The Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society will be continuing its winter series of monthly lectures this weekend.
Current vice president and 2012-13 president Fiona Gell will give the presidential lecture at the Manx Museum lecture theatre in Douglas at 2.30pm on Saturday (March 1).
The senior marine biodiversity officer of the Fisheries Directorate of the island’s Department of the Environment, Food and Agriculture will take as her topic ‘A Glimpse into the History of the Manx Marine Environment’.
This is something that Fiona has had family knowledge of since her earliest days, long before appointment to her DEFA role in 2004. She grew up in the island into a family with a long history of fishing in the south of the island, and through this she developed her love of life in the island’s seas which makes her such an enthusiastic and engaging speaker on the subject.
At one time she worked at the now sadly defunct Port Erin Marine Laboratory as a lecturer and undertook research into herring – a fish once so important to Manx life that it is mentioned in the ancient ceremonial traditions of Tynwald Day and, in the 18th century, spud and herring was traditionally the Manx national dish.
In charting changes and studying life in the Manx seas, Fiona is following a long tradition.
As early as the 1830s the Manx marine biologist Edward Forbes used his own design of scientific dredge to explore the seabed and discovered many new species in Manx waters, as well as describing the type of seabed. He was particularly interested in the today all-important scallop banks off the island’s shores, which he studies from fishing vessels.
In later times the scientists of Port Erin Marine Laboratory studies the seabed in the south of the island for more than 100 years, discovering vast reefs of horse mussels, rich sandbanks and forests of the seaweed kelp.
Fiona said: ‘Despite over a century of marine biological research in Manx waters, we are still learning about the marine species and habitats of the present day. Significant areas of fish habitat are still being discovered and the abundance and behaviour of many species remain little understood.
‘Historical research and other sources provide us with a tantalising glimpse of the marine environment of the past and help us to understand the heavily modified marine environment we have today.
‘My presentation will highlight some of the major changes we have seen in our marine environment and will consider the implications for marine conservation. I’m going to look at what we know about the Manx marine environment today and then some examples of changes that have taken place through history, and the kind of evidence we can find from scientific and social sources.’
The Irish Sea and the vessels upon it will also be central to the final lecture of the society’s winter series, when on Saturday, April 12, Professor John Walton, editor of the Journal of Tourism History and an expert on the social and cultural history of tourism, will speak on ‘Tourism, the Isle of Man and the Irish Sea Economy in the 19th and 20th centuries’.
For further details of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, visit www.manxantiquarians.com and facebook.com/Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society