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Thought-Provoking Work Experience in Kimmeridge Bay

August 27, 2012

By Jack Fossey

Roughly 10 years ago, navigating the rockpools of Kimmeridge Bay, I would never have guessed that a decade later I’d be stood in the same spot which offered me such adventure and inquisition as a child, holding a plastic bag, litter picker and a polo shirt with ‘Marine Warden’ emblazoned on my back.  This may sound rather odd and out of the blue, so I realise it’d probably make more sense if I explained a little bit about myself.

Me, litter picking in Kimmeridge Bay

My name is Jack and I have spent the last few years deciding where my life is going to take me.  I began deciding to plan the future when I was about 15 or 16 years old and was well into my GCSE courses, realising I would soon have to choose 4 subjects to take to A level.  Naturally, I enjoyed most of my subjects which made this decision even harder, but eventually I narrowed it down to four subjects that I seemed to be good at but also enjoyed: biology, geography, maths and chemistry.

It has only been in the last year (my first year of 6th form) that I have really started refining what course I want to follow, basing it on the subjects I am taking and the universities which appealed to me most.  After a long, arduous process of visiting universities and talking to various teachers, I decided that I would apply to university to do a degree in chemical engineering.

Chemical engineering? What is that? I hear you ask.  Well, put simply, it is taking a small-scale chemical process and making it large and economically viable, like the oil industry, for example.  In the application process we were heavily advised to find some relevant work experience so that universities would look favourably upon us, however I soon found out that any large companies related to chemical engineering such as BP, Shell, GlaxoSmithKline etc., were all looking for undergraduates in their 3rd or 4th year at university, not 17-year-old students looking for a way in.

In the end, it was my mother’s friend who suggested I contacted a family friend who I hadn’t seen since the days of splashing around in the rockpools as mentioned earlier.  This family friend is Marine Awareness Officer, Julie Hatcher.  Now this may seem irrelevant to chemical engineering but, as it is based heavily on a marine biology style course, I decided that rather than seeing chemical engineering in process, I could view the by-products and the negative impact it can have on the environment, thinking slightly outside of the proverbial box.  After a short chit-chat and catch up with Julie she invited me down the following week to help out around Dorset Wildlife Trust’s Fine Foundation Marine Centre and get firsthand experience of the devastating effects of litter on the coastal ecosystems.

 

Just some of the litter collected 

It is this which led me to the position I formerly indicated – with a large blue plastic bin bag, my litter picking stick and wellies.  To say I wasn’t prepared for the amount of litter on the beach is an understatement.  Although perhaps not instantly noticeable and viewed as nuisance items by visitors – i.e. fizzy drinks cans and bottles and carrier bags left behind – when you’re on a mission to collect it, as soon as you spot even the tiniest piece of litter, it almost becomes a dot-to-dot exercise and an activity which could leave you occupied for several days considering the size of some of the tiny offending items.  I refer here to the small plastic pellets called ‘nurdles’.  These can be found on beaches all over the world and are often mistaken for small stones, but is actually how raw plastic is transported – often these little ‘beads’ of plastic will escape down factory drains or in transit and end up in our seas.   Almost all seabirds and many surface-feeding fish mistake these for food but these are indigestible and nurdles are often found in the digestive tracts of dead marine animals that have as a consequence starved to death.

Nurdles (Emma Godden)

To sum up the experience, I would say it was very thought-provoking but also intriguing as the items found included a fin from a surf board, one right Wellington boot,  balloons, some industrial cleaning agent, beer cans and plastic bottles and some salad from France which was 5 years out of date (see below)!

Best before 04/07! 

The short time I have spent here has made me appreciate that whilst the course I have chosen to apply for at university is extremely important in the evolution of technology, it also has drastic effects on the environment if it is not carefully monitored, outlining the need for more ecologically friendly produce, rather than single-use plastics.

In a bid to encourage people to think about the human impact on marine wildlife and to help address the problem facing our seas locally, Dorset Wildlife Trust is holding a Beach Watch Beach Clean in Worbarrow Bay on Sunday 16th September, 1.30pm – 3.30pm and is urging volunteers to get involved.  Please see www.dorsetwildlifetrust.org.uk/events or call 01929 481044.

 

 

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