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Living Coasts has partnered up with the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth, along with 10 other marine based organisations, to launch the newest and biggest citizen science project here in the South West.
The Community Seagrass Initiative has been awarded £475,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to provide opportunities for volunteers to get involved in marine science. The project will survey 191 miles of coastline from Looe to Weymouth, specifically looking at seagrass beds.

Seagrass is one of the world’s only marine flowering plants which creates large meadows in shallow waters on sandy seabed. There are many seagrass meadows, or beds, around the South West of the UK and West coast of Scotland. The meadows act like an underwater rainforest, providing shelter for all sorts of marine species, on an otherwise featureless seabed. Seagrass meadows are home to some of the most charismatic species in the UK such as Seahorses and Cuttlefish, and act as a nursery ground for commercial fish species. They can also improve water quality and stabilise sediments reducing coastal erosion.

This amazing habitat is in decline from coastal activities such as pollution and recreational water users. For this reason, it is in need of protection and the first step to protection is to assess the health of the beds.
The three project officers who will run this project in the South West for at least the next three years, are keen to reach out to the coastal communities to recruit volunteer divers, kayakers, boat users, teachers and internet users to help with the surveys.

My name is Rachel Cole, I am the Torbay project officer responsible for the Salcombe and Torbay surveys. I am very excited to be part of this project. As a Brixham girl who grew up by the sea, learning a lot from my fisherman Father, it feel great to be part of a project that involves our local communities in marine science on our doorstep!

After I graduated from Plymouth University with a BSc. Marine Biology degree, I trained as a commercial scientific diver and advanced powerboat skipper. This allowed me to conduct marine surveys here in South Devon. I specialised in seagrass ecology and realised what an amazing habitat we have all over Torbay and Salcombe. I feel that more awareness needs to be raised about this habitat. Not many people know where or what it is and why it’s important. This new role with the National Marine Aquarium will allow me to do just that!
I’m very happy to be associated with Living Coasts again, as I used to work there 10 years ago as a presenter (how time flies). The team are very supportive of the project and have kindly offered their site to hold launch parties, workshops and meetings the prefect venue if you ask me!

I am very much looking forward to the launch party held in the Terrace Café on Friday 27th March 6pm. This will be the final launch party of the beginning of the project, after the ones in Plymouth and Weymouth were a great success. We have had lots of volunteers sign up so far, so hopefully that number will keep on growing.

If you would like to know more or get involved, please contact [email protected]

Rachel Cole, Torbay Project Officer, The Community Seagrass Initiative

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