Environmental Benefit from Once in a Lifetime Trip
Monday, 07 August 2017
Students from Bolton School Girls’ and Boys’ Divisions have enjoyed an amazing “once in a lifetime” visit to Dominica, whilst enriching research into biodiversity. Eighteen boys and fourteen girls took part in the two week Operation Wallacea trip to the largely unspoiled Caribbean island.
The first week was spent in a terrestrial forest camp, working with an international team of academics, who are collecting data on biodiversity. Students rotated through different projects throughout the week, including: catching lizards to collect data on the effect an invasive species of lizard was having on the native lizard; marine ecology, transects were carried out at Champagne Reef - this is a particularly special site, there being only four like it in the world as carbon dioxide bubbles up from beneath the reef to make it look like you are swimming through champagne, the reef offers a glimpse into what the future may be like if oceanic carbon dioxide continues to rise due to man’s activities; collecting invertebrates as the invertebrates on the island are understudied and there are many new species being discovered, the students helped to collect and pin samples which were sent to the Natural History Museum in London for analysis; collecting samples from the river as part of an effort to establish a freshwater index which will allow a rapid way of identifying river health in the future and establish an affordable long-term monitoring method; mist netting of birds, to assess bird diversity, birds flew into a large piece of netting and were then identified and measurements taken and they were released unharmed; and bat surveys, there being many bat caves on the island and bats were captured, weighed sexed and given a temporary mark to allow scientists to monitor population sizes and some were given radio emitting tags which allowed scientists to monitor them and find out more about where they lived.
The students also enjoyed either a canyoning or volcanology day. Canyoning, an extreme sport, involved climbing, jumping and rapelling through the river systems of some of the most beautiful parts of the island. Those opting for volcanology were given a tour of the island by a local expert, visiting some of the nine active volcanoes present on the island.
The group also went on a whale watching trip, although they did not see any whales, they were joined by a pod of dolphins who swam with the boat.
During the second week of the trip, the pupils were based in a different part of the island as they took part in a marine ecology week. Their accommodation was in the beautiful Fort Shirley, a fully restored old colonial fort dating from the 1700s built by the British and the French. Students either completed their PADI open water qualification or a reef ecology course. Lots of interesting marine life was seen, including turtles, eels, barracuda, fire coral, barrel sponges, lionfish and many more. A particular highlight was when the students were given the opportunity to cleanse the reef of invasive lionfish, this involved taking a spear scuba diving and spearing any that they saw.
Student feedback on the trip was extremely positive: “The ability to further my knowledge about marine life whilst also becoming qualified as an open water diver made the marine week a truly amazing experience”, “Brilliant marine life coupled with conservation in the most historic and picturesque setting. Truly a once in a lifetime experience” and “Words can’t do this trip justice, I will cherish my experiences here forever.”
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