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Inspiring a new generation of ocean ambassadors

By Donia Wozniak, Lizelle Carolus, Grant van der Heever, Whitney Samuels, Sipho Nkohla and Thomas Mtontsi, SAEON Egagasini Node
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Long-term Intertidal Monitoring through Participation Evaluation and Training, or LIMPET for short, is a programme designed to encourage learner and teacher training through engagement with, and collection of data of, intertidal rocky shore ecosystems.

Faced by threats to our oceans from a variety of human impacts such as pollution, overexploitation and climate change, it is necessary to collect good long-term data to monitor and manage the health and biodiversity of our oceans.

The LIMPET programme contributes towards collection of such data, feeding into a national database, while at the same time educating school learners about our beautiful rocky shore ecosystems and inspiring a new generation of ocean ambassadors. Contributing to the success of the field trips, were facilitators from different organisations such as the Department of Environmental Affairs, Centre for Conservation Education and SAEON.

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Ocean View High learners and facilitators after a successful field trip exploring the Dalebrook rocky shore. (Picture: Mark Van Rensburg)

Dalebrook Rocky Shore Field Trips

On 28 August and again on 11 September, groups of facilitators met up with grade 10 learners from Ocean View High School at the Dalebrook rocky shore to collect data for the LIMPET project. The high school learners specialise in Mathematics, Physics, Life Sciences and Geography.

Both these events were fun-filled learning experiences, with great outputs and smiles all round. Donia Wozniak and Whitney Samuels (interns at SAEON) assisted the LIMPET coordinators on 28 August, and Grant van der Heever (SAEON), Sipho Nkohla (Cape Peninsula University of Technology) and Lizelle Carolus (intern at SAEON) assisted on 11 September.

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A group of learners receive their sampling materials, along with a briefing about the activities that await them. (Picture: Mark Van Rensburg)                                                                                                                                                                                                             

Schematic diagram showing the sampling layout on the rocky shore along the three transects. The learners were divided into three groups, and then again into groups of three. Each group of three sampled once with a quadrat within the low, mid and high zone of the transect.

On arrival, the learners were divided into groups and their sampling gear (clipboards with data sheets, pencils, rulers and a quadrat) was handed out to them. The learners first explored the rocky shore, with the aim being to introduce the concept of the three different intertidal zones of the rocky shore, while demonstrating how each zone is uniquely characterised by the dissimilar fauna and flora. Learners had to find as many common rocky shore species as possible and identify their feeding mechanisms.

In the second activity, learners were given the chance to apply scientific methods of data collection within the mid, low and high zones on the rocky shore. The facilitators first briefed them on the methodology and explained how to collect the data on the transect line in the different zones. The learners were required to randomly place a quadrat in each of the respective zones and to identify, count and measure each of the required species on the worksheet. They were enlightened about the stressful conditions on a rocky shore and how certain species are adapted to withstand these conditions.

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During the exploration activity, learners were exposed to many wonderful and strange creatures including anemones (left), spiny starfish (centre) and cape sea urchins. (Pictures: Mark Van Rensburg)

The last activity for the day was the "Dirty Dozen” beach clean-up, where learners had to race to collect as much litter as possible. Together the learners collected a considerable amount of litter along the rocky shore, which had initially appeared to be pristine. The learners were made aware of the various types of litter, specifically plastics, polluting our marine environments and what actions they could take to mitigate their impacts on the environment. They suggested several ways they could help, including educating their friends and family about the issues, starting campaigns, recycling and using fewer plastic products such as shopping bags or straws.

Not only were the LIMPET field trips an exciting learning experience for the learners, but for the facilitators as well. Some members of SAEON team involved share their highlights and what it meant for them to be involved:

"The learners were Afrikaans-speaking, so I could accommodate them in their first language. The weather was favourable to continue the activities for the day. The group of learners was very well organised, showed a great deal of interest and was easy to work with in collecting the data. The facilitators worked well with the learners and managed to collect data in each zone within a good time frame. The day was very well planned and great success." - Lizelle Carolus.

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Ocean View learners participate in the random sampling activity. Learners had to count and measure the common species found, while facilitators offered help and guidance. (Pictures: Mark Van Rensburg)

"The day went well in that the learners were excited and enthusiastic about the activities. Some were very interested in knowing more about the importance of the rocky shore and how animals live there under such conditions. There were instances where they needed guidance on how they could describe the general characteristics of certain species in simple terms." – Sipho Nkohla

Grant van der Heever said that he thoroughly enjoyed the experience and is thankful to have been given the opportunity to assist. "Being able to teach learners about the rocky shore and the complex interactions that occur across it was a rewarding experience. We managed to give these kids a glimpse of what it means to be a marine scientist and I hope we inspired a few to choose it as a career path!”

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