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Notes on Last 6 Club Meetings

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Zoom Meeting held on Wednesday 18th May 2022

The Rotary Club meeting on 18th May welcomed back Lee Brown, the estate operations manager at The Ecology Centre in Kinghorn. Lee talked to the club members about the charity Tools for Self-Reliance (TFSR) which the club has supported for several years.
Lee initially showed us a video produced by a partner organisation, Global Concerns Trust. The video showed us examples of people in Malawi who benefited from the reconditioned tools and sewing machines that are sent out. The first example was a mother of five who had had a leg amputated and had been unable to provide for her family. Now, having been trained to use her sewing machine, she runs a small tailoring business.
Disabled people in Malawi are given 6-12 months training in how to use their tools and how to set up and make money from a business that uses their tools. 99% of businesses are successful and the income of the graduate trainees increases by 500%. Without the training and equipment, the disabled people would be forced to continue to rely on relatives and/or beg. The training is done at centres where the disabled people can socialise, previously they can sometimes be isolated in their home communities. The trainees receive 3 follow-up visits in the year following their training and are encouraged to attend skill-sharing workshops.
Tools donated in Scotland are refurbished in TFSR workshops in Edinburgh, Aberdeen, The Ecology Centre, Dundee and Angus College and the Tools for Solidarity workshop in Northern Ireland. The refurbishment done in Scotland is carried out by disabled people, people with mental health issues, retirees and college students. Some of the sewing machines donated can be over 100 years old but are still able to give many future years of service.

Zoom Meeting held on Wednesday 16th March 2022

The Rotary Club meeting on 16th March welcomed Moira Henderson of The Ring Farm. Moira spoke to the audience of the recent developments and future plans for their holiday accommodation at The Ring for disabled people and their carers.
Their initial plan for one two-bedroomed cottage transformed into a building with up to 8 separate accommodation units, some of which can be linked together. All units have French doors allowing easy access for people with mobility issues.
The next development was 6 cabins with 2 sets of 2 cabins being optionally able to be connected via a link room. Some of the units have lockable kitchens. Experience with the first development having suffered damage showed a need for robust concrete walls. To allow more ventilation while still securing small children some doors to the outside are stable doors. Some cabins are furnished with profile beds i.e., beds fitted with hoists.
The latest addition is a large play barn. The building company has agreed to charge this at cost-price only. The barn structure has now been built with internal work to be done by May. As well as use by the holidaymakers it is planned that the play-barn will also be used for day visits by special needs schools.

Zoom Meeting held on Wednesday 2nd March 2022

The Rotary Club meeting on 2nd March welcomed Professor Ailsa Hall, former director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St. Andrews University. Ailsa received an OBE in the most recent New Year’s Honours list.
Ailsa’s talk was primarily on the populations of the two main species of seals, harbour (common) seal and grey seal, that inhabit the shores of Britain and Ireland. The harbour seal population crashed in 1988 and 2002 due to outbreaks of phocine distemper. What was the cause of these outbreaks? The first task was to ascertain the number of seals and where the main populations were. The British Isles host c. 5% of the world population of harbour seals and c. 40% of the world’s grey seals.
Grey seals were monitored by aerial surveys from fixed-wing aircraft in most of Scotland during their birthing season. Grey seal pups have a white coat for the first few weeks of their life and are therefore easily spotted and counted from the air. With only one pup being born to a mother the number of adult females and indirectly the number of adult males can therefore be estimated. In Shetland and the east coast of England the surveys are done from the shoreline. In recent years the increasing population of grey seals is estimated to be around 150,000 with the increase levelling out in the Hebrides but still growing in the North Sea and Orkney. Fieldwork on North Rona and the Isle of May gives an indication of the survival rate of the grey seal pups.
Harbour seal pups have already lost their initial white coat by the time they are born so a different aerial survey approach is taken with photos of their haul-out sites being photographed by an infra-red camera suspended from a helicopter. This aerial survey in Scotland of harbour seals takes five years to complete. Recently harbour seals have been increasing on the mainland west coast of Scotland but decreasing sharply on the east coast, e.g., down from c. 8,000 to c. 1,200 in Orkney and from c. 750 to c. 40 in the Tay. What is the cause of this decline – either pups are not being born or are adult animals dying? The studies have shown that the fertility rate has not declined. The result of the surveys of adult mortality have shown that several possible causes of this excess mortality can be ruled out – e.g., pollutants, marine windfarms, bycatch/deliberate killing. The likely causes to explain the population decline ae competition from gey seals and toxic algal blooms. Evidence of the toxic algal blooms has been found is harbour seal excreta and fish that they would consume. Ailsa highlighted the recent mass mortality event of seabirds along the east coast which is also suspected of being caused by toxic algal blooms.
Ailsa ended her talk with a brief summary of recent work on the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphins. Initial studies showed a decline in the population but further work showed that this population is now more spread out with dolphins now being resident along the east coast of Scotland including the Tay and with some venturing as far south as Whitby on the Yorkshire coast.

Zoom Meeting held on Wednesday 9th February 2022

The Rotary Club meeting on 9th February welcomed Lisa Gilroy, headteacher of Castlehill Primary School who talked about the involvement of the school with the local community. The school has c. 500 pupils in 21 classes with 60 staff including both teachers and janitors.
Lisa has been headteacher at Castlehill for several years with the arrival of a school inspection arriving soon after her appointment. The HM school inspectors agreed with the school’s plans for more community involvement. At the time the school as a whole did not have much community involvement although some individual classes did so.
Prior to the pandemic links with local businesses had been created but with no external visitors allowed during the pandemic these links came to a halt. The curriculum has been developed to develop the children’s awareness of their relationship to Cupar, Scotland and the world. Trips out stopped during the pandemic and some children have not been outside Cupar in the last two years.
The school closed down in March 2020 for most pupils but stayed open for key workers’ and vulnerable children. Technology was used but this caused issues initially with some children not having this option, this was eventually remedied by the time of the second lockdown. The school delivered food, nappies etc. to struggling families during the pandemic. Virtual assemblies have continued to keep everyone including parents connected but nothing can replace the personal face-to-face meetings.

Zoom Meeting held on Wednesday 2nd February 2022

The Rotary Club meeting on 2nd February welcomed two speakers: Andrew Johnson from Reforesting Scotland and Donald Jenks of Cupar Scouts. Andrew Johnson talked about the progress with ‘Huts for Well-being’ at Falkland Estate, Donald Jenks gave more information on the Scout World Jamboree.
Andrew informed us that around 17% of the population of Fife, approximately 62,000 people, are carers, both paid and non-paid, both family and non-family. The Reforesting Scotland ‘Hut for Well-being’ will be a retreat for people with serious illnesses and/or for their carers. The stresses of illness or caring duties will be relieved by spending a few days in nature.
Approximately half the funds required for the hut have been raised so far with the majority of the outstanding funds required for the fitting out of the hut. The hut will be made from larch harvested from Falkland Estate. Two people will be able to share the hut which will have a log-burning stove, a compost toilet and easy access for wheelchair users.
Donald informed us of the World Scout Jamboree that is to be held in South Korea in July of this year. 50,000 people in total will attend with 40 attending (4 adults and 36 scouts) from the East of Scotland scouts. Two of the Scouts will be from North East Fife. The cost per person to attend is £3,800. The cost will include payment for the actual camp, travel and insurance and any extra kit required.
The attendees will meet scouts from all over the world as well as experiencing Korean culture. The camp will include opening and closing ceremonies, activities, a culture day, socialising and eating together.
The attendees are those who will benefit most from the experience, who will give back most to scouting and the local community, be team players and who will think big on both global and local issues.

Zoom Meeting held on Wednesday 19th January 2022

The Rotary Club meeting on 19th January welcomed Dr. Elsa Panciroli, whose talk was ’Beasts Before Us: Mammal Origins and Scotland's role in the story’.
Dr Elsa Panciroli is a palaeontologist who studies the evolution and ecology of extinct animals – particularly mammals from the time of dinosaurs. She is a researcher based at the University of Oxford, and associate researcher at the National Museum of Scotland. Her recently published book, Beasts Before Us: The Untold Story of Mammal Origins and Evolution is now available.
For most of us, the story of mammal evolution starts after the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs, but in the last 20 years scientists have uncovered new fossils and used new technologies that have helped drastically rewrite this story. Scotland is a pivotal place in the history of geology, and discoveries among our rocks continue to inform scientific understanding. In this talk, Scottish palaeontologist Dr Panciroli talked about the most ancient ancestors of mammals, and how Scotland's fossils have informed our knowledge of their evolution. This includes the most complete Jurassic mammal fossils in the UK, which she and her team have uncovered during fieldwork on the Isle of Skye.
Elsa showed us a photo of a fossil jaw from 370 million years ago (mya), this from a quarry near Elgin. The creature was a water-living animal but with flippers on the way to becoming legs. She then showed us a drawing of a scene from 320 mya when tetrapod (i.e., 4-limbed) animals had moved on to land. A fossilised example of the trees living from this period can be found at Fossil Grove in Glasgow.
These tetrapods then split into two groups – one leading to the amphibians, who still need to return to water to lay their eggs, the other group developing hard-shelled eggs which allowed them to break the need to lay their eggs in water.
- This second group then split again into the synapsids (mammal-like) and the diapsids (reptile-like), some good examples of fossils of the former can be seen in Elgin Museum. After mass extinctions caused first by massive volcanic eruptions in Siberia and then the Chicxulub meteor impact the small shrew-like mammals had effectively an empty stage in which to expand both in numbers and in the variety of species.

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Thanks to Roger Siddle of the Carnforth Rotary Club for his revolving Rotary wheel.