Scilly Seagrass and Beautiful Boat Trips

13 June 2023  /  By Esther Farrant, Education and Outreach Manager

We’ve been spreading the word about seagrass at the Isles of Scilly Festival of Nature

It has been a glorious start to the season! Three representatives from the ReMEDIES project got to enjoy the weather to the full at the Isles of Scilly Festival of Nature. The Isles of Scilly is one of the Special Areas of Conservation the project focuses on. We’re working to protect Scilly’s existing healthy seagrass meadows through raising awareness of their value.

The Isles of Scilly outreach team! Credit: Jules Webber

Seagrass meadows are one of the most important ecosystems on the planet. They provide food and shelter for a wide range of marine life, and they also play a vital role in filtering water and storing carbon. However, seagrass meadows are under threat from several factors, including pollution, climate change, and physical disturbance.

Seagrass as seen from a glass-bottomed boat. Credit Esther Farrant

 

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Our aims on the Isles of Scilly

In some areas, ReMEDIES is working to address these threats by restoring seagrass meadows that have been damaged or lost. But, in the Isles of Scilly, it’s all about raising the profile of the local meadows and protecting the stunning ecosystem that is already established. To raise awareness of the importance of seagrass, the project delivers a variety of outreach activities. These include school visits, public talks, and social media campaigns.

Esther giving a talk at the Mermaid Inn. Credit Jules Webber

The Festival of Nature opened with a welcome reception at the Mermaid Inn. We were part of a series of engaging public talks from visiting scientists and projects. The event was an excellent networking opportunity and chance to promote our community-mapping citizen science. This encourages local boat users and snorkelers to get involved in monitoring the extent of the meadows on their local coastlines.

“I had no idea how important seagrasses are. I’m glad I came to this talk.”

– Kimberly Chagworth, local resident

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Wild school visit

Our workshop programme was well received. The school visit to Five Islands Academy on St. Mary’s was a great success. Students learnt all about the importance of seagrass restoration and mapped their local seagrass on the islands. Finally, we went out into the sunshine to make wildflower seed bombs. Rewilding their green spaces on land, while ReMEDIES rewilds the Ocean.

Children gather round to make wildflower seed bombs in the sunshine

Making seed bombs at Five Islands Academy

 

“I learned a lot about seagrass at our workshop. I’m going to tell my friends about why it’s so great.”

– Harry, year 5 pupil

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A new perspective on the glass-bottomed boat

seagrass seen through a glass bottomed boat

Gazing at seagrass meadows. Credit: Esther Farrant

“I loved the glass bottomed boat tour. It was amazing to see the seagrasses up close.”

– Linda Thomas, tourist

Further outreach took place on board the local glass-bottomed boat tours. This gave people a chance to see seagrass up close and learn about the importance of this vital habitat. These trips showcased the biodiversity of the meadows, from the playful seals we snorkelled with, to the microscopic zooplankton the visitors collected on our plankton trawls.

Trawling for plankton. Credit: Esther Farrant

The plankton trawling activity was a real hit with everyone on board. They all had a go at collecting a sample, then attended our evening event at the wildlife quiz to take a look through the microscope. It was amazing to see the biodiversity that exists in just one drop of the seawater from the seagrass meadows.

Finding plankton under the microscope.

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Getting arty

The Festival of Nature runs alongside the Creative Scilly festival. It is a wonderful drawing together of celebrations of the natural world with creative and artistic activities. Our seagrass engagement stand accompanied art events and talks. This encouraged stimulating conversations about our work and drew in a lot of support and positivity for protecting the existing meadows. It is this collaborative community spirit that makes outreach on the Isles of Scilly so successful.

Seagrass habitat pictures inspired by the school workshops. Credit: Esther Farrant

The outreach events at the Festival of Nature were a great success. They helped to raise awareness of seagrass and the importance of seagrass restoration. They also helped to build a community of people committed to protecting this valuable habitat.

What’s next for ReMEDIES?

Thanks to the diligent efforts of our Natural England Isles of Scilly site lead, the local boating association have approved the installation of ReMEDIES information panels along the quayside. All visiting boat users to the islands will be able to learn about the sensitive seabed habitats around the Isles. The panels will show how they can moor their vessels responsibly, to avoid damage.

Thank you!

We are grateful to the IOS Wildlife Trust for inviting us to their Festival of Nature. Thank you for providing a platform to promote the project objectives and make links with local stakeholders. We are also grateful to the many people who attended the outreach events – our new ambassadors for the seagrass around the islands!

Our outreach team have engaged with over 70 pupils in the Isles of Scilly through school workshops over two festival seasons. We had meaningful engagements with 25 members of the public through our boat trips, and made countless more connections through our evening talks and events. The positive conversations and high level of attendance to Festival of Nature events indicates that ReMEDIES outreach is having a positive impact on the community in the Isles of Scilly.

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