Exploring the rocky shores of Scotland - Earthwatch

Exploring the rocky shores of Scotland

In 2013, Hugh left his job as a doctor to pursue a different career path, and reaping the benefits of spending time outdoors. Hugh joined our Capturing our Coast project in 2016 and this is his blog.

“I’m 55 years old and used to be a GP. I left the NHS in 2013 to give myself time to pursue a different career path. I’m a great believer in the health – and other – benefits of active engagement with the natural world and wanted to do something to support this. Over the last few years this has taken various forms including supporting friends and family to get involved in outdoor activities such as hill walking, canoeing and cycling. I’ve also volunteered with conservation charities such as the John Muir Trust and Scottish Wild Land Group supporting them in their campaigning work. However, my main focus – and great passion – over the last year or so has been citizen science wildlife surveys. This started with the Inner Forth Landscape Initiative in central Scotland where I live but has steadily expanded since. As a lover of the sea and mountains I’m drawn to doing surveys in these places and I can use a lifetime of skills acquired in wild camping / backpacking / canoeing / mountain biking skills to support this – which will hopefully help to fill in some of the blanks on the data map. So, when I became aware of Capturing our Coast (via my membership of the Marine Conservation Society) in early 2016 it seemed like an obvious fit.

March 2016 saw me travelling to SAMS near Oban for my initial training day. We were lucky to have good weather for this and, much to my surprise, I found myself volunteering for the barnacle package at the end of the day (“there’s always one” Hannah our trainer informed me). To be honest, this wasn’t due to any great prior interest in these amazing little creatures – it was the compactness of the kit required (a 3cm square quadrat rather than its 1m square big brother which is required for all the other packages). Such minimalism fitted better with my plan to go to more out of the way places once I’d honed my skills. I was back at SAMS in May for a brilliant field support day getting more detailed barnacle training from Prof Mike Burrows and then it was time to get going. Since then I’ve completed seven surveys and have another four pending upload of the data when some rainy days stop me getting out and about. I’ve visited sites on the west coast from Clach Toll in the north to Carsaig Bay in the south and on the east coast from Kingsbarns to Coldingham – it’s already been fascinating to see the differences between the west and east coast barnacle scene.

Volunteering with Capturing our Coast has given me the opportunity to have some amazing days out visiting stunning locations whilst contributing data to support ongoing ecological research and learning new things about our coastal environments. I very much like the fact the Capturing our Coast is also aiming to get some evidence base around how best to utilise citizen science – and this is leading me to develop an interest in its potential health benefits; which brings me neatly back to where I started in medicine all those years ago.”

The annual UK Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing started in 2015, and have been developed by the National Biodiversity Network, the National Forum for Biological Recording and the Biological Records Centre. Their intention is to recognise and celebrate the outstanding contributions made to biological recording by adults and young people, which is helping to improve our understanding of the UK’s wildlife.

The winners of the 2017 UK Awards for Biological Recording and Information Sharing will be announced at a special ceremony on Thursday 16th November during the National Biodiversity Network’s annual conference in Cardiff.

See more Capturing Our Coast stories and pictures at the project website, and the NBN website for more information on the awards

The Capturing our Coast partnership involves Earthwatch Europe, Hull, Portsmouth and Bangor universities, the Scottish Association for Marine Science, the Marine Biological Association of the UK and the Marine Conservation Society. Along with the Natural History Museum, Northumberland Wildlife Trust, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and the North West Costal Forum.

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