At VICTA we are focused on providing activities with a real purpose and with this in mind we have been offering our young adults the opportunity to earn their John Muir Discovery Awards. In May we embarked on the second of our environmentally focused activities, heading to the pretty Welsh coastal town of New Quay for five days.

During our time in Wales, we stayed in the nearby city of Aberystwyth and travelled as a group into New Quay during the day, where we worked alongside the staff and volunteers of Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre.

After introductions, we were raring to get working on earning our awards! We started off by learning about and then conducting a cetacean (marine wildlife) survey. We were on the hunt  for any marine wildlife activity. Multitasking we combined this with observing human activity in the bay, from people going out kayaking or sailing to those driving boats around.

We conducted one of these surveys each day, with each presenting new challenges, from lots of boats in the area, to rain and cold weather, but it would take more than that to deter this motivated bunch! We were also able to make a real difference to the area by helping on a number of beach cleans with the staff from Marine Centre. While cleaning we took the opportunity to talk about the  importance of removing plastics from the ocean and from the beach.

As part of the award, we were very fortunate to be taught by some world leading specialists in their field. One talk was centred around marine mammals, their physiology (which included being able to handle several dolphin and porpoise skulls and other aquatic wildlife) and their behaviours. This really helped us with our cetacean surveys. The next workshop and beach survey was getting specific with seaweed species! We learnt about stromatolites and varying forms of cyanobacteria and how they helped the seaweed evolve to its current speciation.

Outside of the talks we also took part in a rock pool survey. We searched for shark and ray egg cases, also known as mermaid’s purses due to their odd rectangular and spiky appearance. During our rock pool surveys, we were looking out for different species which used the pools as their home, this included: crabs, shrimps and seaweed.

Our last day involved a boat trip into Cardigan Bay, where we were able to observe lots of different species of birds, from Oyster Catchers to Common Gulls and even some Manx Sheerwaters in flight. We also got the opportunity to use the boat’s underwater microphone to listen for sounds of any marine wildlife, particularly the sound of dolphins interacting between each other.

After our boat trip ended, we took part in a final beach clean before being invited for some well deserved fish and chips with the staff and volunteers at the Cardigan Bay  Marine Wildlife Centre on the beach which was thoroughly enjoyed by all! Don’t worry we cleaned it up afterwards! It finished off an amazing trip, and our thanks go out to our volunteers who helped, as well as the staff and volunteers at the Cardigan Bay Marine Wildlife Centre, who made us feel so welcome and helped us with the award.

Written by John Smith
Activities and Volunteers Co-ordinator

John Muir Wales photo gallery