Castles & Cockles

Written by Danny Kaufman

VIMS M.S. Candidate;Advisor: Marjorie A.M. Friedrichs

Welcome back to our continuing exploration of Gogledd Cymru! (North Wales)

Day three was our first morning with a “normal schedule.”  We managed an 8:30 start and made our way first to the Bangor Ocean Sciences campus to gather gear and drop off personal equipment in the lab.  There we split into small (3-4 person) research teams along with Philip Hollyman, M.Sc. of the School of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University, who also previously studied marine environments at Wachapreague, VA and VIMS.

Driving in two bulky vans, Mark and Jim transported our group to a small car park in Newborough Warren & Ynys Llanddwyn National Nature Reserve, from which we began our hike to the mudflats at Traeth Melynog.  This landscape was wide open, with bumpy, grassy knolls undulating into the distance.

We headed towards the beach of Traeth Melynog with an assortment of packs, buckets, shovels, quadrats, meter sticks, bags, and notebooks.  Along the way, Jim pointed out plants of interest, such as Ammophila arenaria, also known as European beach grass.  A little over an hour after our start, we crested the final hill and came upon our destination, a mudflat widely stretched out toward the shore before us.

Past the mudflat lay the Menai Strait, and visible on the other side was our first sight of a British castle.  After snapping a few picturesque photographs, we went down to the mud flat to study our target species, the cockle Cerastoderma educe L. Each team dug holes at various distances from the shore, sieved material from randomly placed quadrats, labeled, and stored cockle samples from the mudflat for later analysis at our lab.

After eating lunch in the grass, we proceeded to investigate the salt marsh just up-shore from the mudflat.  In each marsh zone and in one meter squares, we made coverage estimates and density counts for each plant species, and we measured elevation differences between our zonal quadrats.

We finished up the day with a hike back (including an encounter with several grazing horses) and then lab analysis of the cockle data.  Look for a future post with some of our results!  Thanks to the rain holding back once more, we had had another great day that was productive, enjoyable, and full of the wonderful Welsh landscape.  Keep it coming!


About David Malmquist

David Malmquist is the Director of Communications at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William and Mary.
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