‘Aquavan’ visits school

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Pupils at Clyde Primary School learned about the science of sea life thanks to a visit by the University of Otago’s “aquavan”.

Pupils were able to hold live marine animals and plants, guided by educators from the university’s New Zealand Marine Studies Centre.

Connor McDowall (12), of Clyde, took away an environmental lesson from the day.

“We’ve been learning about how sediment gets into the ocean from construction sites and farms.

“We learnt how wetlands can stop some of that, but there are people who want to get rid of them and build over them.”

Sediment prevented other life forms from being able to take hold, he said.

“Seaweed and cockles and other things like that, they can’t grow because they need light, and the sediment just blocks out all the light.”

Planting near the ocean could help prevent sediment running into the sea – “the roots suck up all the sediment.”

Marine life could also help reduce sediment build-up, he said.

“One mussel we looked at, it cleans six and a-half litres of water an hour, so it cleans all the sediment out of it.”

Marine science educator Adelle O’Neill, of Dunedin, said the aquavan had been on a tour of schools in Central Otago that had a connection to the Clutha River, from Cromwell to Millers Flat.

“We are teaching the children about where the water goes that is in their river.

“That river then flows out down through the estuaries and out to our oceans.”

The aquavan was equipped with seawater tanks that held live sea animals, Mrs O’Neill said.

“The aquavan gives us the ability to bring animals from the marine environment to these schools in Central Otago that live quite a long way from the sea,” she said.

“It gives us the ability to educate the children on what they do up the river and how that affects the health of our oceans – which of course is hugely important to us as humans and our own health.”