Volunteers help record North Devon’s marine wildlife

Hele Bay

Hele Bay - Credit: Archant

This summer, volunteers are surveying North Devon’s marine wildlife providing valuable insights into the diversity which exists along our shores. 

Devon Wildlife Trust’s Wembury Marine Centre has joined a national citizen science survey, working with Coastwise North Devon to record the wildlife on our coastline, helping aid marine conservation efforts. 

‘Shoresearch’ is The Wildlife Trusts' national citizen science survey of the intertidal shore, training volunteers to identify and record wildlife. 

The data is used by experts to monitor our fragile sea life and better understand the effects of pollution, climate change and invasive alien species. 

Starting in 2003, Shoresearch survey data has been key in designating many of our Marine Conservation Zones and will continue to inform marine conservation efforts. 


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Coastwise, a local group in North Devon, has been participating in training sessions this summer to learn more about survey methods, developing the skills to navigate North Devon's challenging rocky shores and gather data for the Shoresearch database. 

DWT’s Marine Awareness and Engagement Officer Coral Smith said: “We are really delighted to be partnering up with Coastwise. There is so much expertise amongst this volunteer group and we are incredibly fortunate that, through Shoresearch, they will be helping us to monitor the rocky shores of North Devon, keeping an eye on invasive marine species and climate change indicators!” 

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Coral joined Coastwise on their first survey at the beginning of the summer, helping volunteers identify and record species at Hele Bay, near Ilfracombe. 

The surveyors worked in teams of twos and threes to walk a defined area, recording around 40 species in just over an hour. 

The most readily identified were the common small animals - anemones, snails, crabs and fish, but the seaweeds proved more difficult, several requiring further study. 

This was followed by a timed species search, 10 minutes (per species) looking for alien species or climate change indicators identified by Shoresearch. 

Coastwise volunteer Paula Ferris said: “We are really pleased to be able to join the Shoresearch survey.  We will benefit from their systematic approach and will learn so much more about our shores. 

“So far it's been great fun sharing what we find with one another and hoping it will contribute to a better national picture of marine biodiversity.” 

An excellent afternoon at the seaside was rounded off by the discovery of a beached Starry Smooth Hound, a very elegant species of shark. The animal, which was found dead, by Rob Jutsum and identified by Robin Shrubsole, one of the Coastwise volunteers.  

Coastwise members will complete more surveys in the months to come and Wembury Marine Centre will be training more individuals in September. These volunteers will undertake surveys along Devon’s south coast close to Plymouth. 

People interested in getting involved should get in touch with either Coastwise (for volunteering opportunities on Devon’s north coast) on info@www.coastwisenorthdevon.org.uk, or contact Wembury Marine Centre for volunteering in South Devon on info@wemburymarinecentre.org.

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