Help is sought for ot­ter con­ser­va­tion

The Arran Banner - - News -

A Glas­gow Univer­sity stu­dent who is study­ing the ef­fects of microplastics in ma­rine life is ap­peal­ing to walk­ers and wildlife en­thu­si­asts on Ar­ran for as­sis­tance in col­lect­ing spraint (ot­ter dung) sam­ples as part of his dis­ser­ta­tion re­search.

Pablo Gar­cia is in­ves­ti­gat­ing how microplastics are trav­el­ling in the food chain around the Firth of Clyde and the im­pact that they have on ot­ters and their prey. This re­search will pro­vide con­ser­va­tion­ists and sci­en­tists with data that will be in­valu­able in ot­ter, and other wildlife, con­ser­va­tion.

Ot­ters can be found in var­i­ous lo­ca­tions around Ar­ran – most no­tably in Kil­do­nan and Lochranza, where sight­ing are com­mon – with spraint sam­ples equally abun­dant on the coasts and rocky shores where ot­ters can be seen fish­ing or play­ing.

Re­search

Pablo said: ‘My time on Ar­ran has been great. I have com­pleted my first week of data col­lec­tion and it has been bril­liant. In this first week, 30 spraints have been col­lected. This would not have been pos­si­ble with­out the help of the res­i­dents of the is­land in col­lect­ing sam­ples. This help is be­ing re­ally im­por­tant in or­der to com­plete this re­search study dur­ing the last year of my de­gree – Bsc Hons En­vi­ron­men­tal Sci­ence and Sus­tain­abil­ity.

‘If enough data (spraints) is col­lected there is a good chance this re­search study will be pub­lished by Glas­gow Univer­sity.

‘Af­ter all the data is col­lected, I will an­a­lyse the spraints in the univer­sity lab­o­ra­tory to find out if the ot­ters around Ar­ran are un­der threat of microplastics and, if found to be present in ot­ters, I will ex­am­ine the pos­si­ble ways that they are en­ter­ing in the ot­ters’ sys­tem by study­ing their diet and look­ing at trophic trans­fer in the ma­rine food chain. This study will add in­for­ma­tion to help to de­velop con­ser­va­tion projects and to es­tab­lish poli­cies and laws which would help mit­i­gate one of the most im­por­tant global is­sues, plas­tic pol­lu­tion in the oceans.’

If you would like to get in­volved in this re­search, Pablo can be con­tacted on [email protected]­dent.gla. ac.uk and he will be happy to pro­vide you with in­for­ma­tion on how to col­lect and record your sam­ples and how to pre­serve them – which is as sim­ple as pop­ping them into a zip-lock bag. Sam­ples can handed into the Com­mu­nity of Ar­ran Seabed Trust’s Oc­to­pus Cen­tre in Lam­lash where they will be stored in a freezer for later col­lec­tion and anal­y­sis.

Photo Richard Shuck­smith

Two ot­ters can be seen on a bed of kelp. Spraints pro­vide im­por­tant clues about their di­ets.

Glas­gow univer­sity stu­dent Pablo Gar­cia is pic­tured col­lect­ing ot­ter spraints in Lochranza.

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