Saturday 10 August 2013

Day 9- Final Day of Shark Camp!

You know what they say, all good things must come to an end! For our last day of Shark Camp we decided to do something fun as a group! All of us headed to Tullagh Bay for a spot of surfing with Inishowen surf school.

We got suited and booted and after a quick warm up on the beach we were straight in the water and on the boards. The waves weren't very big but enough to give us a thrill and plenty of practice. The water was really pleasant, a number of us said it was the warmest they'd felt in Irish waters! After some hopeless starts and plenty of wipe-outs we each started getting the hang of it- some more than others. After lots of laughing (and cursing!) we chilled out with a spot of lunch on the dunes. Perfect, chilled out end to the camp!

Two weeks of marine biology, flying basking sharks, dissections, microscopes, plankton hauls, fishing, hiding in caves, exploring islands, finding treasure, tracking sharks, making movies, animating our thoughts and ideas, making music and surfing it up! Phew!

Surf antics!

Day 8

As it's #Sharkweek we decided to watch a shark themed movie. We watched some of the documentary 'Shark Water' and had a bit of a debate about the shark finning trade and the wrongful nature of cutting a fin off a shark and throwing it back into the ocean to die. The majority of sharks fins are used to make an Asian delicacy called shark fin soup. Tens of millions of sharks die each year in this way. We learned last week that sharks are apex predators and are needed in the ocean food web to keep things in balance. Sharks pick off all the sick and old fish keeping stocks healthy and also control the numbers of other species. As long as shark fin soup remains 'fashionable', shark populations continue to be seriously impacted with some species close to extinction.

Shark fins drying in sun in Taiwan (photo credit Shawn Heinrichs for the Pew Environment Group

The interns have also learned how to track the most recently tagged basking shark by the Irish Basking Shark Study Group ( using the animal tracking website We produced a picture of the tracks made by the shark tagged off Malin Head. Each point is a coordinate obtained when the shark comes to the surface to feed and the satellite tag on the sharks fin gets a satellite fix (as GPS does not transmit in water). We discussed the possible reasons behind it's movements and how its important to learn where the sharks spend their time and how long they spend on the surface feeding.

Shark track made using the positions given by the satellite tag

Day 7

Day 7 the interns have been working on making a short animated video for our community with a message about what we have learned and what we would like people to know. We learned about the different techniques you can use to make a home-made movie/multimedia message such as 'Draw my life', 'Stop animation', 'Claymation' and different 'documentary' styles. Our video is a mixture of draw my life and stop animation. Getting the lighting and angles right has been half the battle, its not easy being a movie director!

One of our illustrator's at work making our video message

Today we also analysed plankton from our plankton tow under a microscope. We identified the main types of plankton using a key. The majority of the plankton were Calanus copepods which are easily identified as they have two long antenna. They are the main food for basking sharks. We also identified juvenile sea gooseberries (comb jellies), cladocera and mollusc larvae. Some zooplankton are permanently part of the plankton such as copepods but other zooplankton only spend part of their lives as plankton such as the juveniles of crabs, mollusks and fish.

Calanus copepod (NOAA Ocean Explorer)
The interns have been getting on really well over the course of the Shark Camp and we quickly realised that most of us were musical and either play instruments or sing. So we decided to have a well earned jam session at the end of the day....prize for the best marine themed band name!

'Banba and the Plankon Eaters' or 'Sonorous ceteceans'- it's all good!

Thursday 8 August 2013

Day 6

On day 6 the Shark Camp interns had another boat trip on the Gemini 2, searching for Basking Sharks. We left Portmore pier at about one o'clock and crew from RTE radio in Dublin came with us. There was a big tide running so it was a fun ride getting out but not much good for spotting sharks. We did some transect searches for sharks, and dropped a secchi disk to obtain the maximum depth that plankton could photosynthesise at. We also did a plankton tow. There was plenty of plankton in the tow but still no sharks! We hugged the coastline to get a bit of  rest and saw some porpoises and a friendly seal.

Leah and that fin!
Finally we decided to head on out to Inishtrahull island to attempt to get in at the pier there for a walk on the island. It wasn't looking hopeful for sharks but just as we approached south of the island we saw our first glimpse of a fin. Then they were all around us and Rosemary and the skipper even saw one jump clean out of the water ( a full breach).We were so jealous! There must of been at least 20 basking sharks all round the island. We attempted to tag a few but it was proving difficult without the RIB.

We stayed with the sharks for as long as we could and then headed onto the island. Seal greeted us as we approached. We had made our own Geocache and left it on the Island. Geocaching is a worldwide treasure hunt game where you use a GPS to hide and seek containers of prizes and messages for players all over the world to find. Find out more info about is here

On the way back home it started raining and we got soaked but we didn't mind because we found some more sharks to occupy our thoughts. We got back at half six (a bit late) but it was definitely worth it!

Basking Shark and Inishtrahull in background

Saturday 3 August 2013

Day 4

On Day 4 we learned about shark anatomy and we dissected a dogfish to look at its main organs.We learned that the biggest organ is the liver. The liver of a shark is full of oil which helps the shark to float as oil is less dense than water. Basking Sharks used to be fished heavily for the oil in their livers. One of the biggest Basking Shark fisheries was at Achill island. The street lamps in Galway used to be lit with the oil from their livers!

Shark interns feeling the rough skin of a shark- the shark armour!

Later we learned about the negative way sharks are portrayed in the media and thats dogs kill more people each year than sharks. Did you know that humans kill around 100 million sharks a year! Sharks are apex predators which means they keep the food web balanced. Here is an interesting article about it

We played a game that let us learn about commercial fishermen and the sizes of fleets. We learned that as long as stocks (mini eggs) are not over fished they can replenish themselves.

Day 3

On day 3 we went to the community centre to start another day but made a quick decision when we got there to go on the boat because of the good weather. We put on extra layers and life jackets and waited for the Gemini 2 to come into Portmore pier. When we got out it was calm until we went past the tower and the waves made it bit choppy. We turned round and went past the Garvin Isles where it was a bit calmer. We used the last known position of Emmetts's satellite tag to search for sharks and just when we were eating our lunch and about to give up our shark searching, Zoe spotted our first shark! We saw about ten basking sharks and managed to tag three.

Basking Shark Fin

A variety of tags are used to tag the basking sharks. The tags we put in were coloured and numbered visual tags, so if they re re-spotted you know where and when the shark was first tagged. The newest tags are capable of giving their position (lat/long) when on the surface and  variety of different measurements such as temperature. 

Approaching the shark for tagging!

Friday 2 August 2013

Day 2

The morning of our second day dawned bright and sunny, so we went to the beach for a field day. Rosemary and Emmett had put out pots the night before, so first we brought in those to see if anything was caught. We found around 5 shore crabs in the pots and we examined these. We caught a few fish which we keyed out. Then we went seine netting, but only caught seaweed, but after a couple of retries we caught some flat fish and a shrimp. We also examined a fyke net and caught crabs, a blennie, five bearded rockling and sea scorpion. We learned about quotas, bycatch, discards and Common Fisheries Policy (CFP).
Putting out the seine net

After this we went out looking for the geocache near the Wee House of Malin. We had to use the compass on the GPS to to find the latitude and longitude. It was great craic. After the long trek across the beach we found the geocache in a plastic container.

Learning some fish I.D.