Sunday, 22 February 2009

Brighton Science Festival 2009

I attended the Brighton Science Festival again this year with a joint display with the Friends of Shoreham Beach Nature Reserve (FoSB). The Shoreham Beach Display included information about the Reserve and FoSB activities, events and achievements. A large part of the display was taken up by a marine litter display "Turning the Tide on marine Litter" and a display of marine litter including the time it takes for each item to biodegrade. (See below)

We shared the room with another display about creating art from marine litter.

My display focused on sea mammals again this year, particularly dolphins and seals, both of which have been recorded at Shoreham.
As well as UK and Sussex Cetaceans (Whales, Dolphins and Porpoise) the display included information about local seal sightings and a satellite tagging programme on Solent and South East Channel Seals.
I will be involved in this project as Sussex County Recorder for Sea Mammals and to develop an education pack to accompany the project. I hope to be able to provide updates on this project in future entries.

A major focal point for my display was the life sized inflatable bottlenose dolphin. This year I also ran three demonstrations in the demonstration hall, the scenario for the demonstration was a re-enactment of a dolphin rescue with audience participation.
Dolphins may be stranded for many reasons so I chose a different scenario for each demonstration, one of them being entangled in marine litter debris, which again linked to the FoSB display. About 100,000 marine mammals, seabirds and turtles are killed by debris each year.
Moving the dolphin from the display room to the demonstration room was a difficult operation, avoiding people and navigating along various narrow corridors.
The demonstration started with a introduction to dolphin adaptation and anatomy, as this is knowledge the audience would need to know to affect a rescue.

The demonstration followed the series of things one should do to help give first aid e.g. check it is breathing (how often!), keep it wet (dolphins can very quickly die of heat exhaustion), dig holes around the flippers if possible to alleviate the damage that gravity causes (dolphins can’t swim if they damage their flippers) and so on (see above)

The re-enactment also demonstrated how a dolphins adaptations to aquatic life work against them if they become stranded on land.
Being a demonstration involving children, each scenario has a happy ending. The dolphin was helped back into the sea and walked around until it was able to swim unaided. But in reality, even after much effort, a happy ending is not guaranteed.