As well as taking part in video conferences with schools back on the mainland this morning, we visited the local The Five Island School, to talk to some of the classes about our trip and why we we’re here. James Maclaine and Jon Ablett are seasoned Nature Live speakers but three classes of thirty 6-10 year olds is a daunting prospect for anyone. However, the pupils were superb - enthusiastic and interested and full of great questions.
I don't have any photos of the sessions to put up here, but I think it is safe to say that the the pupils enjoyed hearing from our scientists. I saw that two of them, Hafwen and Amelie, had drawn a quick (but very detailed and accurate) picture in the playtime after we had finished and had to get a picture of it. Well done to them for doing such a good picture and to Jon; the mollusc message clearly struck home.
I spent the rest of the day with Jon, back at the bulb fields head-down looking for snails and slugs.
This was really hard work but great fun. Finding a slug in a field of bulbs can be a harder task than finding a needle in a haystack. However, I did fin myself getting extraordinarily excited by the tiny molluscs, and they are very beautiful close up.
If you look closely you can see the breathing hole. All slugs and snails breathe through a hole in the side of their body and - in slugs - the position of this hole can determine what family they are in.
After a good search we had found some really cool stuff, including Oxycailus alliarius.
Collecting slugs and snails
It is interesting in itself that there are any terrestrial molluscs on the islands. The soil here has very little naturally occurring calcium in it and molluscs require this element to build their shells. In Scilly, the high winds and high humidity mean the calcium is effectively ‘blown’ across the islands and dissolved into the soil, and it is this that allows the molluscs to build their shells.
Back at the ranch Jon explained some of techniques he uses to preserve the specimens.
How to join the snail preservation society
Today was also my birthday, and the team prepared a great meal and baked me a cake which was brilliant.
We had (foraged) watercress soup to start, then an amazing fisherman's pie - I caught the pollock and Vanessa turned them into this spectacular creation complete with (foraged, again) samphire.
Thanks so much to all the team but especially Mark and Vanessa for making such a lovely meal!