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!


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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