FSC | Field Studies Council

Field Studies Council: Bringing Environmental Understanding to All

1949 Jim Green, Emeritus Professor of Zoology, Teddington - FSC Dale Fort

Recently I was tidying one of my filing cabinets, when I came across this diagram , and was immediately transported back over 60 years. In September 1949 I was about to start my second year as an undergraduate studying zoology at Queen Mary College, London. Dale Fort had been open for about a year, and our tutors had encouraged us to take the field course that was to be run around the time of the equinoctial spring tides.

My girlfrJgreen Web 328X469iend,Mary, in the same class at QMC, lived in Carmarthenshire, so it was arranged that I would meet her family and we would go together to Dale. John Barrett was our tutor, and the diagram shows the results of our efforts on two of the days.

The validity of the comparison depended on an accurate estimate of the tidal levels on the two shores, which John had sorted out with elegant simplicity. On the lowest tide we dug up samples from the wonderful abundance of animals on the Gann Flats. John expressed the view that in Heaven it would always be low tide.

An independent group from Leicester University was at Dale at the same time, led by Professor H. P. Moon, who lived up to his name in a remarkable way. One night the sea was phosphorescent with Noctiluca scintillans. Several of us went down to Castle beach late at night to swim in the magical, flashing waves. Professor Moon found a phosphorescent jellyfish, Pelagia noctiluca, and smeared some of its glowing mucus over his face and bald head. ‘Look’ he said ‘I am a full moon’.

I enjoyed Dale so much that I went back for another week in the following Easter Vacation, and again in the following Summer on my way to Skokholm to make a survey of the beetles of the island in collaboration with two other students. On a later occasion John Barrett paid me the compliment of asking if I would like to become a field assistant at the fort, but I had already been offered a demonstratorship at Bedford College in London. This resulted in my interests developing in a completely new direction, but after completing a PhD on haemoglobin synthesis in Daphnia I went back to Dale and Skokholm to collect marine mites. Eventually, some 30 or so years later, I produced, with Miranda Macquity, a Linnaean synopsis of the British Halacaridae. Although I spent most of my working life studying freshwater animals, I attribute much of my lingering interest in marine animals to that field course with John Barrett back in 1949.