Monday, 19 May 2014

embedding marine non-native species ...

Tonight instead of kayaking in the rain (which I was looking forward to) I have been pressing seaweeds. But I can paddle any time and this batch of fresh wakame had to be dealt with imediately. From past experience I know if I leave it till tomorrow I'll have a bucket of slime. Not nice.

So now they are in the press and the kayaking club have gone without me I have the evening to explain why.

The wakame is part of a commission I have been asked to do for ERCCIS (Environmental Records for Cornwall and Isles of Scilly) They want me to embed in resin some marine  non-native species  for a European Interreg 3C (Channel Catchment Cluster) project.

It probably won't be possible to embed all the species but we are trying as many as we can.

The first species I got to do were the sea squirts Asterocarpa humilis and Styela clava. The specimens were pickled in formalin and I had to dry them out but keep the funnels open so I stuck straws in them. Then I filled the bodies with resin before finally embedding. All very fiddly and I wasn't sure if it was going to work but considering the fleshy nature of sea squirts they didn't come out too bad.

The Darwin's barnacles I did next were much more straight forward. I was given various object with the offending barnacle attached to embed. My favourite was the green shoe. Sadly not used as it was too big and an awkward shape.

Here are these three finished with Cornwall Wildlife Trust logo and name of species embedded within them.

So far so good!

Then came the wakame...

The identifying features of wakame, Undaria pinnatifida, are the central midrib, the wavy finger fronds and the frilly holdfast and this piece has it all. I pressed it on tissue which will become transparent when I embed it in the resin, with the holfast dangling out the end of the boards.

The only problem with it is it's huge. We would end up with a block of resin 60 x 40 x 11cm. So Lisa, who has commissioned me to do this and is collecting the specimens for me, found some smaller bits today.

All the way from Plymouth the next batch of wakame. See how this one works. Then I have wireweed, slipper limpet, oh and a few other things I can't remember right now. The one I am really looking forward to is the mitten crab.

More posts on this project to come.

This isn't the first time I have been involved with the issue of marine invasives. Two years ago I was commissioned to design a board illustrating some of the species causing problems in marine waters. It can be found in the National Maritime Museum in Falmouth. The board is down in the tidal zone where you can see the tide rising and falling through big glass window.

For more information on the species go to the ERCCIS website. Investigate Invasives campaign aims to identify non-native invasive species that threaten the habitats and native wildlife of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. 

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

a whimbrel on Prisk

I wandered slowly along Prisk a few days ago looking for shells and things. Found 21 cowries, a few bird bones, crab moults and a lovely plant skeleton. I think it is a reed mace flower dried and hollowed out.

But the most amazing thing I found was a whimbrel.
One of my favourite migrants their calls always fill me with joy. Like the first swallows they tell us summer is believable and winter is at last a dream. I think in the north they are known as 'the seven note whistler' because of their call.
It was sad and strange to find one fairly recently dead, lying above the high tide line. But I feel so lucky to be given such a beautiful and rare thing. I brought her home to draw.
I will put the drawings on my Face book page  as I do them.

If you find a dead sea bird please report it to the Marine Strandings Network 

Sunday, 4 May 2014

pink sea fan

I want to share this amazing thing I found today. I think it is a pink sea fan Eunicella verrucosa, which is a soft coral. Reading what Natural England says about them makes me think maybe it is a sad thing that I found so many? I found this one and seven others on a beach off the Lizard, near the Manacles. Wishing I could dive and see them alive. Information about these beautiful creatures in Cornwall can also be found on the Cornwall Wildlife Trust's website Pink Sea Fan Project