Life in Lochans
In response to requests from local primary schools for further environmental education projects, the Trust started a new project called "Life in Lochans" in 2006. The project introduces children to the rich diversity of plants and animals that lives in nearby lochs and lochans. The project combines both working with specific school groups and open days for the general public.
In school the biologist introduces the project by asking the pupils to imagine a local loch is going to be drained for a development. They have to imagine they are the ecologists who have been sent to find out if anything rare lives there first. Groups of pupils create mindmaps - radiating webs with all the different plants and animals they think might live in a freshwater ecosystem. Following a discussion, which helps remove some of the incorrect suggestions (such as mackerel!), possible field techniques are added to the map.
The fieldtrip is the same for both school groups or general public open days and we have been extremely fortunate to have the help of the local Highland Council Ranger service over the years. A number of different techniques including electrofishing, fyke nets, bottle traps, and kick sampling are used to collect as many different species as possible. Binoculars and telescopes are used to search out other animals and all mammal signs or birds identified are recorded.
Fish are examined in the field but all invertebrates and amphibians are taken to the school. Back in the classroom the tricky job of identification takes place. The biologist returns to the class for one last visit and pupils write reports for SNH or create large wall displays showing all the different things they now know live around their lochs.