Exploring the wonders of our blue planet

On Tuesday 10th March, to celebrate British Science Week and our final talk of the 2019-2020 Lecture Programme, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Helen Scales, a marine biologist, writer and broadcaster to Calne.

Structuring her talk around the themes of her books, Eye of the Shoal, Octopuses, Spirals in Time and Poseidon’s Steed, Helen’s enthusiasm was infectious as she took us on a marine journey of our own.

With the help of some amazing photography, we heard about the vast and incredible species of creatures living in the ocean depths. This included the almost ethereal octopus with its remarkably big brain and highly sophisticated nervous system helping to control its eight gangly arms; the shy and elusive seahorse which Helen rather soberly explained was still at risk from the Asian medicine market; and the eerie bioluminescence in fish making them glow, and how both predators and prey can use it to their advantage, with predators able to attract prey and prey being able to camouflage themselves using a method called counterillumination.

Helen also shared a fascinating insight into some recent research, explaining how the world’s first alligator drop (dropping an alligator carcass onto the deep sea floor) led to the discovery of a new species of bone-eating worm. She also gave an interesting comparison of the discovery of similar worm holes that were found in a fossilised plesiosaur, a long-necked marine reptile that swam in the oceans over a 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era.

In all, it was a fascinating and educational lecture that left us wanting to learn more about the amazing world that lies beneath the waves.

Lily (Year 12)