S2 Investigation of the Marine Food Chain on Gairloch’s Beaches

While the rest of the school was away, S2 had the opportunity to explore Gairloch’s beaches with Dr Close and Mr Peter Cunningham on a Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. You can see all the photos on Flickr.

We conducted a sampling survey of the sand on both beaches and are hoping to find out if there are micro-plastics in the sand.

S2 Investigation of the Marine Food Chain on Gairloch's Beaches

Thursday saw Mr Cunningham electro fishing the Achtercairn Burn with several trout and eels being caught as well as some small plaice closer to the beach.

S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

On Friday we investigated the Marine Food chain on Gairloch’s main beach, first by using a Plankton net to catch Phytoplankton and the Zoo plankton which eat them. We then looked for filter feeding worms which eat the plankton, by digging in the sand. Next we used two different sized, sweep nets to try to catch the fish and marine invertebrates which feed on the worms and also the plankton.
S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

Lastly Mr Ian McWhinney brought his fishing boat over to the beach and came ashore with a variety of the predators of the small fish we caught in the sweep nets.

S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

Mr Cunningham shares some of what we found:

“Here’s a list of some of the things we found:

Zooplankton . . . with the plankton net:  Included crab or lobster larvae and other stuff too small to see without microscope. I’ll be happy to bring our microscope into the school one day with samples of plankton. There was not such a lot of zooplankton off the beach; much more in some concentrated patches where currents converge further out and around towards Melvaig.

I explained how other animals including mackerel and basking sharks can often be seen in the silvery mixing lines where the zooplankton becomes concentrated. So do jellyfish and floating things like sea weed and plastic bags!

 One jellyfish (moon jellyfish ) was recovered from the beach stranded. There was a barrel jellyfish washed up last week – I didn’t see it.  The leatherback turtles eat jellyfish – particularly barrel jellyfish.

Sand animals: We found lugworms and tube worms (sand mason worms I think) and a ragworm of some sort; and at least one other kind of worm (or bit of one). You could spend a whole session looking at worms! We also found Tellin bivalves and sea potatoes (Heart urchin).

S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

Sweep net of lagoon. Lots of animals here

  • Fish: dozens of juvenile plaice [rather than flounder I think] ; sandeels (maybe lesser sandeel and greater sandeel); juvenile cod (this year’s fry); gurnard sp; goby sp. (sand goby i think; it is very similar to common goby – which is found more in estuaries according to the book).
  • Crustaceans: hermit crab, shore crab
  • Molluscs: sea hare (kind of sea slug).
  • Echinoderms – think someone produced a starfish and a heart urchin, though possibly not in the net?
  • Think there was also possibly one very small purple stinger jellyfish; however I didn’t hear anyone squealing about that!

S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

Big sweep net: Much effort for not a lot; however two rather special story things:

  • Bob-tail squid, or little cuttlefish (Sepiola atlantica). These are great little creatures – if we had had more time I would have put it in an aquarium for all to see close up.
  • Lesser weaverfish. Venomous spines! Not good to stand on one of these in bare feet. . . you’ll find lots of stories on line of surfers who have experienced the spine. Good to wear shoes if wading about in the sea!
  • The crabs were interesting here – we got masked crab and swimming crab (?Liocarcinus depurator I think. Velvet swimming crabs can be found at low tide in the kelp around the An Dun headland).

S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

Ian’s animals: what a fantastic selection!

These I assume all came out of creels? Great selection . . .

  • Fish: cod (one-year old I think – a size bigger than the wee ones we found in the lagoon); flatfish (possibly a dab rather than a flounder?); sea scorpion  (not sure whether long-spined or short-spined . . . both can be found in the kelp at low tide)
  • Crustaceans: Lobster; Edible (brown) crab; Shore crab (I didn’t realise there was a local fishery for these too!); Velvet crab (I think there was one – these are often the fiercest); Spider crab (sea toad); Norway lobster (langoustine or Nephrops); Long-clawed squat lobster.
  • Molluscs: Octopus.  I decided that the Octopus is at the top of the food chain for us. Or perhaps if it had been in the bucket, the crabs they would have eaten it? Food webs can get very complicated . . .”

S2 Marine Habitats & Food Chains

 This coupled with the perfect weather constituted a really memorable and fun learning experience. Thanks to Mr Cunningham and Mr McWhinney for their time, skills and knowledge.

Gairloch High School Cross Country 2018

Pupils have been working on their cross country fitness, resilience and determination in PE.  On Wednesday 7th March we had our schools cross country competition.  It was perfect running conditions as most of our cross country season has been this year.  A small group of pupils ventured out for the run, including all S1, S3 long PE and many other willing runners.  Thanks to the senior pupils who helped marshal and assist on the day.

The results were:

S1-3 Girls
  • Winner joint 1st = Maisie Baptist (S3) and Kirsty MacDonald (S2)
  • 2nd – Helen Urquhart (S1)
  • 3rd – Izzy MacDonald (S1)
S1-3 Boys
  • Winner 1st – Corey Maclennan (S2)
  • 2nd – Sam Frost (S2)
  • 3rd – Luke Elder (S2)
S4-6 Boys winner joint 1st = Callum MacDonald (S4) Joel Goldby (S4)
No S4-6 girls running this year.

School Cross Country

Well done to all our winners and to everyone that took part!

New Mountain Bikes

The school had 8 new mountain bikes delivered on December 18th. These bikes will be used by  S1 pupils in cycling safety and in preparation for their Cairngorm trip in May, up to S5/S6 Outdoor Education pupils doing cycling maintenance and cycling activities.
Thanks to Mark at Orangefox Bikes in Muir of Ord.

New Mountain Bikes

New Mountain BikesNew Mountain Bikes

S1 SMART Orienteering

Some of our S1 pupils wrote about their experiences doing orienteering around Flowerdale.

How to understand an orienteering map (by Hannah)

First you need to find out where you are on the map and which direction you are going in. Then, when you have a set place to go to, you need to read the key and find the landmarks you can look for near your destination. Then keep a lookout for the landmarks. You have to remember to look at the date that the map was published though because some posts or trees are no longer there. A good way to tell where you are is the telegraph poles and the electrical lines because they are usually in the same place.

S1 Orienteering @ Flowerdale

Easy and Hard bits of orienteering (by Alana)

The easiest parts of orienteering is when you look on the map you use the symbols at the side of the map and before you always start find where you are on the map.

The hardest parts of orienteering is using your sense of direction and people in your group not listening to each other.

S1 Orienteering @ Flowerdale

Teamwork (by Sam)

Today in orienteering we used a lot of team work. Corey looked at the map and Zeke and me looked for the flags.

S1 Orienteering @ Flowerdale

Activity Tourism go Kayaking

Our Activity Tourism course often works with local providers and draws on the wealth of experience they have in operating successful businesses sharing outdoor activities with locals and tourists. Ewe Canoe, one such provider, has been working in partnership with the pupils this year. Jasmine Connop (S5) tells us about their experience.

We went out for the day Kayaking, in the harbour, with Connor Brown.

Activity Tourism with Ewe Canoe

Lots more photos on Flickr

We did it Because we had to experience an activity in the local area, plus we had to find out information about the activity like: Hazards involved when doing the activity and how to do the activity. Although we had to do it to pass our units, we also did it for fun and for experience in kayaking.

Activity Tourism with Ewe Canoe

We learned what equipment is needed to keep us safe when kayaking, we learned how to work as a team and how to stick as a group, also we learned how to turn the kayak in a more efficient way.

Activity Tourism with Ewe Canoe

It was a very worth while experience, I personally would 100% do that again. Connor made it very enjoyable by playing games, teaching new skills and he kept on top of how we were feeling to make sure we were all okay and were happy.

Activity Tourism with Ewe Canoe

S1 Beach Clean

As part of their John Muir Award, which has them discovering, exploring, conserving and sharing local wild places, S1 were out in force this week!

We did an S1 beach clean to make it look cleaner for the public and tourists that come and visit Gairloch. (Alana)

S1 Beach Clean 2017

More photos on Flickr

We found loads of small bits of rope that had been washed onto the beach. Although they were tiny, they can still be dangerous for birds, so we got as much as we could. (Ruaraidh)

S1 Beach Clean 2017

This will help to save the wildlife that lives on the beach and to keep their habitats clean and healthy (Hannah)

S1 Beach Clean 2017

SMART working at the Community Garden

After an appeal from local shop owner David Carruthers, the S1B SMART class headed out to the local community garden (the “Sitooterie”) to help prepare ground for planting a wildflower garden.

SMART sees pupils working towards their John Muir Award to Discover, Explore, Conserve and Share local wild places. Working on the garden contributes to their conservation and will take place over the next few weeks.

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Before and After in the girls’ wildflower garden