18 September 2021

First real day of fieldwork

 It had started! We had got through the first day of the field trip. That had only been an introduction; we would start properly gathering data on the second day. And we would start with gathering information about sediment transport and flow velocities and suchlike. Martin normally puts a mooring into the estuary on the day when he is in the field with the students, and then he retrieves it on the last day. Students then get the work with the dataset the mooring has produced in the time in between.

It had been interesting to organise it all. By the time I was tasked with organising everything, Martin was properly off work so I couldn't really consult him. I just asked the technicians, and Guy, where about he might want to place such a mooring. From last year's documentation I found out what it actually is he puts out there. So it was an educated guess that I got permission for from NRW. (And from three other organisations involved, if not five.) Fortunately, he largely agreed with what I had come up with. In the end, he placed it a few tens of metres from the location I had proposed…

But I am getting ahead of things. First we had to get there. So we did the usual routine of me signing in the students onto the bus, and meeting everybody else at the parking lot. There we needed to do a bit of logistic juggling to get all the material for the mooring (which is quite heavy) as close to its destination as we could with the School van. And we asked the students to carry all the stuff. They did that without complaining! And it was a fair distance.

Once we got there, Martin put the mooring in while explaining why he put it there, why he oriented it the way he did, what the instruments were he put there, and what he hoped it would measure and how. And when everything was in position, and everything was explained, we walked back to the bus, and sat down for lunch.

Setting up the mooring

We now had a few hours to fill until we could send a subset of the students to the slipway in the nearby village, to get onto one of our really small boats and do a set of CTD measurements. That was the only activity we needed to do during high tide! Most other things require low tide. And for reasons of covid, we now had a coach for transport. So everybody had to arrive and leave at the same time. In non-pandemic times, you can transport each group of students to their own activity! But this year, we needed to make long days in the field, as we needed to use both the low and high tides to their maximum. 

I had sorted a few options for activities during this wait for high tide. From the labs I borrowed a set of identification guides. We could just see what we could identify in the way of vegetation, seaweed and molluscs. But I had also borrowed a set of litter pickers from the council. We could do a bit of a concept transect, collecting marine litter! And see how that would work out. We went for the litter. We first had to think about what sort of hypotheses we would want to test, and what sort of data we would need to do that. The student had some good ideas. And then we set off.

On the first day, we had seen that the wave regime on either side of Llanddwyn Island was quite different, so we split the group into and did two trial transects. Then we got together again, and compared what approach each group taken. If he wanted to take this research further, we needed to have a unified approach! So we blended the methods of the two groups to get the best of both, and then split up into smaller groups to do some more transects to get more data. We could all do one! And then we gathered all the plastic found in one bag and went back to the bus again. The bus drove all of us to the village with the slipway, where we waited until all the CTD measurements were done, and then the bus, now full, could head back to Bangor. Martin and I helped Pete, the technician, wrap up for the day and then we could head home too. The second day was a wrap!

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