Wednesday 19 February 2020

Sea Champions from Plymouth University SCUBA Society complete the Seasearch Observer Course

Sea Champion Georgie talks about organising a Seasearch Observer Course for the SCUBA Society at Plymouth University. 

"Seasearch is a project for volunteer scuba divers and snorkellers who have an interest in what they're seeing underwater, want to learn more and want to help protect the marine environment around the coasts of Britain and Ireland. The main aim is to map out the various types of sea bed found in the near-shore zone around the whole of Britain and Ireland. In addition, we are recording what lives in each area, establishing the richest sites for marine life, the sites where there are problems and the sites which need protection." Seasearch

Two Sea Champion students at Plymouth University, along with five other members of the UPSU SCUBA Society completed the Seasearch Observer Course last month. The course comprised of a theory session hosted on campus on Saturday 16th November followed by two survey dives the next day on West Hoe Waterfront.

Sea Champion and SCUBA Society Chair, Georgie, wanted to organise an observer training course to provide an opportunity for members to develop their scientific diving skills. Becoming a Seasearch observer is the perfect way for divers to build up their marine identification, underwater photography, and surveying skills. Arguably the best part about the course is that it is open to recreational and commercial divers, which allows greater participation across programmes and experience levels. The course not only teaches students how to carry out survey work but also raises awareness about Seasearch’s impact on marine management.

Sea Champion Sally said:

“I found the Seasearch Observer course really useful for solidifying my knowledge of local identification of species. It was run professionally and organised amazingly well by the SCUBA committee. The teacher, Chris Webb, was wonderful and engaging throughout the whole theory day, and excellent at developing our written survey skills after our dives the following day. It was brilliant also having experienced Seasearch diver Chris Wood on the scene for the diving, making sure our ID and biotopes were correct. Lovely people to work with and I can't wait to get some more survey dives under my (weight) belt!”

Dan said:

“I thought it was beneficial in adding a more practical, marine conservation element to our diving as it was really well related to our course. It gives you more initiative to go diving and discover different sites around Plymouth, and feels rewarding that you're adding to conservation data set."

Mason said:

“Before the course, I dived for fun but now I have a new perspective of what I see when I dive.”

Greg said:

“I loved the course. I personally thought it was really helpful as I’m an ocean ex/surveying student so my species ID isn’t the best, but it improved it a lot.”

Georgie, Sea Champion and current SCUBA Society Chair

“It was a pleasure arranging the course for our members, many of which are keen to continue their journey as an observer and fill out forms on club dives. I’d like to thank Chris for all of her efforts and for making the course so enjoyable.”

After completing the observer course, students are required to complete three observer forms to become a qualified observer. Students at the University are now using club dives to complete their qualification. If you’d like to become an observer, Seasearch Devon Co-ordinator Chris Webb is running a course on the 2nd and 3rd of May 2020 at Fort Bovisand, Plymouth. Other course dates and locations are available and can be viewed at Observers are also
encouraged to join Seasearch dives, where they can fill out forms with local expert observers and co-ordinators. Seasearch also offers special interest courses and the Surveyor courses for observers keen to better their skills.

Georgie has since delivered a successful talk at The Waterfront, Plymouth, which was kindly hosted by Plymouth Sound Divers (BSAC Club). The talk was open to all and detailed the background of Seasearch, what is expected of volunteers, how the data provided by volunteers is used and finished off with the importance of recording at depths below 30m. She received positive feedback from those in the club who regularly dive below 30m, some of which were keen to become observers. She also introduced the ReMEDIES project to the club and told them about the Plymouth SAC and its seagrass habitats. No doubt she will keep them up-to-date with any dives happening in that area! Fantastic work Georgie!

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