Help sought for otter conservation

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A Glasgow University student, who is studying the effects of microplastics in marine life, is appealing to walkers and wildlife enthusiasts on Arran for assistance in collecting spraint samples as part of his dissertation research.

Pablo Garcia is investigating how microplastics are travelling in the food chain around the Firth of Clyde and the impact that they have on otters and their prey. This research will provide conservationists and scientists with data that will be invaluable in otter, and other wildlife, conservation.

Otters can be found in various locations around Arran – most notably in Kildonan and Lochranza where sighting are common – with spraint samples equally abundant on the coasts and rocky shores where otters can be seen fishing or playing.

Pablo said: ‘My time on Arran has been great, I have completed my first week of data collection and it has been brilliant. In this first week 30 spraints have been collected. This would not have been possible without the help of the residents of the island in collecting samples. This help is being really important in order to complete this research study during the last year of my degree – Bsc Hons Environmental Science and Sustainability.

‘If enough data (spraints) is collected there is a good chance this research study will be published by Glasgow University. After all the data is collected, I will analyse the spraints in the university  laboratory to find out if the otters around Arran are under threat of microplastics and if found to be present in otters, I will examine the possible ways that they are entering in the otter’s system by studying their diet and looking at trophic transfer in the marine food chain.

‘This study will add information to help to develop conservation projects and to establish policies and laws which would help mitigate one of the most important global issues, plastic pollution in the oceans.’

If you would like to get involved in this research Pablo can be contacted on and he will be happy to provide you with information on how to collect and record your samples and how to preserve them – which is as simple as popping them into a zip-lock bag. Samples can handed into The Community of Arran Seabed Trust’s Octopus Centre in Lamlash where they will be stored in a freezer for later collection and analysis.

Glasgow university student Pablo Garcia is pictured collecting otter spraints in Lochranza.

Two otters can be seen resting on a bed of kelp. Otter spraint can provide important clues about their diets. Photo Richard Shucksmith. No_B52otter01

Glasgow university student Pablo Garcia is pictured collecting otter spraints in Lochranza. No_B52otter02