My name is Irys and I’m twelve years old. You can check out my Instagram here – https://www.instagram.com/irys_click/
I love the sea and am fascinated by everything that lives in it, from the Sperm Whale, to the bioluminescent Dinoflagellates to the Crystal Jellyfish.
So travelling the coast of the UK has been an incredible experience and given me loads of opportunities to study and learn all about the marine environment.
I have met so many people who live, work and study all around the coast who have been willing to share their knowledge and experience with me and teach me so much from their own enthusiasm.
On our very first day in Scotland I met some divers who taught me all about Citizen Science.
In Cromarty I met the founder of the Aberdeen University Research Center. He told me all about their research into Fulmars, Bottlenose Dolphins and Harbour Seals.
I joined in Shore Watch at the WDC Research Centre in Spey Bay. Shore Watch happens all round the coast and is used to collect data of marine wildlife in the surveyed sites.
At Duncansby Head we joined the Pringle family, marine loving enthusiasts, watching for Orca. Unfortunately the weather was dreadful so we didn’t see anything. Instead we went on a Puffin hunt and saw loads which was very exciting as I’ve never seen them before and then played an epic game of Uno.
I was privileged to be given a tour around the School of Ocean Sciences on Anglesea, which was amazing, I got to see the main lab, hear all about some of their research projects, learn all about how sediment tanks are used and see how they had mapped the Menai Strait, which was really cool.
At The Ocean Lab in Goodwick I learnt all about the People’s Porpoise Project. Cliff, the founder, took me up to Strumble Head where they go daily to survey and spot porpoise. We’d missed them by the time we got there but instead we saw Risso’s dolphin. This was amazing and Cliff explained it was a one in a thousand opportunity as they rarely come so close to shore.
This year I learnt how to snorkel and so when I was given the opportunity to go snorkeling at night to see the bioluminescent algae I jumped at the opportunity and it was amazing.
Bioluminescence is a natural light that is caused by a chemical reaction between luciferin and luciferase. When we swam amongst the water and punched out it flashed blue as though it was filled with a thousand blue stars.
Jellyfish can be found in coastal waters all around the UK and a few months back I found a jellyfish that I couldn’t identify. So whilst looking into it I came across a blog called Cornish Rock Pools and it helped me identify it as a Crystal Jellyfish, which is extremely rare in the UK. I got in touch with the author of the blog, Heather, and asked if she would take me rock pooling with her when I eventually made it round to Cornwall, as she writes a lot about rock pool wildlife.
I went Rock Pooling with Heather. We found Dahlia Anemones, Snakelock Anemones, Worm Pipefish and a whole load of sea squirts, crabs and even a few Cushion Stars, she taught me loads about all the wildlife that we found. What she doesn’t know isn’t worth knowing!
She also gave me a copy of the book she’s written, called Rock Pool, Extraordinary Encounters Between The Tides, it shines with enthusiasm and passion and has some wonderful facts.
I also went rock pooling with a man named Ben who runs an educational charity, The Rock Pool Project. They are trying to connect people with life on the shore. We did a bioblitz, a crab survey and collected data for use in later years. We found four species new to that site.
Lots of people around the coast are concerned about plastics in the ocean. I met a lady who has started doing beach cleans in her local area bringing people from all over to join her. Some cafes have started giving out free coffee if you pick up a bag of litter from the beach near them and some small towns have even gained plastic free status.
People have become more aware of environmental problems and some friends of mine, as well as many others, have started climate striking. I joined Finlay & Ella Pringle in Ullapool earlier this year for #Fridaysforfuture school strike.
I love researching, studying and learning all about the marine world, I also love photography. So I’ve set up an Instagram page to document the wildlife I see and anything I learn about it.
I am studying an online ecology course with Khan Academy. I’m learning all about biotic and abiotic factors, meaning if something is living or not, carrying capacity and relationships between one organism and another.
I also have lots of books, (ocean encyclopedias, coastal wildlife and whale and dolphin guides, David Attenbrough’s Living Planet, FSC identification charts.) that I regularly read and study.
All this has helped me on my journey to become a marine biologist!