Polychaete research in the Falklands by Teresa Darbyshire - Day 2
So, Freya and I tramped down to the local shore in our wellies and waterproof trousers earlier. The wind was whistling around us but was surprisingly not as cold as you might expect. I introduced Freya to the delights of attacking a shoreline with a large garden fork and then having to peer at the results as if you’ve lost a contact lens (photo 1). There is not a large tidal range here, less than 1.5m which for someone used to the 10m range of the Bristol Channel is tiny. Still we found a reasonable range of little worms, some excitingly large, others eye-strainingly small and did our best to keep them from breaking into several smaller pieces before we could get them back to the lab.
We sampled 3 sites down the shore and, not surprisingly with such a small tidal range, found that the specimens varied little between samples and there was not a high diversity within those. That said, I have a nice collection just from today covering at least 12 different family groups and slightly more species. The most striking was a very stripy phyllodocid looking as if it had just escaped from jail (photo 2) and a terebellid with a fantastic ‘80s crimp to its gills (photo 3). Not the best photos I admit but I am hoping to access the camera microscope soon!
Tomorrow will be a new site, hopefully with different animals to find. Luckily I havebeen given a landrover to use as I need to get around. I’m just about used to it now and have stopped hopping along when I set off!. 4x4’s are the only vehicles seen on the roads and I’m very grateful to the complete stranger who has entrusted me with this vehicle to use while he is away! People here are very friendly, nothing is locked and doors are left open. In paranoia, I did try to lock the landrover last night but found that the locks were so unused that I couldn’t get a key in them!
Polychaete research in the Falklands by Teresa Darbyshire - Day 1
I'm a polychaete (marine bristleworms) taxonomist in the marine section of the Department of Biodiversity & Systematic Biology. I was awarded a grant by the Shackleton Fund to visit and conduct research in the Falkland Islands, so now I'm off to Stanley for the next month to collect and investigate the polychaete fauna of the Islands. I'll be collecting specimens by digging them up on the beachesand also by diving. It's nearly 100 years since scientists last looked at this group in the intertidal and shallow subtidal regions of the Islands and there is much potential for the discovery of new species.
I can’t say I was looking forward to an 18 hour flight that much although it has to be said I had no idea what to expect flying on an RAF flight from Brize Norton. With dive kit in tow, I had a lot of baggage with me but this paled into insignificance next to the guys checking in from the BBC who faced a £4500 bill for excess baggage! The flight itself was fairly painless in the end taking off at 11pm and heading south through the night.
Nine hours and not much sleep later we landed on Ascension Island for a 2 hour refuelling stop. The 23°C fresh air was welcome although the views were very bleak (photo 1). Another 8 hours and 2 films later we finally arrived at Mount Pleasant in bright sunshine and more warmth. Not what I was expecting and I didn’t pack that much in the way of light clothing!
A long and dusty trip to Stanley showed a very windswept, rocky landscape dotted with sheep. After finding the flat I am staying in I also met Steve and Jude who I will be diving with later in the week. Jude then whisked me off for a quick tour of the local area including seeing my first penguin and a couple of beaches roped off due to mines!
This morning I made it to the Fisheries department where I will be based. Built on a large floating pontoon (photo 2) with a very disconcerting set of steps up to it (photo 3) everyone I met was very helpful and friendly and I’m looking forward to viewing my first group of worms in the lab there! Low tide is at 3pm this afternoon so I will be out with my fork and bucket beginning my investigations very shortly. I will also have the help of Freya a local volunteer and biology graduate who is keen get involved and see what we can find!
Excavation of Roman Armour from Caerleon
The large block of armour was initially far too heavy to lift in one piece, so we had to split it into three. Julia has been working on the largest section (see previous blog) and I’m now excavating one of the smaller blocks.
At first glance this second block contains a number of interesting objects. A piece of bronze sheet with a cast head, a plain bronze disc, scale armour, a selection of iron objects (not yet identified) and something composed of rows of overlapping flat headed pins, similar in appearance to drawing pins. At this stage it’s difficult to tell if these objects are associated or not.
The most striking object in the block is the cluster of overlapping disc headed pins that have been laid down in rows and imitate scale. When new and brightly polished the copper alloy discs would have shimmered and caught the light. They are now very fragile, little metal remains and their shape is preserved by the green copper corrosion products. Retrieval and conservation is going to be fun and probably age me about 10 years!
The pins were once attached to a backing, probably made of leather which would have been flexible and allowed movement. This has now perished, leaving a black stain in the soil. I’ve kept samples so we can have a closer look at this later. However, the thickness of the backing material can be established by measuring the distance between the head and the bend in the pin.
Now the backing has gone, the soil is the only thing keeping the pins together. It’s going to be a challenge lifting them and preserving the pins original association. This is vital though as it might help identify this mysterious object .
In a time before modern mechanisation it is hard to work out how the Romans managed to make such small and perfectly formed little pins. A closer look down the microscope reveals interesting manufacturing marks but doesn’t really help with the intriguing question, how did they make them? On closer inspection different types of pins have been used, some are domed, some flat and there are also slightly larger studs, which may indicate that the pins were possibly laid in a pattern. I've put a few pictures up just in case anyone has seen an object like this before or fancies a challenge and work out how these little disc headed pins could have been made?
The weather records are coming in!
Already many schools have sent in their weather records! This is just the second week of recording and pupils are busy learning to keep temperature and rainfall records and send in their data.
If you send your data in weekly other schools can look at your data and compare. See the picture to see what the weather reports look like. This was sent in by Bishop Childs CIW School - you can view it on the website by following this link http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/2968
Some schools have also set up their own blogs about the project. See this fantastic blog create by Fulwood and Cadley School: http://www.fulwood-cadley.lancsngfl.ac.uk/index.php?category_id=529
Follow me on Twitter https://twitter.com/#!/Professor_Plant
Keep up the good work Bulb Buddies!
Willow Crafts Workshop at Ty Gwyrdd
Today Ty Gwyrdd has hosted a very creative workshop for teachers.
The workshop gives teachers the chance to learn how to make a variety of willow Christmas decorations - that are suitable to make in the classroom.
After a busy day teachers proudly left with willow wreaths, stars, chains and trees!
The workshop was organised by Out to Learn Willow.
If you have a workshop that promotes sustainability and not for profit then Ty Gwyrdd may be available as a venue and possibily free of charge.
For more information please contact the Education Dept here at St.Ffagans
Go Green Day!
Hello! Saturday November 5th was ‘Go Green’ day at the T? Gwyrdd.
The purpose of this event was to explore easy ways to save energy at home, and at the same time, to save money! Amongst these ideas were simple things, such as: walking to school, using a plug in the sink while washing up, turning off lights when leaving rooms, not leaving mobile phones to charge overnight and many more. For more ways of saving energy at home, follow this link: http://tiny.cc/w4iqr
Visitors to the ‘Go Green’ day were asked to choose one way of saving energy and pledge to introduce the change to their everyday lives.
To ensure everyone kept their pledges, we asked them to write their pledge on a leaf and attach it to the ‘Go Green’ tree. Before long the tree was full of pledges, ranging from walking to school to wearing a jumper around the house to keep warm.
By the end of the day, the little tree was full of green ideas! Fantastic!
It is worth noting that some visitors jumped at the chance to Go Green (literally!) by donning our green feather boa and glittery glasses! At times it looked more like a surreal episode of Strictly Come Dancing! I’m pretty sure it was the first time the dark slate floors of the T? Gwyrdd had seen such dance moves!
A big thank you to everyone who visited… the next event at the T? Gwyrdd is ‘Sustainable Christmas’ on December 3rd, a chance to pick up tips for a green Christmas and a chance to try making your own Christmas decorations! If you have any suggestions on how to celebrate Christmas sustainably – let us know on Twitter: www.twitter.com/tygwyrdd
Thanks again, T? Gwyrdd
Seven thousand bulbs
Over the last two weeks young scientists across the UK have planted seven thousand bulbs in order to help us understand climate change!
I've had many reports from teachers saying that their pupils are now really excited to start keeping weather records to help with this important investigation.
I'd like to wish all the pupils well with their record keeping and can't wait to see the first weather records appear on our web pages this Friday! Please use the following links to help you record. Keeping weather records and What to record.
Don't forget to send me any pictures you have and I will add them to this blog page.
Question for the week: So far, this autumn has been a very warm one. Infact, October was the eighth warmest in the last 100 years! Do you think November will stay warm or turn cold? Do you think it could snow? What weather would you like to have? Leave your comments below.