The stars beneath our feet
Posted onJune 22, 2023by|, ,
We stumbled across the sandy beach in the pitch black, our eyes adjusting to the lack of light as the wind whipped the briny air into our face…Not exactly the “postcard” Jersey beach scene but we were on the hunt for something magical…
Jersey Island experiences the third largest tides in the world, with a tidal range of 12 meters! This impressive aquatic movement reveals stunning and elusive habitats like clockwork twice a day. If you time it right, you can capitalize on this movement and see seldom-seen species.
Making the most of low tide at La Rocque beach. A designated RAMSAR wetland site (A wetland of international importance), the habitat here is often compared to a moonscape. Can confirm, it’s out of this world!
Seymour tower, constructed in 1782, is only accessible to walk to at low tide. When the weather is clear, you can see all the way to the Normandy Coast from this watch tower!
This was what we had in mind when we departed for the beach one evening, well after dinner. While tide pools are incredible habitats to explore during the day, we were after a glimpse of a species best seen at night: Caulleriella bioculata, the glow worm. This tiny species of worm emits light when disturbed, called bioluminescence, thanks to a chemical reaction.
Which brings me back to our chilly nighttime stroll. After walking a short way on the beach following the tide out, we were rewarded with our quarry. Gently dragging our feet across the sand, it illuminated with hundreds of tiny pin pricks of green light. We softly scooped up a handful of sand and we could see the tiny worms moving around, right in our palms!
Scientists think this species emits light for defence and possibly to communicate with each other. Science aside, it’s nothing short of magical to see these terrestrial constellations forming at your feet.
Lovely to see, but very hard to take a picture of Caulleriella bioculata glowing in the sand! (with permission from R. Payet)
Not a trick of the light, Caulleriella bioculata glows bright green! (with permission from R. Payet)
Besides spending time on the beach (at night and otherwise…), I have had the pleasure over the past few weeks of spending some time in the Jersey Zoo alongside their welcoming staff to learn more about their husbandry practices and conservation programs.
From preparing diets for lemurs to learning more about breeding threatened skinks, it’s been incredible to experience all the great conservation work the institution is doing!
I was especially inspired by their impressive bat aviary. Home to a colony of Livingstone’s and Rodrigues fruit bats, the 800m2 custom designed aviary allows the bats to have a continuous 100m flight path! The Livingstone’s fruit bats are a threatened species and are only found in three zoos in the world, and the Jersey Zoo has 90% of the total captive population. This dedication to the welfare of an endangered species bodes well for its future survival in the wild.
Inside the bat aviary!
“Hanging” out with the Livingstone’s fruit bat.
With just a few short weeks left in the course we are busy wrapping up our final projects and saying goodbye to this lovely island. It’s going to be tough to leave Jersey and all the friends I’ve made, but I can’t wait for the next leg of my adventure in Mauritius!
– Sarah Falconer
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