Pupils study the Solent's oysters as part of major research project

ABOUT 70 primary school pupils learnt more about the fascinating wildlife found in the Solent as part of a research project.

Wednesday, 20th September 2017, 3:18 pm
Updated Wednesday, 27th September 2017, 11:36 am

The children, from Wicor Primary School in Portchester, visited the city’s Land Rover BAR base where researchers have been studying the impact of oysters on the watery ecosystem.

The Solent Oyster Restoration project is aiming to reintroduce more than a million oysters to the south coast’s waters over the next year.

Earlier today the pupils were shown the cage systems - known as ‘oyster hotels’ - which have been lowered into the pontoon by the sailing base.

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They recorded the different species they could find, before taking part in workshops to learn more about the role of oysters in the ecosystem.

Wicor headteacher Mark Wildman said: ‘Environmental science is a core curriculum in our school so we look at all aspects of environments from marine environments to woodland.

‘Hands on experience is irreplaceable. It makes the visit memorable, and when they get back to school and Google it they have a sense of scale, of proportion.’

Smaller fish and shrimps were found among the oysters, though previously researchers have discovered a juvenile seahorse and several critically endangered European eels in the water.

One of the pupils, 10-year-old Will Savage, said: ‘It was really exciting to see what we found.

‘There were a lot of creatures that we have never seen before.’

The project is led by the Blue Marine Foundation, with help from the Universities of Portsmouth and Southampton, MDL Marinas and Land Rover BAR.

In the long term the project seeks to substantially increase the number of native oysters by 2022.

By achieving a self-sustaining population it is hoped the Solent water quality and ecosystem productivity will be improved.

Postgraduate students from the University of Portsmouth have been taking on the research.

Luke Helmer, whose academic work was the initial pilot study for the project, said: ‘These guys are the next generation of marine biologists. For them to see what impact species like oysters can have on the ecosystem is, for me, the first step to getting them to go in the right direction.’