Island school pupils recruited as Heriot-Watt's newest seashore sleuths



School kids from the Isles of Skye, Bute and South Uist will be taking part in a seabeasties hunt with top Scottish marine scientists this week. 

P6 and P7 pupils will join marine scientists from Heriot-Watt University and the University of Edinburgh on the She Sees Beasties on the Seashore project. The children will hunt out the unseen, undersea critters that thrive in west coast waters. 

Laurence de Clippele from Heriot-Watt University and Dr Sebastian Hennige from the University of Edinburgh will help the school children construct their own plankton nets, and then head to the beach to find out what lurks beneath their local shoreline. 

The project is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), and aims to turn young Scots into Citizen Scientists by adding their own research into national projects. 

Laurence de Clippele, a PhD student in Heriot-Watt's Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, who is researching cold-water coral habitats said,"We're particularly interested to find out which seabeasties could contribute to our food web and to that of cold-water corals. 

"Cold-water coral reefs are a home to many fish and crabs, and are therefore important to us. 

"With a bit of luck, coral larvae will be found, which would be a great discovery that will help us to understand how they are spread across the Western Isles." 

Heriot-Watt's smart phone microscopes will let the children see exactly what these beasties look like, how they wriggle around, and what they coexist with under the water.

Laurence de Clippelle, PhD student at Heriot-Watt University

"The data that is collected by these children will be added to our national research, which is really exciting." 

Dr Sebastian Hennige, a NERC independent research fellow based at the University of Edinburgh, said, "This is a chance for the kids on Scotland's islands to find out how scientists make discoveries, and actually help us find out exactly which beasties are living off the coast of each island. 

"We have lots of online resources so that children and grownups everywhere can get involved and submit their own data from their own coast. 

"If we all do our own bit locally, we can create a huge map of all these seabeasties, and find out exactly how critical they are to our marine systems, food chain and ecology." 

The visits to schools are part of British Science Week. The scientists are visiting Staffin and Kilmuir primary schools on the Isle of Skye; Sgoil Dhalabroig on South Uist and a primary school on the Isle of Bute. 

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