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Fantastic Fieldwork Fridays

By Donia Wozniak, Lizelle Carolus, Whitney Samuels & Leila Nefdt, SAEON Egagasini Node
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Fitting the Smartfins to the surfboard (Photo: Grant van der Heever, 360˚ camera)

With the arrival of the Smartfins and recently acquired 360˚ Garmin VIRB camera, the Egagasini team were keen to test out the new tech with a team surfing day at Muizenberg Beach on Friday 28 September.

Many team members got on board, some of whom had never tried surfing before! With the 360˚ camera mounted at the front of the surf board, the day was perfectly captured with everyone enjoying themselves in the water and on the beach.

Since most of the fieldwork that scientists are involved in is largely inaccessible to school learners, particularly those from previously disadvantaged communities, the 360˚ camera is a fantastic tool that can enable the field to be brought to the classroom, through interactive virtual reality headsets. When donned, these headsets feel just like the real thing and can be used during educational outreach programmes or visits to schools, showing interesting and immersive footage of what it is to be a marine scientist in the field.

With aims of collecting more footage from out at sea, underwater or in a lab, the possibilities to inspire learners with experiences that would otherwise be unattainable for them, are limitless. Overall, the inaugural ‘Fieldwork Friday’ was a fantastic opportunity for team-building and a chance to get out of the office and into the field.

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Stills from the 360˚ camera video footage of the team surfing at Muizenberg beach (Photo: Grant van der Heever)

Day 2 - Intertidal Treasure Hunt

The second Fieldwork Friday took place on 12 October at Dalebrook rocky shore, which also served as a farewell for Neil Malan (postdoc), Charine Collins (postdoc) and Tammy Morris (ASCA coordinator), who have sadly left the node.

With the south-easter howling and a chill in the air, everyone was nervously anticipating what the activity for the afternoon would entail, hoping that snorkeling wouldn’t be on the agenda. To the relief of most, the activity was an ‘Intertidal Treasure Hunt’ organised by Dr Lara Atkinson and the biodiversity team.

The group split into teams of three and the first team to find and photograph all five species on their checklist would be crowned the winners! To even out the playing fields, a biodiversity member joined each team.

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The teams searching for species during the Intertidal Treasure Hunt at Dalebrook (Photo: Lara Atkinson)

The winning team (Lizelle, Donia and Shari) found all five species, including the giant chiton (Dinoplax gigas) and ribbed mussel (Aulocomya ater), which stumped most of the others. No team managed to claim the bonus species prize of the elusive sea hare (Aplysia spp.).

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Some of the species featured on the Intertidal Treasure Hunt checklist at Dalebrook rocky shore. Left: A giant chiton (Dinoplax gigas). Right: A klipvis (family Clinidae) and a feather-duster worm (Pseudobranchiomma longa). (Photos: Donia Wozniak)

The Treasure Hunt activities may seem like fun and games, however, the photos taken of the species on the rocky shore serve a scientific purpose. They will form the basis of an image catalogue, intended for the creation of an ID guide for school learners on marine science fieldtrips.

The ID guide will be specific to the rocky shores where most of the school fieldtrips take place. By containing only the most commonly encountered species with some basic information, the guide will be easy for learners to use.

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The SAEON Egagasini team on Muizenberg Beach enjoying their post-surf coffees (Photo: Grant van der Heever, 360˚ camera)

The two Egagasini Fieldwork Fridays not only resulted in opportunities for collecting data and experimenting with equipment, they were fantastic for team morale and a pleasant escape from the daily admin that many of us find ourselves caught up in. The beach days received positive feedback from everyone and will no doubt continue for many Fridays to come.

“The [Intertidal Treasure Hunt] activity showed great teamwork and showmanship among colleagues. The activity was also a good idea to incorporate as an activity for the learners participating in the Science Education outreach programme. The SAEON team should do these fieldwork activities on a regular basis. It would be great if the Egagasini Node can let every section within the Node come up with different activities in future. Thank you very much for a well-organised fun Fieldwork Friday!” – Lizelle Carolus, DST/NRF Intern

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The SAEON Egagasini team on the Dalebrook rocky shore (Photo: Juliet Hermes)

“We would like to wish Neil, Charine and Tammy everything of the best for their future endeavours.” – Whitney Samuels, DST/NRF Intern

“Fieldwork Fridays has become such a valuable opportunity to put marine science into practice within the field. The SAEON team and I not only got to test out some cool technical equipment called Smartfins and a 360-degree viewing-camera, but we also got an opportunity to get in the water and learn how to surf, using the Smartfins to collect physical data and the camera caught some really cool footage of us doing so. What a great time it was as we got hands-on experience with the identification of marine life along the rocky shore. The team certainly look forward to the next Fieldwork Friday!” – Leila Nefdt, MSc Candidate

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