Next up…my personal fave the nudibranch:

Beautifully modeled by my bestest Laura!

She dramatically dispelled her shell to reveal a colourful and patterned outfit. A perfect demonstration to represent the evolution from shell to a brightly coloured body (sign of toxicity to predators therefore acts as a form of protection) instead. There were also the rhinopores and the feathery gills at the back.

Next sideways and claw nipping came the crab (Sam no. 2):

Hard shell (‘Red coat prop’), antennae, and ‘oven gloves’ for chellipeds…

I know I have said it already (its ok to have more than one favourite) but another personal fave…the shark (Sam no. 3):

A dorsal fin cut from cardboard, sand paper to represent the rough derma denticle covered skin, black spots drawn on his face with an eye liner and an athletic bend to demonstrate the shark’s cartilage body composition.

To show the audience more about those little black mole looking dots on the sharks face, the shark theatrically demonstrated the ‘Ampullae of Lorenzini’s’ ability to firstly detect their prey:

The shark sensed the electro- magnetic field of his prey beneath the sand (leopard print scarf).

He then used his amazing sensing powers to locate a female shark companion:

How romantic!

Then…

Is it a bird, is a horse….

No it is a fish, the seahorse (Mr Stone):

No I did not run out of female volunteers. It was a deliberate move to use a male in a pregnant state.

Seahorse characteristic one, the males brood the females eggs. To add to its feminine disposition, a pair of delicate, pink butterfly wings were added to the costume to represent the pectoral fins on a seahorse.

The look was finished off with a nice manly snout, ready to forage for its food!

In comes the octopus:

Firstly I became a victim to an ink injection ( a silk black scarf).  Like a prey victim I persevered with my speech in a confused and disorientated way.

The octopus had 8 ‘tinsel’ tentacles and showed its infamous camouflage abilities.

To finish the show, I felt that it was important to include some commonly eaten fish. I wanted to bring in a heavily fished specimen and a more stable fish that is currently being encouraged to be consumed.

Heavily fished, depleted fisheries, over consumed, belligerently battered (personally I am  partial to more of a delicately tempura-ed zucchini)

The COD!!!!

With her accompanying chip!

A disheveled, decrepit (skillfully acted) specimen of a fish scattered in old newspaper cuttings, partnered with one solitary, costume-less ‘chip’. I think that this image is as ‘powerful’ as it needs to be. Ok maybe not powerful, I was on a very tight budget here, but it hopefully clearly represented the point about the current state of cod.

On a positive note, we try to avoid the negativity as much as we can with Sea Urchins. Fish is obviously a healthy food source and important for the overall global environment. We do not have to completely discourage its consumption. Guidance and education is always the key:

There are some flourishing alternatives that should be encouraged in moderation.

Our last model was the happy, thriving, glowing Gurnard:

Costume= red and sparkly to represent its crimson appearance and its healthy state.

I then cut the music (Rock Lobster by the B-52′s at this point) to summarise/justify the purpose of this cheap but enthusiastic and ‘well executed’ excitably  received spectacle.

The purpose was to demonstrate what Sea Urchins is about.

It is a magazine that has been created to inspire the next generation about the ocean, the environment, conservation and NATURE. It is to make all of these things fun, and appealing.

My presentation was deliberately made to look budget :) to make the point that a budget is not required to spark enthusiasm on such an incredible topic…the most important thing is IMAGINATION.

Sea Urchins is about showing everyone the beauty of the ocean, teaching them the interesting facts and sparking in them an enthusiasm and determination to want to protect their futures.

A poinant quote by the legend Jacques Cousteau: ‘People protect what they love’.

My goal is to encourage as many people as possible (particularly children) to love and respect the ocean and planet!

Nuff said.

Samantha- Sea Urchins

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Whalefest. October 2012

Last weekend Sea Urchins magazine had a stand and activity area at the wonderful Whalefest event in Brighton.

We had a ‘Whale of time’! (sorry it had to be done).

Whalefest was an event to bring together anyone interested in whales and the ocean. The two day event involved informative talks, fun activities and impressive displays. The purpose of it all was to highlight the beauty and importance of these amazing organisms and to raise awareness for the ‘Save the whale’ campaign.

It was a long drive back and forth from London to Brighton, but the time flew by due to the high energy, positive and fun fish banter that was provided by Jenny and a second Sam. It was actually a good opportunity to chat about the event, discuss ideas and generally talk about our plans to help save the ocean and inspire the next generation (as one does :) ).

I set up Sea Urchins magazine over a year ago now (with the help of so many incredible and supportive people). It was the best decision that I ever made. There have been times where it can all be about business, logistical matters and organisation, but it is at these type of events where everything makes sense and where I remember why I decided to take on this big venture in the first place.

The ‘heart and soul’ of Sea Urchins is the actual magazine, but it is the ethos and purpose of Sea Urchins to inspire the next generation that truely drives it. It was my little RSPB magazine subscription that sparked my love of nature, changed my perspective of our planet and led me into the world of science and ocean conservation. If it was not for the combination of my incredible grandfather (the subscriber), the existence of a great publication and my impressionable age I wouldn’t be the ocean loving person that I am today.

It is the tiny little things at the crucial part of children’s lives that can impact on them forever!

It is the children who we need to influence everyone else. They are the open, eager ‘sea sponges’ that are ready to absorb the vital information and messages and are keen to dissipate it to others surrounding them.

This weekend I was also again reminded of the raw talent, comprehension and imagination that can come directly from the children themselves. This combined with enthusiasm and determination make them the most adaptable yet powerful people!

It is my mission to impact as many young people as I can. I want them to all love the ocean, nature, the outdoors and our amazing planet…my approach is to use positive, fun and engaging methods. We can leave the shocking and harsh realities for the adults and scientists. For children it is about impacting them at the right time…A quote from a legend…’People protect what they love’ (Jacques Cousteau).

My plan of action is to get the kids to love the ocean and environment…the results will then naturally roll on from there!

Over the 2 days the attending children (and some parents) drew some amazing marine creatures. The competition challenge is to design a ‘Superhero marine character’. This character needs to be based on a current organism but with extreme adaptations or powers.

We had a great time at Whalefest and everyone enjoyed doing the drawings, exploring all of the great exhibits and watching some great talks. It is always brilliant to get lots of people together for a great cause and for an exciting topic!

Check out some of the amazing examples of talent and imagination from Whalefest on our website gallery: http://www.seaurchinsmag.com/c.php?editid1=18&t=Gallery_|_Sea_Urchins_Magazine

It is also not too late to enter. Find details of the competition and how to enter here:

http://www.seaurchinsmag.com/c.php?editid1=26&t=Competition__|_Sea_Urchins_Magazine

Thank you!

Samantha

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“Oh wow…that is some mud.” Jenny Hickman of Sealife London

“Oh wow…that is some mud.” 

These are the simple yet terrified words that told us we had arrived at our beach clean. Every year, SEA LIFE London like to do their bit for their local environment by joining in with the cleaner Thames challenge with Thames21. Loosely referred to as a “beach clean,” the Thames challenge is an annual fest of knee deep mud, heavy lifting and bizarre finds and this year promised to be no different.

Despite quite a late night the night before, our weary little team arrived at Battersea bridge bright and early. Kitting up in steel toe capped wellies, thick red gloves and bright blue SEA LIFE T-shirts, we listened intently to the in depth health and safety briefing (which included what to do if you found a grenade).

We armed ourselves with litter pickers, spades and bin bags and listened to the obligatory “Charlies Angels” style briefing and photo-shoot before heading down to the beach.

Calling this a beach may be a little misleading. At low tide, the Thames reveals miles of long muddy river banks which have become coated in a layer of litter. In previous years, getting to the beach has involved quite literally wading through knee deep, quick sand style mud which even the toughest of wellies couldn’t endure, so this year we were pleasantly surprised to arrive on a reassuringly solid pebble beach.

Before long, Honor and Jakub from the London Eye were getting stuck in, digging a traffic cone out from its swampy grave. I watched from afar…took some pictures and continued down the beach. They had it covered. Spotting some unseen rubbish, I begun to litter pick. Demonstrating a level of incompetence similar to that of a hippo using chopsticks , it wasn’t long before one kind hearted team member took the litter pickers off of me and recommended I just picked things up. Sensible…and far more effective. The bin bags began to fill and the beach was looking cleaner by the minute.

An hour or so in to the clean and a late comer arrived (Beki). Standing at the top of the steps looking down on to the beach, I waved to her to come and join. She shook her head and beckoned me up the steps. I made my way over and it soon became clear why Beki had not wanted to join. Stage one of the beach clean, the stairs, had proved too much for Beki and she had suffered an unfortunate and wildly ungraceful fall, sliding down the flight of sludge covered concrete stairs and coating herself in a layer of wet grey mud and algae. After a fair amount of quite possibly insensitive laughter and picture taking, I wiped some mud out of her hair, kitted her up and escorted her down to the beach where I then enjoyed relaying the story to our friends, colleagues and general passers by.

The day before our beach clean, some colleagues had joined the beach clean in Hammersmith at which they had found a grand total of four guns. We were determined to beat them. We thought our luck was in when one team member, Sam, let out an excited squeal. As we raced over to see what she had found, she spun around, eyes shining and gleefully brandishing a fish skull and matching rib cage. Thrilled with the discovery, we attempted for a while to guess what kind of fish it came from, before Sam decided it was funnier to make the fish talk. Wiggling the fish’s jaw, she managed just 2 seconds of comedy ventriloquism before screaming and throwing the fish head away, deciding it was in fact terrifying. We continued the clean.

After three hours, exhausted and covered in a layer of mud, it was time to head off. We had uncovered all sorts of rubbish from cans and bottles to little plastic toys, toothbrushes and tyres. The bin bags filled two large crates, just from one small stretch of river bank.

Every year people across the world produce hundreds of millions of tonnes of litter, much of which will end up in our oceans and threaten the health of our planet and its amazing creatures. By joining in these beach cleans, we are not only getting out in the open and having fun with friends, but we are doing our bit to stop this litter endangering the lives of all sorts of wildlife, from birds and fish to dolphins and sea turtles. Why not see if you can lend a hand at the next beach clean near you and help to preserve the beauty of our planet for years to come J

Samantha’s summary:

Thank you to Jenny, it sounds like your friends were extremely helpful in their efforts and well done to you for keeping the ‘moral’ up on the day with your ‘charming’ personality :)

It sounded like it as the perfect beach clean up- fun and silliness but also a great success. Beach clean ups are a great way that we can all get involved and improve our surroundings and environment! It doesn’t matter where in the world that you live we can all do little things to help.

Beach clean up dates and details will be listed in the events section of the Sea Urchins website

http://www.seaurchinsmag.com/c.php?editid1=27&t=Events_|_Sea_Urchins_magazine

Keep checking throughout the year- there are often more listings in the warmer seasons but it is also fun to throw on the wellies and raincoat (I am picturing multi- coloured with polka dots or Ben 10) and think of that lovely hot chocolate with marshmallows that you can have afterwards!

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Madagscar…something I wrote after returning from a year in this amazing place!

The blossoming baby sister of Africa. It is now finally receiving some worthy attention due to the cheeky pixar animation, despite being the oldest and fourth largest island in the world.

Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot in both a terrestrial and oceanic perspective. There are over 200,000 species on the island, living in habitats ranging from rainforests to deserts and from the mountain tops to mangrove swamps. It is this range of available habitats, its positioning near the equator and subsequent tropical climate that has helped Madagascar become such a biological phenomenon.

In the tropical seas off the south west coast of Madagascar lies the fourth largest coral reef in the world, the Grand Recif de Tulear. It is ideally situated on the west coast where there lies a vast and shallow shelf, spreading out under the Mozambique channel, warmed by the Agulhas current. Perfect conditions for coral reef development, from fringing, to patchy to barrier formations.

The biggest ‘threat’ in the area is the native local Vezo culture. The inhabitants rely on the ocean for many aspects of their lives, with Vezo having the local meaning of ‘to live with the sea’. Every aspect of their lives and all necessary resources are extracted from the water in whatever capacity to suffice them.

Fortunately this problem has been acknowledged and there is currently significant action being undertaken in the form of a Marine conservation organisation, Blue Ventures.

One of Blue Ventures intentions is to help maintain the biological diversity and productivity of the reef. They work with an integrated and holistic approach, collaborating with the local community in a way that will not just create short term improvements, but will help ensure future benefits for the people and the natural environment.

The approach targets a whole spectrum, from social issues such as family planning, educational and teaching practices to actual scientific research and conservation legislation’s.

The intention is to help support and guide, but most importantly ensure self-sufficiency and progress. Local villagers are trained from fisherman to scientists. They are taught to preserve and protect the reef instead of hunting and predating it. Women are being taught about alternative livelihoods to encourage them away from their previous destructive lifestyles such as gleaning and shell fishing.

In conjunction with local activities for long term futures, powerful and direct projects are being implemented. In 2003 Blue Ventures discovered the importance of octopus to the region. This led to Marine protected areas and no-take zones being implemented. As a result there has already been a significant impact with greater yields for fishers  and an increase in the size and number of octopus. Strategising the times and areas where octopus are allowed to be caught has allowed the octopus to mature and reproduce more successively. The project has been a big success from an environmental and economic perspective, but has also illustrated the amazing success of an integrated and  personal approach with a local community. The whole scheme has been embraced and respected by everyone involved.

The collaborative approach is continued with an environmental perspective. Other than the projects directed at the coral reef itself, developments are being implemented on other crucial ecosystems. The coastal area is surrounded by both mangroves and seagrass beds. These separate ecosystems are individually important and fragile, but also rely on each other for success.

The mangroves protect the shoreline from coastal erosion, filter sediments and other imposing debris as well as serve as a nursery ground for future reef species. The seagrass represent a second lineage of stabilisation with the deeply embedded route system and provide niche habitats for other juvenile organisms. Without the healthy existence and continued productivity of these two ecosystems, the reef is placed in a vulnerable position. The coral reef requires such specific, almost delicate conditions to live and to flourish. The temperature, salinity levels and turbidity are all required to be succinctly stabilised and without the safety havens of the mangroves and seagrass with their sheltered and resourceful areas, reproductive stocks and general populations of reef organisms could suffer.

Blue Ventures carry out investigations and produce data for all three ecosystems and have different projects working on the protection and conservation of the whole area.

 

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Carnivorous Marine Snails, Tina Holt

A wonderful, insightful blog about the unassuming yet mysterious sea snails written by one of our Sea Urchins readers in the US. Thanks, Samantha

‘With its keen sense of smell, brute strength and sharp ribbon of teeth, this predator strikes fear in the hearts of many creatures.  It is a patient hunter, sometimes waiting hours for its meal.   Ferocious and deadly, slimy and slow.  It sounds like a monster from a horror movie, right?  But this creature lives quietly in our oceans. Meet the brutal, carnivorous predator… the sea snail.

Most marine snails are herbivores, using their radula, or ribbon of teeth, to strip algae off of rocks and sea grass.  The radula works like a chain saw, with rows of moving teeth rasping and grating its food.  Some species of marine snails are omnivores, and eat ocean detritus as well as algae.  Still other species of marine snails are carnivores.  They prey on shellfish, worms, and even small fish!

Each subspecies of carnivorous sea snail has a different favorite food, and has adapted its hunting techniques to get its preferred meal.  The horse conch likes to eat oysters.  Once it locates a potential meal, the horse conch wrenches open the victim’s shell with its muscular foot.  The opening doesn’t have to be very large for the snail to insert a tube-shaped organ called a proboscis.  The radula extends out of the proboscis and rasps at the oyster’s flesh.  The predatory snail then sucks the grated oyster through its proboscis like a straw, and digests it in its stomach.

The whelk, a connoisseur of all types of seafood, enjoys oysters as well as other snails and shellfish.  This snail attaches itself to its victim and releases a chemical to soften its victim’s shell.  Using its radula to chip away at the softened shell, the whelk drills a hole big enough for its proboscis to enter.  This drilling can take anywhere from 20 minutes to 10 hours!  Then, as with the horse conch, the shellfish is rasped, slurped and digested.

The deadliest marine snail is the cone snail.  Found in the South Pacific, this snail feasts on worms and small fish.  Unlike the chainsaw teeth of the horse conch and whelk, the cone snails’ radula are sharp, hooked teeth that shoot out of its proboscis like a harpoon or a dart.  Once the cone snail has struck its victim, it releases a paralyzing venom.  The radula, still hooked on to the paralyzed fish, retracts into the cone snail’s body, pulling the entire meal into its stomach.  Inedible bits of fish, such as scales and bones, are ejected after digestion.

With the exception of cone snails, carnivorous sea snails are not dangerous to humans.  Cone snail venom is highly poisonous.  A sting from some species causes a burning reaction much like a bee sting, but the venom from other species can be fatal.  Because of its unique sedative qualities, scientists are studying cone snail venom to develop a non-addictive painkiller for use in hospitals.

So, the next time you see a sea snail at the beach, remember it’s not just a slimy creature with a pretty shell – it has a wild life of its own!

 

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