Lat weekend, 8 members of TSAC travelled to Swanage to take part in a Seasearch Observer course. The purpose of the course was to learn how to survey and record the marine habitats we dive in.
The first day of the course was classroom-based. Nick, our tutor, taught us how to plot the location of our dive (on charts and with OS maps), how to make survey sketches, and how to identify the type of seabed, the seabed cover and the particular species we saw. We had a simulated dive (by watching a video of an actual dive that took place near Oban) and completed our first observation forms.
The second day was diving based. We did 2 dives, firstly a dive under Swanage Pier, then a boat dive (a drift dive from Old Harry Rocks), recording aspects of our dives on a slate. NB. you need 4 hands: one for your DSMB, one for your torch, one for your slate and one for your pencil! Due to the fast current, Carol and I were roped together with a buddy line, and oure DSMB was clipped on, so we both had 2 hands free for making notes on our slates. After the dives, we recorded the information on our observation forms (sample forms are shown here; click to enlarge).
The information is then sent to the Marine Conservation Society who use the data to build up a picture of our seas. They can see whether changes are taking place (species moving north due to climate change, proliferation of marine plants and animals, etc) and also to identify areas of particular interest. Armed with this information, they can provide data to the Environment Agencies which might help to protect our rare habitats from commercial exploitation.
I’d thoroughly recommend this course for 2 reasons: firstly, invaluable information is passed to the marine conservation society, and secondly it’s really interesting and makes dives more purposeful and enjoyable. We had a cracking drift dive on Sunday and I spotted so much more than I would have done before.