Taking on the ocean's challenges, above and below the waves

A thrilling new sailing experience involving environmental scientists from the University of Plymouth has shown students from all backgrounds the changes in our ocean while also teaching them skills for life.

A crew of 22 young people, aged between 15 and 20, recently took part in SEA the Future, a seven-day oceanography voyage set up by the charity Adventure Under Sail on board the Tall Ship Pelican of London.

While sailing in the English Channel the students have been involved in a number of science experiments examining the state of the oceans and human impacts on them.

University of Plymouth Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology student Emily Murphy Gray explains what drew her to this seafaring experience and how her studies have been enriched.

Who knew?

“I never knew you could actually do all of this. I didn’t even know this ever happened, or that tall ships were being used in this way anymore. 

It was eye-opening to see how people work on a ship of this type in all sorts of conditions, keep food on the table and the Pelican of London going through all hours of the day and night.”

“My favourite part was on the second night. We were under sail with no engines running far out at sea. There was bioluminescent seaweed over the side of the ship in the waves, and then a couple of dolphins came up at the bow and we could see them outlined in the purple and blue lights. I’m going to remember that moment for the rest of my life.”

We get to experience everything. We go up the mast and right up the front, do all the cleaning, help with the cooking and do night watches.

I get on really well with my crewmates and my watchman. There’s a good dynamic between us all. We all like to try a bit of everything. 

If you want to have a taste of what it’s like to research or sail a tall ship then it is the thing to do.”

Find out how you can get involved

 
<p>Emily Murphy Gray<br></p>
<p>Emily Murphy Gray on the Pelican of London<br></p>
Emily Murphy Gray

“I’ve probably had the best experience of my life. I’ve seen so many things that I would never have seen.”

<p>Emily Murphy Gray<br></p>
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Emily Murphy Gray

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Emily Murphy Gray

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Testing times

“I came on board not knowing what kind of surveys they were doing but it always helps to understand how we are affecting the planet, especially with our plastic, nitrate, phosphate and nutrient pollution. We’ve done quite a bit of research as well. 

We’ve taken the CTD (Conductivity, Temperature and Depth) machine down and looked at plankton and nitrate and phosphate surveys. We’ve surveyed different points of the sea, so going out to Eddystone Lighthouse and all the way back into Cawsand Bay for different samples.”

Study marine and coastal ecosystems in a global context

In this hands-on degree, one of the best in the UK and with an international reputation, you’ll tackle big questions, such as why are coral reefs so diverse, how do we best manage and conserve marine life, and how will climate change impact biodiversity? Fieldwork will be a key component of your studies, using the excellent marine and coastal habitats on Plymouth’s doorstep, as well as on residential courses in France and South Africa.

BSc (Hons) Marine Biology and Coastal Ecology