Survey Summary: Teen Team Research Expedition 3

 The team!

The team!

Our third and final Teen Team Research Expedition this year departed from Ullapool on the 13th October, providing six budding scientists with a unique opportunity to live on board Silurian, train to be marine mammal scientists and get hands on work experience out at sea.

Over the week we travelled 93.6 nautical miles, collecting visual and acoustic data in the waters around Wester Ross and up to Lochinver. It was a rather windy week, with strong gusts and a big swell, but the team took it in their stride and by the end of the week, everyone grew into their sea legs.

It sounds strange but I’ll miss being suited and booted, ready to take on the foul weather
— One of the teens reflecting on the trip.

In total we had five sightings, encountering three different species – common seal, harbour porpoise and common dolphins, as well as a speedy unidentified dolphin and a sharky fin. Between the team, we also recorded 358 birds, with kittiwakes being the most frequently seen species. A large number of geese were also recorded out at sea on their annual migration.  

 Track lines for Teen Research Expedition 3

Track lines for Teen Research Expedition 3

One of the best parts of the trip was being involved in data collection, gathering information that will actually be used in real life.
— Teen Research Volunteer
 Surveying from the mast in the autumn sunshine.

Surveying from the mast in the autumn sunshine.

This trip has taught me the value of research and how positive change can be made.
— Teen Research Volunteer

The sighting of the trip was definitely the four common dolphins which joined us to bow ride on our second day of surveying as we sailed into the Minch, giving everyone a good view.  

Another highlight of the expedition was the opportunity to explore different places. Stormbound alongside the pier in Lochinver, the team made the most of their time, exploring the nearby woodland and beaches, as well as going on a stunning autumnal walk in the shadow of Suilven around the River Inver. Lochinver is renowned for its pie shop, so after our walk in true Lochinver style we all got pies to take back for our final night in Ullapool.

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 We all enjoyed taking in the views as well as getting some fresh air and exercise before our pies

We all enjoyed taking in the views as well as getting some fresh air and exercise before our pies

Our Skipper Emma chose our anchorages well throughout the trip and one morning we woke to stags roaring and rutting nearby with a golden eagle flying overhead. Brave members of the team also made the most of our remoteness, jumping into the clear water one evening for a quick swim – the water is apparently warmer at this time of year – although it didn’t look it from their faces!

 Silurian anchored in a remote bay off the Summer Isles - perfect for an evening swim!

Silurian anchored in a remote bay off the Summer Isles - perfect for an evening swim!

Living on a boat for a week is certainly different, but I have loved every single minute of it. This experience has solidified my decision to pursue marine biology and conservation as a career. I will never forget it.
— Teen Research Volunteer
 Working as a team to identify sea birds.

Working as a team to identify sea birds.

Thanks to the hard work and dedication of the teen researchers on this survey, we have added to the scientific evidence highlighting important changes occurring in Scottish waters.  

We would like to say a big thanks to the six young people that joined us on board, despite changeable weather conditions and sporadic sightings we all had a great time and were really impressed with your team work, determination and positive attitudes. All the best of luck with your applications to University! Hopefully we will see you again, back on Silurian in the not too distant future!

This trip was also possible thanks to funding from Scottish Natural Heritage, players of People’s Postcode Lottery through Postcode Local Trust, and the Robertson Trust.

If you are 16 or 17 years old and are feeling inspired to spend seven days at sea, working alongside scientists as marine mammal field biologists, why not join our Teen Research Expedition next year?  

Expect the unexpected...