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Using an underwater robot, the Quayside Explorer sessions will make the underwater seagrass habitats, which are normally hidden from public view, accessible to many residents and visitors to the south coast. High definition footage will be streamed live from a camera mounted on a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) to a video screen back on dry land, where audiences will be able to view the seagrass beds and discover more about these important habitats.

Located on the doorstep of Living Coasts, Beacon Quay, the CSI ROV marquee will be offering a chance to see underwater Torquay from the comfort of a deck chair. Conducted by CSI Project Officer for Torbay, Rachel Cole, she will interpret the images for the audience, helping them to understand and engage with this fascinating marine habitat.

The Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust will also be present at the Quayside Explorer session. Having led many seagrass surveys previously, the Trust will help further engage the public with seagrass conservation in Torbay

The ROV pilot from the University of Plymouth will stand on shore and fly the ROV over the seagrass bed at Millstones Bay, beaming the live footage back to a screen in the marquee. Visitors will get the opportunity to see what one of the world’s most important habitats looks like live on screen and see which animals the ROV will meet during its underwater flight.

CSI is a pioneering research project led by the National Marine Aquarium. Covering the 191 mile stretch of coastline from Looe in Cornwall, to Weymouth in Dorset, it will look to find out more about native seagrass and seahorses and help to conserve their fragile eco-systems. The aim is to engage coastal communities with their special marine habitats to raise awareness and promote conservation. Everyone from school children, sailors, canoeists, divers, kayakers and even internet users can get involved and help collect vital data that will aid the mapping and surveying of seagrass meadows along the south coast.

Seagrass is one of the world’s only marine flowering plants, which creates large meadows in shallow waters on sandy seabed. There are many seagrass meadows, or beds, around the South West of the UK and West coast of Scotland. The meadows act like an underwater rainforest, providing shelter for all sorts of marine species, on an otherwise featureless seabed. Seagrass meadows are home to some of the most charismatic species in the UK such as seahorses and cuttlefish, and act as a nursery ground for commercial fish species. They can also improve water quality and stabilise sediments, reducing coastal erosion.

Rachel Cole, Community Seagrass Initiative Torbay Project Officer, said: “The Quayside Explorer sessions will provide residents and visitors to Torquay with a unique opportunity to discover what lies beneath the water’s edge. The ROV is a novel tool that we’re sure will capture the interest and imaginations of the public – and we hope will engage them in the Community Seagrass Initiative’s aim of conserving seagrass meadows along our coast.

“Seagrass meadows are the natural habitat of many marine life species and its conservation will help to support the populations of these protected species, including spiny and short snouted seahorses, stalked jellyfish and undulated rays. With the help of the public over the next three years, the Community Seagrass Initiative hopes to gather vital information that will enable us to help better preserve these fragile eco-systems. We hope lots of residents and visitors to Torquay will join us for our Quayside Explorer session later this month.”

Spearheaded by the National Marine Aquarium, the Community Seagrass Initiative is in partnership with Plymouth University Maine Institute, Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust, Weymouth SEALIFE and Living Coasts – and was made possible by a £475,000 grant received by the Heritage Lottery Fund last year.

To find out more information about the Community Seagrass Initiative or to get involved, please visit www.national-aquarium.co.uk or www.csi-seagrass.com

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