C..C..C..C..Co-Coasting in Portrush

Now that Santa has come and gone, Christmas dinner is a distant memory, and the New Year is no longer quite so new, it’s back to work for the Living Seas Trainees! From 10 - 12 January we travelled to the Coastal Zone in Portrush to be trained in teaching “Capturing Our Coast” survey methods.

We were joined by the rest of the Living Seas Team, Jade, Dave and Becks and also by Andrew and Shona from our Grassroots Challenge Team, and Conor Bush who works for the Events Team and as an Ulster Wildlife Guide.

Capturing Our Coast (aka CoCoast!) is a project which aims to use Citizen Science to record the different species that live on rocky shores around the UK coast. Citizen Science involves members of the public contributing to scientific knowledge and discovery by collecting data, or by analysing or interpreting findings. For CoCoast, volunteer citizen scientists contribute by surveying a section of rocky shore and submitting their findings to the CoCoast website.

CoCoast Portrush the Gang 2017

With seven CoCoast “hubs” around England, Scotland and Wales, the CoCoast team now wants to extend the project to Northern Ireland. By training a group of 20 people to train others, this course was the first step in establishing a dedicated group of volunteer surveyors in Northern Ireland. Each person on the course is now trained to carry out a CoCoast survey and to teach those survey methods to others.

Each new volunteer will be given a “species pack” and all the training and materials they need. Each species pack consists of 7 or 8 different rocky shore species which they will look for every time they carry out a survey. Over time, the CoCoast volunteers will become experts at identifying their species and make a meaningful and significant contribution to scientific research and the monitoring of our coast.

Our course was 3 days long but, don’t worry, courses for volunteers will only take one day! The first day consisted of introductions; to each other, to the project, and to the survey techniques we would be using. The trainees were also introduced to the Living Seas marinelife tank and tasked with assembling it!

CoCoast Portrush rockpool 2017

Day two started with an introduction to the species we would be looking for on the shore. This session was very interactive, we had examples of different seaweeds and intertidal animals that we would find on the shore and a lot of the education was “peer-led”, everyone on the course was teaching and helping each other to identify and recognise the various organisms and examples.

The afternoon session had been planned to take place on the shore outside the Coastal Zone, however strong gale-force winds and an incoming snowstorm soon put that idea to rest! A bit of thinking and bit of discussion led us to relocate to Red Bay, where the conditions would be far more favourable. We quickly organised drivers and were soon on our way en masse to the east side of the Antrim coast. Upon arrival conditions were thankfully a little warmer, a little brighter and much more sheltered than at Portrush. Undaunted, wrapped up warm, and bursting with enthusiasm, the team persevered and got to work putting all the skills we had learned so far into practice.

CoCoast Portrush Shona 2017

As the light faded the day was ended with another convoy, returning to Portrush for coffee and hot chocolate!

The third and final day revolved around working with volunteers. There was discussion around recruiting and maintaining a team, health and safety on the shore, and practicing our presentation skills and public speaking. Some of the Living Seas Trainees even managed to make it out to the shore to learn about barnacles (in the snow) before the day was over!

Our thanks to Jane, Siobhán, Hannah and Megan - the CoCoast Team for coming across from Scotland, Wales and England to deliver the training course. everyone agreed it was well worthwhile and we can't wait to get out there and train up some shiny new Co-Coast volunteers.