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Sea Watch Internship Training Week

Posted on July 20, 2015 at 6:10 AM

My first week at the Sea Watch Foundation in New Quay, Wales, is over! Here's a break down of my training week:

Monday 13th July

Arrived at the house which I'm sharing with 7 other people, it's very nice but not made for this many people! (One fridge between 8 makes life difficult.) I'm sharing an attic room with Kristina and Charlotte, it doesn't have any storage but we get our own bathroom. The town is very pretty, with the houses painted all different colours and facing different directions and you can see the sea pretty much wherever you are. There are two small beaches and a pier/harbour wall. It's tiny, but with lots of steep hills. It's so small the largest food shop (Costcutter - a misleading name) has only one till and the whole town only has one ATP. The postbox is just a cardboard box with 'post' written on it within a shop.

We had a house meeting after settling in so we could meet everyone else. Everyone is really interesting to talk to, everyone has marine degrees and half have masters. Kristina, Charlotte and I went for a food shop and I cooked Charlotte dinner. Then we all went to the pub where an intern called Susie taught me how to play pool. Val and Emma are two American interns who are very loud, but fun. There's a lot of people here from Plymouth or connected to Plymouth in some way. 

Tuesday 14th

Today we had a tour of the office, which was very small and therefore hot, but the front room has a brilliant view over the sea. We then had lectures on land based watches from the pier which we do every day in 2 hour shifts. The talk went over how to fill in the forms, judge sea state, dolphin behaviour and age. It finished with a test of video clips, during which we had to write down the number of animals, if there were any juveniles or calves, and the sea state. I was happy with how I did! The next lectures were on the wildlife in Cardigan Bay in general, then research techniques and data collection.

Our training finished at 4pm so we went for an ice-cream at the best ice-cream shop - lemon cheesecake flavour ice cream! Eating our ice-cream on the pier in the rain we joined Val on land watch. There is another organisation here called the Cardigan Bay project, so I went to talk to them and it was a second year from Plymouth! I bought some postcards and took photos, Charlotte gave me curry and we just had a chilled out evening chatting to get to know each other a bit more. 

Wednesday 15th 

Lectures today were on photo ID and equipment, there was a little 'match the fin' game on the presentation before a long lunch on the beach in the sunshine. They taught us the protocol for photo ID and we had a little exercise to test our understanding. I worked with Charlotte and Alice (a first year from Plymouth who illustrated a book for the Sea Watch Foundation so gets to shadow the education officer for 6 weeks), and we got them all right, yay! Katrina, the research assistant in charge of interns, took us for a walk up a cliff to show us their spot for when they do cliff watch once a week and where some masters students are collecting data. It was a tiny path right on the edge of the cliff, but the views were brilliant! I spotted a porpoise which impressed the others so I was happy! I walked around town exploring the shops a bit, then we went for a drink in the sun - I found a place with cappuccino woo! In the evening we all watched Aladdin on a projector from the office. 

Thursday 16th 

In the morning I shadowed Emma on land watch and she taught us how to use a digiscope, you can literally see things in detail from 1km away, very impressive. They use it for photo ID though and I can imagine it being hard to use on a moving animal. Alice, Julie (education intern) and I went on a tourist dolphin-watching boat to learn the protocol for boat watches. We saw a couple of grey seals and then bottlenose dolphins jumping and tail slapping! We each had a go practising filling in the effort and sightings forms and using the GPS recorder. Afterwards we had sausage and chips on the beach, went back to the office and then did a group land watch. Kathy (sightings officer) got back from holiday today so we went for a drink in the pub with her and everyone. I suffered with either a cold or hayfever so went home early and watched 'Castle' episodes with hot chocolate while everyone else went to the weekly pub quiz.

Friday 17th 

Kathy gave us a lecture on the sightings network and the Sea Watch Foundation, then Megan gave us presentations on public awareness and their adopt a dolphin scheme. Next we had a sightings practical where we split into groups and did a land watch, luckily we did see some dolphins and boat encounters so it was good practice. We saw a jellyfish from the pier and ordered a Tesco food delivery which was exciting. I haven't been eating any meat because it's too expensive! Back in the office we learnt how to input both land watch and boat watch data into certain databases and programmes. It sounded quite complicated, but actually doing it was okay. People watched 'Modern Family' before going down the pub, I did Wing work for dad. 

Saturday 18th 

I had a bit of a lie in and went for a walk, sent postcards and chatted to Joss on the phone, then did Wing work before my land watch 3-5pm where I was supervised by Katrina, it was quiet and we only saw one seal. I met Cedric the seagull who likes to sit next to you if you are wearing a bright red or purple coat. He's the only seagull with a limp and a grey patch on his left side.

The others had a BBQ in the garden and then pre-drinks. Kristina, Alice and I went to the attic and watched The Road to El Dorado which was good fun. I also signed up for a 4 week 'R Programming' online course which is 9 hours a week with coursework and tests starting on the 3rd August. I need to learn it for my masters and everyone in the house knows how to use it and offered to help me, so it seems like a good time to start. Emma sent me all her lectures from uni on using R step-by-step. 

Sunday 19th 

Got up earlier to start Wing work, later it was very sunny so we went out for an ice-cream - jaffa cake flavour! Charlotte and I did land watch together 1-3pm and saw very active dolphins jumping and chasing fish. I stayed until half 4 to watch them, then went rock pooling on the beach with Charlotte, Alice and Emma before going swimming. While swimming we saw the dolphins surfacing and jumping which was exciting! I also took quite a few photos around the beach and rocks - been here 7 days and taken 180 photos. After dinner we watched the film Bridesmaids and I did Wing work. Very lovely day, but busy with tourists on a day trip. Apparently in August it's so busy it's hard to find a place to sit, not looking forward to that. 



So far the hardest jobs are judging distance (we are yet to have training in that) and deciding whether a dolphin is a calf or a juvenile, especially because the dolphins are normally very far away. The house and people are all friendly, but more studenty than I expected (they have been putting salt in the dishwasher instead of any kind of washing tablet... I wondered why things weren't clean). Monday I have a day off and Saturday 25th is the start of National Whale and Dolphin Watch which is going to be busy! From Tuesday - Friday I'm working in the office (around going on watch) doing public sightings, which is talking to the public who have reported sightings to get more details and put the sightings in the system, but I haven't been shown how to do any of that yet. We've had a lot of information thrown at us, but it all makes sense when we put it into practice and the researchers said they expect us to ask a lot of questions in the next week so that's good. Starting from Tuesday I'll be going on watch alone, apart from on weekends when everyone is in pairs so one person can talk to the public so shifts are 4 hours. Wednesday I'm suppose to be going on a boat so fingers crossed the weather improves! 

Categories: Sea Watch Internship

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