Published on: Tuesday, July 2, 2024

In the early hours of the morning, the adventure began for King's College Taunton students as they set off on their eagerly anticipated marine biology expedition to the Isles of Scilly. Departing at 5:00 am, the group embarked on a journey filled with excitement and exploration.

Upon arrival at Penzance, the students boarded a boat bound for the Isles of Scilly. Their first destination was Old Town Bay Beach, where they immediately delved into the wonders of marine life. Guided by knowledgeable instructors, the students discovered an array of organisms, including limpets, topshells, periwinkles, and shore crabs, hidden beneath the seaweeds. They identified species using binomial names and studied the unique adaptations that enable these organisms to thrive in the challenging shoreline environment.

After a day of exploration, the group set up camp, establishing a field lab and kitchen. The evening featured a visit from the coastguard, who demonstrated rescue techniques used in emergencies around the islands. This insightful session was followed by a tour of Hugh Town, culminating in a cosy hot chocolate session at the camp.

The following day, dedicated to fieldwork at Old Town Bay, saw students conducting line and belt transects to investigate the distribution of organisms on sheltered rocky shores. They collected data on abiotic factors and utilised kite diagrams to explain the observed distributions. Comparisons between sheltered and exposed shores provided a practical understanding of how environmental factors impact biodiversity.

After a day of intensive study, the group enjoyed a refreshing swim in the crystal-clear but chilly waters off Porthcressa Beach. The evening concluded with a thrilling boat trip to watch the traditional pilot gig racing. Despite their enthusiastic support for the St Agnes boats, the final victory went to a crew from St Mary’s.

On the third day, the students ventured to St Agnes, performing a belt transect on Gugh. They observed species changes due to succession on the sand dune, collecting data and substrate samples for further analysis. The students then journeyed across St Agnes to Troy Town, where Sam Hicks provided a tour of his small dairy farm. The students posed insightful questions about the challenges of small-scale farming on a remote island, including winter food provision for the cows and soil quality maintenance for effective growth of a mixed herbal lay.

After savouring Sam’s delicious ice cream, the group met Jof Hicks and his colleagues from Plymouth University, who were studying the impact of plastic versus non-plastic lobster fishing. Jof, who fishes with zero emissions using a small rowing catamaran, demonstrated how GoPros mounted inside the pots help analyse the catch and observe interactions with other species. This provided a unique insight into sustainable fishing practices and the potential impact of plastic on marine life.

The evening featured a quiz covering both biology and the Isles of Scilly, adding a fun element to the educational journey.

On the final day, the group rose early, had breakfast, and packed up camp. The students conducted practical work using random sampling of two sides of the impressive Garrison Wall. This allowed them to observe the impact of aspect and exposure on the biodiversity of plant life growing in the walls. They collected data and analysed it using Simpson’s Index of Biodiversity.

Before heading back, the students had free time to further explore the island. Assembling on the quay for the return journey, they embarked on the Scillonian III. The return voyage was more rocky and wet than the initial crossing, but pods of jumping dolphins provided delightful entertainment.

The group returned to school tired but exhilarated, having experienced a fantastic adventure. This trip to the Isles of Scilly was not just a field trip; it was a journey of discovery, learning, and fun—a testament to the beauty of nature and the importance of preserving it. Indeed, it was a fantastic adventure for all involved.

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