Today I ran a handling table at the museum based around one of the important themes of the ‘Living Worlds’ gallery; namely living in a sustainable way. Handling tables are great opportunities of bringing things out of store that people don’t often get the chance to see; and this included in my case a Coco de Mer (Lodoicea maldivicia) fruit (which is now thought to be too dense to float!) and some other drift fruits and seeds. Drift fruits/ seeds are a form of seed dispersal adopted by island species. They often comprise of a thick, protective shell which is impervious to water; and can survive for many months or even years out at sea. Some can end up travelling long distances on ocean currents; like from the Caribbean to Britain! Though, more localised journeys are often more beneficial as the seed will be more likely to germinate.
The reason that I chose drift fruits/ seeds is that they are a good entry point into discussions about oceanic circulation and plastic. Plastic accumulates in stable gyres (where ocean currents congregate). The largest of these is known as the ‘Great Pacific garbage patch’ encompassing a region up to 20 million square kilometres. The plastic pollutants are a major issue for both marine animals and humans. They’re not biodegradable; and become attached to organic pollutants which become accumulated up the food chain. Large pieces can also strangle, dismember, or cause starvation to marine animals. It is feared up to one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed as a result of waste plastic every year.
The handling table was a great way of getting the kids on their half-term hols excited about the variety of the world’s flowering plants. It was also good to be able to engage with some of their parents and highlight an issue that needs to be addressed soon before we suffer irreparable damage to our marine ecosystems. We can all do our bit to help; even just by cutting down our plastic consumption by reusing bags.
I will be on holiday in sunnier climes for the next two weeks but will be back posting again soon!