Experts from Shropshire-based outdoor education charity, The Field Studies Council, and marine conservation charity ORCA are aiming to increase the number of people who have an interest in understanding the marine mammals living in British waters to help safeguard species against decline.
Together, the organisations, whose patrons include royalty and leading wildlife experts, have designed a series of courses which will educate people on the importance of marine mammals, the threats they face and strategies for conserving populations.
The courses also show participants how everyone can play their part in marine conservation and actively help to protect marine life around the UK.
Clare Rooney, the FSC’s eco-skills training and engagement manager, said the partnership was hugely exciting and would enable the two organisations to increase
awareness nationally and collect additional data relating to the movement and size of whale and dolphin populations to support conservation initiatives.
She said: “This is a fantastic opportunity for anyone who has an interest in wanting to understand more about Britain’s fascinating marine life to develop the necessary skills needed to take action and make important contributions nationally to conservation efforts.
“We are running two unique online courses through the FSC’s newly launched eco-skills programme. The first is called discovering marine mammals and the second, conservation of marine mammals.
"Both have been written and developed by the education team at ORCA who are highly trained specialists in marine mammals.
“The courses provide a distinct pathway for learning from beginner through to more advanced levels with an opportunity then for learners to become citizen scientists through ORCA’s own OceanWatchers course, which the FSC will also be hosting.
“This will give learners access to a newly developed ORCA OceanWatchers app enabling them to record important scientific data about whale and dolphin species so that we can better understand population levels of these mammals and develop a clearer picture of their habitats.”
The coastal waters around the UK and Europe are home to a third of the world’s whale, dolphin and porpoise species, according to ORCA, which was founded for the sole purpose of studying and protecting such marine mammals.
Its work involves identifying and protecting critical whale and dolphin habitats and its new ORCA OceanWatchers programme allows even more people to help in their mission to protect whales and dolphins.
Steve Jones, ORCA’s head of partnerships, says the new courses developed with the FSC will give ordinary people the opportunity to take an active role in marine
science and conservation as a part of this brand-new initiative.
“These marine mammals are truly remarkable and these courses will not only give people an insight into their incredible lives, but they will also give them the tools they need to become citizen scientists and actively help to protect the ocean,” he said.
“The courses we’ve developed in partnership with FSC are unique and will support the growing interest and curiosity in our natural marine heritage. More people than ever are celebrating nature and this offers people from all backgrounds the chance to reconnect with the sea.”
The courses come as interest grows among conservationists for the development of marine national parks around the UK and as whale and dolphin tour operators report a significant rise in bookings due to increasing interest in marine life.
For further details on the marine eco-courses visit field-studies-council.org/courses-and-experiences/natural-history-courses