Effective marine conservation requires public resolve, detailed and up-to-date information about the species and habitats to be protected, and the resources to monitor and enforce protected areas. MarPAMM is bringing this message to the next generation through a dedicated school and outreach programme.

With our programme we want to create awe and wonder about the marine environment as a first step to encouraging public resolve. Our approach has been to focus on a little known but alluring marine species that can create curiosity. After much discussion we settled on the sizeable flapper skate as a critically endangered species protected specifically by the Loch Sunart and the Sound of Jura MPA on the west coast of Scotland.

Gleed3D created a fantastic live-size anatomic model of a female flapper skate. ‘Flappi’ is a tool to encourage children and adults to explore flapper skate biology and consider we need to know about Flappi to be able to protect her.

Our school sessions hope to demonstrate that we need a whole range of information – much of it currently not available – to be able to protect this endangered marine species – or any other – effectively. We want to show that marine conservation is important but that it is difficult. We also strive to highlight to our next generation the diverse expertise needed to protect marine wildlife, encouraging young people to consider how their skills could make a contribution should they choose conservation as their career focus.

‘Flappi’ is now touring schools. After making a first guest appearance at the Royal Society of Edinburgh event in Inverness on 31 August to illustrate a talk, Flappi started his school and outreach tour at Knockevin Special School in Downpatrick and Sacred Heart Primary School in Dundrum in early October. Murlough Beach in Northern Ireland is a regularly visited sampling site for our coastal processes work team, and we felt that the local community should know why we come to work in their environment.

If you’d like to arrange for a visit from Flappi to your school, please contact Anuschka.Miller@sams.ac.uk