Nocturnal Flamingo Behaviour

Author: Dr. Paul Rose

 

We know a lot about the behaviour of wild species during the daytime and behaviour studies on animals in human care are often used to help inform us of their welfare state. For lots of species housed in zoological collections, we know little about what they do once their keepers go home. To fully understand their behaviour patterns, and what goes on when we’re not watching, we can use technology to observe their behaviour patterns across a full 24 hour cycle.

It’s commonplace to use data from the wild to help explain what our animals are doing in captivity. For species that might be just as active during the night as well as during the day, our observations on a human time-frame might only be half of the story. As more research is published on the ecology of wild species, this can be used to inform how we keep species in zoological collections- and knowledge of the nocturnal habits of “diurnal” species is one such area of scientific investigation.

 

The flamingo enclosure at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre

 

This research focused on flamingos, one of the world’s most popular of zoo animals occurring in a huge number of animal collections globally. Wild studies of flamingos have noted that feeding and foraging, chick rearing and movements between feeding and breeding areas can occur overnight. But how active are zoo birds? Will they still follow a similar activity budget to that shown in the field?

Using several remote trail cameras, fitted around the enclosure of a large flock of around 270 greater flamingos housed at WWT Slimbridge Wetland Centre behaviour across both day and night was collected over spring and summer 2016. The bird’s enclosure was split into different habitats areas, based on water depth in their pool and land areas used for different behaviour (such as nesting and rearing young) to see if areas commonly utilised during the daytime were still used overnight.

 

 

Shots taken directly from remote cameras stationed around the flamingo enclosure taken during the day (above), and at night (below).

 

Remote cameras are great for capturing behaviour in the wild and in the zoo. They reduce the chance of a human observer affecting or influencing the behaviour of the animal being watched. And they can be set to record animals at specific times, to focus on what animals might be doing over different seasons or times of day. And they can help collect data to inform animal welfare standards by providing a picture of how animals use their space and what areas of their habitat they prefer to be in.

Results show that these flamingos use their enclosure differently at night to that seen in daytime. Foraging behaviours peaked in the evening, showing that even though the flamingos are provided with a complete diet, natural filtering in their pool is still an important behaviour for these birds to perform.

Widest enclosure use, with the largest number of birds using the maximum number of zones was seen during the later evening, middle of the night and into the early morning. Birds congregated in fewer areas of their habitat during the later morning and middle of the day- preferring to be in one specific place for resting and preening.

Some behaviours were more commonly performed during daylight- courtship display for example peaks in the morning, and is lowest overnight. Showing that for some behaviours with a high visual impact, time of day for its performance is important for the message being presented by the behaviour.

 

 

This research has important implications for how we manage zoo populations of flamingos and other species in animal collections. These nocturnal observations show us the times in a day when flamingos naturally spend their time on key behaviours. By providing a habitat that allows a range of activities to be performed at different times, and not restricting the birds space to use these areas means that in a zoological collection, a natural behaviour pattern is performed. This is important for the welfare of these birds as the good features of this enclosure (its large size, the range of habitat areas, and the large number of birds housed within it) can be replicated in other zoological institutions to provide the highest quality of life possible.

We also show the influence of season on overall flock nocturnal activity levels- with birds becoming more active as spring progresses into summer, dipping slightly during the nesting and incubation period and then rising as chicks fledge and leave the nest. These data are helpful for breeding programmes, monitoring the seasonal changes in animals as potential predictors of when reproductive behaviours may occur.

These data are also useful to those studying wild flamingos too, as if we know the times of the day that flamingos like to forage or rest, or where they prefer to gather in larger number, so we can help maintain or create such spaces within their wild habitats, away from disturbances to encourage birds to settle and breed, or to forage at times of the day most suitable for them. With four of the six species of flamingo having a level of conservation concern from the IUCN all information on their behavioural ecology can be useful to the conservation of future populations.

 

About the Author:

Dr. Paul Rose is a zoologist whose interests lie in behavioural ecology, ornithology and animal welfare. Paul has previously researched the relevance and importance of social networks in captive species, and the associated implications for zoo animal husbandry and welfare. He now researchers enclosure usage and breeding behaviour of captive flamingos to help further evidence base the husbandry techniques used for them.

“I would be interested to hear from anyone working in the zoo industries who is working with flamingos, or giraffes or wildfowl, as well as from those researchers who are also investigating similar questions / areas of zoo animal behaviour and husbandry across taxa. Please do get in touch if you’re interested in a collaboration.”

To find about more about Paul’s project click here

You can find Paul on:

Twitter

ResearchGate

LinkedIn

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

Tracking Seabirds to Inform Conservation Measures At Sea

Author: Dr Nicola Weber

 

Having studied and worked in biodiversity conservation, with a marine focus, I have had the opportunity to work with a number of marine megafauna species, but it wasn’t until a move to Ascension Island (to work with sea turtles) that I forayed into the world of seabird ecology. Seabirds are known to be sentinels of the sea with a number of studies demonstrating how they can be used as indicators of the “health” of the marine environment. While seabirds nest on land, they largely find all of their food at sea, so any changes in the availability of their food resources can have a significant impact on their health and reproductive success.

As with many marine species, advances in technology have made it possible to study the largely unseen journeys and behaviours of seabirds at sea using increasingly small tracking devices that are normally attached the feathers of the bird. These devices then either need to be retrieved to download the data or can transmit it using satellite technology. During my time working on Ascension Island we attached tracking devices to a number of seabird species including the endemic frigatebird, the masked booby, sooty terns and yellow-billed tropicbirds. These projects involved many people including supervisors at the University of Exeter who conceived ideas and secured funding, experienced colleagues at the RSPB who helped with study design, deployment of devices and interpretation of data, and of course those working on the ground at the Ascension Island Government Conservation & Fisheries Department who know the area and the birds better than anybody else. Expeditions to tag seabirds, in particular on the offshore islet, Boatswainbird Island, that the local boat drivers skilfully got us on to, remain a highlight of my 5 years on Ascension Island.

 

 

Over the last 20 years, researchers have equipped over 100 species of seabirds with tracking devices to follow their movements at sea. As such studies become increasingly common, a wealth of information is being collected and many of these data have been contributed to the BirdLife Seabird Tracking Database and can be used for conservation planning or research, for example by identifying areas at sea that are important foraging grounds and hence may benefit from protective measures being put in place. It is only in this collaborative way that we can carry out holistic research projects to gain real insights into marine ecology and conservation at a more global scale.

In a new study published this week in the journal Marine Policy, researchers from RSPB and BirdLife International summarised the tracking data of 52 species from 10 families across the Atlantic Ocean (including those from the Ascension Island birds) to highlight the differences in the spatial scale of their movements during the breeding season. This summary, based on more than 12,000 foraging trips from over 5000 breeding birds, highlights the enormous differences between seabird families: while cormorants and shags often only travel 5-10 km out to sea, albatrosses, petrels, and frigatebirds routinely travel more than 200 km to find food during the breeding season. As there is a variety of options to protect seabirds at sea, it is thus important for policy makers and conservation practitioners to understand which approach is most suitable for which species based on their behavioural ecology. For example, birds that travel very far and exploit vast areas at sea may require conservation measures at a much larger scale than birds that travel only a short distance and remain in a smaller area.

 

 

This study highlights one of the aspects of academic research that I find the most interesting and rewarding – the collection of reliable data that can be used to inform management decisions and lead to tangible conservation actions being implemented, through the collaborative efforts of many people and organisations.

Please see the paper for full acknowledgements of people, organisations and funding bodies.

 

Dr. Nicola Weber 

(http://biosciences.exeter.ac.uk/staff/index.php?web_id=Nicola_Weber)

You can get in touch with Nicola through:

Twitter

ResearchGate

LinkedIn

 

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

Scientists at Sea Podcast – The Stingray Episode: with Ethan Wrigglesworth and Molly Meadows

In this episode, we get to know our regular presenters a little better. Ethan and Molly talk to Ben, the producer, about the work they have been doing as Masters by Research students for the past two years. Under the supervision of Dr. Lucy Hawkes, Molly and Ethan have been working closely with Dr. Owen O’Shea at the Cape Eleuthera Insitute (CEI) in the Bahamas, to study the stingrays in the local waters.

 

 

Molly and Ethan worked with two data deficient species of stingray; the Southern Stingray, and the Caribbean Whiptail Ray  The main focus of the research was to investigate the rays’ diets. This involved two methods; stable isotopes analysis and stomach content analysis (you can learn more about them in the podcast).

 

Ray team just after having caught a southern stingray along a sandbar. (Ethan first on left, Molly, second from right).

 

Why does this matter?

Well, as Molly and Ethan put it:

Molly holding the tail of a Caribbean whiptail ray presenting the large venomous barb.

 

 

 

“To understand about the diet is actually to understand general ecology… within an ecosystem, what a predator feeds upon… has a great impact on the population sizes of the prey, and there’s a huge amount of energy moving up in that food chain”

 

 

 

 

 

 

How might such research be applied? Well, in the Bahamas there is no legislation for the protection of mangroves.

 

“In the Bahamas, there’s lots of these mangrove creeks, and plenty of fish use them as nursery habitats because they offer a lot of shelter within the roots… stingrays occupy these systems as well… they feed on worms, crabs and things within the sea floor, so they use the mangroves a lot to find (their) food.”

 

You can find out more about why mangroves are so important here.

 

“Beaches are very popular in terms of tourist economy, so (mangroves) get destroyed quite a lot”

 

While the stingrays rely on the mangroves for food, it seems they also offer plenty to the mangroves themselves. To find out exactly what they offer, take a listen to the episode.

 

A free diver going face to face with a large Caribbean Whiptail Ray

 

 

 

You can also find out about some skills you might not know existed, like stingray herding!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Highschool/Island school student Jake holding a southern stingray during sampling procedures

 

Getting Started with Marine Science

Molly and Ethan initially honed their marine biology skills and interests as undergraduates here at the University of Exeter’s Penryn Campus, studying Zoology and Conservation Biology and Ecology respectively. In their final year they undertook a field course to Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas, this sewed the seeds of their Masters by Research. Click the links to find out more.

 

 

Here is a bonus link mentioned during the episode, enjoy! Household items reviewed for science

 

Videos courtesy of CEIBahamas

Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth and Molly Meadows

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

It’s Stressful Being a Coral! Declining Coral Cover on the Great Barrier Reef

Author: Jennifer McWhorter

Jennifer McWhorter is pursuing her PhD in a joint program between the Universities of Exeter and Queensland. Using various climate and ecological modelling techniques, Jen hopes to improve our spatial knowledge of coral reef stressors.

 

The above diagram describes the process of coral bleaching followed by mortality. Source: Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA)

 

Similar to humans experiencing a fever, coral reefs undergo similar stress. The more frequent the fever and the longer the fever lasts, the more life threatening it becomes. Sea surface temperatures in the ocean are increasing at an alarming rate due to human inputs of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere (Ekwurzel et al., 2017). In 2016/2017, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) experienced two back-to-back severe warming events that caused widespread coral bleaching[1]. According to the Australia Institute of Marine Science, hard coral cover on the GBR has declined at a rate that has never been recorded.

 

Figure 2. “Large-scale spatial patterns in change in coral cover and in heat exposure on the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. A, Change in coral cover between March and November 2016. b, Heat exposure, measured in DHW (in degree C-weeks) in the summer of 2016. Map template is provided by Geoscience Australia (Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia) 2018).” Source: Hughes, T. P., et al., 2018

 

In addition to coral bleaching, cyclones and crown-of-thorns sea star outbreaks have been the main cause of decline in coral cover on the GBR within the past four years. The northern area of the GBR is expected to have lost about half of its’ coral cover. This estimate reflects the impacts of two episodes of severe coral bleaching from 2014-2017 and two cyclones.  The central reef has experienced a decline in coral cover from 22% in 2016 to 14% in 2018 due to coral bleaching and the ongoing southward spread of the crown-of-thorns sea star. Even though the southern portion of the GBR was not exposed to the 2016/2017 warming events, coral cover has dropped from 33% in 2017 to 25% in 2018. On the southern reefs, the crown-of-thorns sea star outbreaks appear to be the main cause for the most recent decline.

 

During my last trip to Australia, I assisted in injecting vinegar into the crown-of-thorns sea stars at Lodestone Reef on the GBR. The vinegar kills the sea star within 24 hours potentially reducing their threat to hard, or stony corals. Photo Credit: Chris Jones

 

“Clearly the reef is struggling with multiple impacts,” says Prof. Terry Hughes, Director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies. “Without a doubt the most pressing of these is global warming. As temperatures continue to rise the corals will experience more and more of these events: 1°C of warming so far has already caused four events in the past 19 years.”

“Ultimately, we need to cut carbon emissions, and the window to do so is rapidly closing.”

 

 

[1] Coral bleaching – Coral bleaching occurs when the relationship between the coral host and zooxanthellae (photosynthetic algae, NOAA), which give coral much of their colour, breaks down. Without the zooxanthellae, the tissue of the coral animal appears transparent and the coral’s bright white skeleton is revealed. Corals begin to starve once they bleach. (GBRMPA)

 

Additional Resources:

Ekwurzel, B., Boneham, J., Dalton, M. W., Heede, R., Mera, R. J., Allen, M. R., & Frumhoff, P. C. (2017). The rise in global atmospheric CO2, surface temperature, and sea level from emissions traced to major carbon producers. Climatic Change144(4), 579-590.

Hughes, T.P. & Kerry, J.T. Back-to-back bleaching has now hit two-thirds of the Great Barrier Reef. The Conversation https://theconversation.com/back-to-back-bleaching-has-now-hit-two-thirds-of-the-great-barrier-reef-76092 (2017)

Hughes, T. P., Kerry, J. T., Baird, A. H., Connolly, S. R., Dietzel, A., Eakin, C. M., … & McWilliam, M. J. (2018). Global warming transforms coral reef assemblages. Nature556(7702), 492.

Media Release: Two Thirds of the Great Barrier Reef hit by back-to-back mass coral bleaching

Long-term Reef Monitoring Program – Annual Summary Report on coral reef condition for 2017/2018

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

Scientists at Sea Podcast: Sail Against Plastic

Show Notes

 

 

 

Guests – Flora Rendell and Lowenna Jones

 

 

 

Sail Against Plastic started as an idea to simply undertake a sailing expedition, over just a few months it developed into an Arctic mission to investigate unseen pollutants, namely microplastics and noise pollution.

 

“We are a collaborative expedition hoping to unveil and reveal the invisible pollutants of the arctic”

 

The Sail Against Plastic team. Photo credit – Ben Porter

 

Why the Arctic?

It is well documented that plastic debris has been circulating around our oceans via 5 ocean gyres. It is now thought there maybe a sixth gyre that carries plastic up into the Arctic circle. Recent discoveries supporting this theory have shown that plastic has been found in sea ice.

 

“As sea ice melts that could be opening up more microplastics that have been trapped in that sea ice… it shows that we’ve been influencing the world for a long time”

 

A selection of plastics found on mainland Svalbard. Photo credit – Ben Porter

 

A view from the Blue Clipper: Photo credit – Ben Porter

These pieces of plastic aren’t necessarily what you would expect, while there plastic bottles and bags found in these areas, there may be an even greater prevalence of microplastics, tiny pieces of plastic debris resulting from the breakdown of consumer products and industrial waste.

 

“It’s not these big large pieces of plastic, it’s not a floating island that we’re going to find’

 

At the time of recording, the team, a diverse group of scientists, artists, environmentalists, photographers and videographers, were just a few days away from setting sail on the Barents Sea from Svalbard aboard the Blue Clipper.

 

 

The team’s manta trawl, used to collect microplastics. Photo credit – Ben Porter

 

 

“I think the main thing is making issues that are so strongly linked to humans… making you feel emotive about them… through art and through film, people will feel emotive about it and will care, we hope”

 

“And make it relevant to people in the UK and Europe and connect communities that are halfway across the world that have similarities and can work together to find a solution to our crazy plastic addiction”

 

 

 

 

 

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Website – https://www.sailagainstplastic.com/

Blog – https://www.sailagainstplastic.com/blog-1/

Facebook – @amessagefromthearctic

Instagram – @amessagefromthearctic

Twitter – @Sail4seas

Art – Jess Grimsdale & Further info

 

Hosted by Ethan Wrigglesworth and Molly Meadows

Episode and show notes produced by Ben Toulson

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

Scientists at Sea Podcast: What’s in the water? With Dr. Anne Leonard

Show notes

Ethan and Molly talk to Dr. Anne Leonard about her work studying antibiotic resistant bacteria in the waters around our coasts. How did it get there? Is it dangerous? Where are the cleanest places to swim? All these questions and more are answered in the podcast linked above.

If people are worried about where and when they should go to beaches… going to ones that regularly meet good water quality standards is probably a good way to go.

Follow Anne on Twitter – @dr_anne_leonard

 

Read Anne’s open access (free) systematic review here:

Is it safe to go back into the water? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the risk of acquiring infections from recreational exposure to seawater

You can also find out more about the Beach Bum Survey here (again, open access)!

 

 

Links to more of Anne’s work (membership to journals required)

A coliform-targeted metagenomic method facilitating human exposure estimates to Escherichia coli-borne antibiotic resistance genes

Human recreational exposure to antibiotic resistant bacteria in coastal bathing waters

 

 

Bathing Water Quality Near You

Blue Flag Beaches

Environment Agency – Bathing Water Quality

Surfers Against Sewage – Safer Seas Service

 

 

The Jargon Buster

If there’s anything that came up in the episode that you would like to know more about, get in touch via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Antibiotic medications

  • Drugs used to treat bacterial infections. These are used to treat a whole range of conditions such as acne, bronchitis, and skin infections.

Antibiotic resistant bacteria

  • Bacteria that are not controlled or killed by antibiotic medications.

Microorganisms

  • A living organism that cannot be seen by the naked eye, but can be observed under a microscope.

MRSA – Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus

  • An example of antibiotic resistant bacteria.

E. coli – Escherichia coli

  • A type of bacteria that usually live in the intestines of people and animals which can cause food poisoning.

Pathogenic bacteria

  • Bacteria that is capable of causing disease.

Agricultural run-off

  • The portion of rainfall that runs over agricultural land and then into streams as surface water rather than being absorbed into ground water or evaporating.

Systematic review

  • A systematic review has multiple stages and is aimed at the identification of all reliable evidence regarding a specific clinical problem.

Next Generation Sequencing

  • A quick way of analysing DNA.

 

Get in touch via our Facebook and Twitter pages.

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

My #ExeterMarine PhD: Clams and Climate Change

Author – Sarah Holmes, PhD Researcher – Geography and Earth System Science

Arctica islandica (also known as ocean quahog) clam shells. Oldest animal known to science, abundant and widely distributed throughout North West European Shelf.
Photograph by Thom Holmes [thomholmes.co.uk].
Yes, clams.

Admittedly, telling people that my PhD research is using clams doesn’t always get “ooo’s” and “aah’s” that perhaps my fellow researchers working on whales and dolphins might get, but before you write me off as having a boring PhD, let me tell you a few…

**CLAM FACTS**

 

  1. Clams are the oldest animal known to science. Certain species are extremely long-lived. In 2006, scientists at Bangor University (these scientists have now moved to the University of Exeter, Penryn Campus) found a clam that was 507 years old. 507! That means this humble little mollusc (see picture above) was around when Shakespeare was putting pen to paper, when Henry VIII was beheading wives, when your great-great-great-great-great grandparents were born!

 

  1. Clams can record information about the environment in their shells. Certain species form annual growth bands on their shells, just like tree rings. During winter months, the clams grow more slowly and build up a denser layer of shell that looks like a defined band under the microscope (see picture below). Just like trees, the amount a clam (and so its shell) grows depends on the environment it lives in. In general, warm temperatures and plenty food (e.g. algae) means lots of growth and so a wide growth band. The opposite is true in less favourable conditions such as low temperatures or lack of food. As you may already know, using tree records in this way is called dendrochronology; using clam records is called sclerochronology.

    Microscope image (25x mag.) of acetate peel of internal portion (umbo) of clam shell (species Glycymeris glycymeris). Clear growth bands visible, yellow line shows direction of growth (d.o.g).

 

  1. Clams in the same area grow synchronously. Since clam growth is affected by environment, it makes sense that clams from the same location (that are affected by the same environmental conditions) have very similar growth patterns. This means that it is possible to match up and combine the growth records of multiple clams to create what is called a ‘master sclerochronology’ – you can even incorporate ‘dead-collected’ clams that have an unknown date of death.

 

Cool, right? Well even more interestingly, these features mean that clams are an extremely valuable proxy* for the marine environment and are therefore of great interest to climate scientists like me. Previous research has shown that the clams are recording a multitude of environmental information in their shells such a sea water temperature, the amount of plankton present in the water and even large-scale climate variability such as North Atlantic Oscillation (which is like a measure of storminess in Northern Europe). Researchers can therefore (to an extent) reconstruct past ocean conditions using these records.

Clams also look really beautiful under the microscope (photographs of Glycymeris glycymeris by Thom Holmes [thomholmes.co.uk])
It is of vital importance to know how the ocean has changed in the past as this can help us understand how it might change in the future, especially considering the many threats of climate change. The shelf seas (the shallow oceans that surround the land, e.g. the North Sea) are hugely important as they sustain the majority of global fisheries (the North Sea is a major UK fishing ground) and are the main way that we interact with the marine environment (e.g. tourism). Although we do have some direct observational measurements of the shelf seas available, these are both spatially and temporally limited.

Scientists generally use shelf sea models** (of places like the North Sea) to predict future change, however to check if these models are representing reality correctly, they must be compared or ‘validated’ with these limited observed measurements.

Therefore, for the first time, my research is attempting to combine the records of long-lived clams with ocean models in order to better understand past and future change in the North Sea. The aim is twofold – first, to use the clam records to better validate the model and second, to use the model to give greater insight into the factors controlling clam growth in order to better interpret these proxy records.

So, I think we can all agree, this humble little clam is pretty exciting and could hold the key for better predictions of future ocean climate change – not bad for a squidgy, slimy lump that doesn’t even have a brain!

*Proxies are indirect measurements of the environment preserved in natural recorders of climate variability such as tree rings, pollen, ice cores or the rings on marine clams.

** Models are mathematical representations of the real world. Ocean models such as the one I am using (the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model (ERSEM)) attempt to quantitively describe the physics, chemistry and biology of the shallow ocean that surrounds Europe (known as the Northwest European shelf seas).

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

Scientists at Sea (Episode 1): Do crabs have ears? with Emily Carter

 

 

Show notes

 

Emily Carter – @E_E_Carter

How does noise pollution impact one of our coastal favourites? Ethan and Molly talk to Masters by Research student Emily Carter about her current work which investigates how the presence of ship noise affects the rate of colour change in shore crabs.

 

Other behaviours that don’t rely on noise at all can be quite drastically affected by noise pollution

Useful links from this episode:

Fiddler crab

Selfish herd hypothesis

Shore crabs

Crabs hearing noise

Gylly beach

Penryn Campus

Steve Simpson, Matthew Wale, Andrew Radford

Martin Steven’s Group/Sensory Ecology

 

 

 

 

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOPHIE website launched

Author – Alexander Smalley

Research in the field of Oceans and Human Health gets a big boost this week, as the Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe project launches its new website.

Designed to encourage debate between different sectors, Seas, Oceans and Public Health in Europe (SOPHIE for short) will build a community of researchers and practitioners to explore the links between our oceans and our health.

The new website will share information about the project and provide a platform for bringing marine specialists together with experts from medicine and public health. The site also provides wider opportunities for the public to get involved, with researchers keen to hear from those with an interest in marine issues, ‘blue’ tourism, or healthcare.

In one example, members of the public are being encouraged to share their experiences of interventions which harness the benefits of interacting with the ocean, in the hope of inspiring similar initiatives.

The project is led by a team from the University of Exeter’s European Centre for Environment and Human Health, and has attracted €2 million in funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme. It is a collaboration between several partners across Europe.

You can view the new website at https://sophie2020.eu and follow SOPHIE on Twitter here https://twitter.com/@OceansHealthEU.

#ExeterMarine is an interdisciplinary group of marine related researchers with capabilities across the scientific, medical, engineering, humanities and social science fields. If you are interested in working with our researchers or students, contact Michael Hanley or visit our website!

 

Laying strong foundations for sustainable small-scale fisheries and marine conservation

Author – Dr Ana Nuno, Research Fellow and Project Coordinator for Omali Vida nón

A remote and poorly known small island located in the Gulf of Guinea, off the coast of Central Africa, Principe (Sao Tome and Principe) and its people rely heavily on small scale fisheries. “I’m a fisherman with great pride! I am not afraid to say it anywhere in the world: I am a fisherman!” says one of the men during our project workshops. In a similar workshop organized for fish traders, an occupation mostly done by women, one of them tells us: “being a fish trader is good because we do not depend on our husbands… we can buy what we want… eat and drink what we want…support our children’s education… it’s very good for us”. It is clear than more than simply providing food (average annual fish consumption in the country is one of the highest in Africa) and income, fishing is intrinsic to these local communities’ lives and the status of marine resources affects all of them.

a fisherman’s catch (credit: Ana Nuno)

When these same communities report having to travel farther away, spend more time at sea and increase the amount of fishing gear in order to get similar amounts of fish that they used to catch near the coast some years ago, the usual suspects come to mind. Scarce alternative sources of income, lack of resources and capacity for marine conservation and fisheries management plus limited monitoring and enforcement mean that overfishing and habitat degradation are affecting the viability of Principean fishing livelihoods. For example, in 2012, the entire island of Príncipe and its surrounding waters was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve for its global biodiversity significance. However, in reality, there is no enforcement to support this designation (and there is no formal protection provided to any marine areas around the neighbour island of São Tomé).

Tia, one of the project focal points, conducting landing surveys (credit: Guillermo Porriños)

This project aims to improve marine biodiversity and livelihoods of coastal communities in Principe, based on collaborations among researchers (University of Exeter, UK), a local NGO (Principe Trust Foundation), the Regional Fisheries Department and the Biosphere Reserve Management Unit, and with support from Forever Principe (a collaborative conservation alliance that finances conservation through tourism activities) and the Halpin Trust. From July 2016 (when the project started) until now, much has been learnt and, more importantly, fishers and fish traders have remained central to all interventions. Due to limited governmental control, there is a strong need for participatory approaches involving local men and women in any management measures, since they will be the future enforcers of such measures. Fishers and fish traders have thus been actively involved in: identifying project priorities and target areas of intervention; landing surveys data collection (e.g. focal points from different communities record information on fishing gear, effort and catch twice a week); and mapping their own fishing areas (e.g. fishers take GPS trackers when they go out fishing and contribute to identifying important fishing grounds and potential conflicts with other uses, such as industrial fishing).

Fishing community in Principe (credit: Ana Nuno)

One of the highlights of the project so far has been the discussions and identification of “community ideas” with a positive impact on the sustainability of artisanal fisheries. Several months of project meetings and discussions at each of the six fishing communities allowed us to identify the best locally-suitable ideas to improve management of marine resources and benefit fishers and fish traders. These ideas, identified and proposed by each of the communities following specific criteria and judged by all project partners, include, for example, developing a crafts center, building a community headquarter or providing better fish storage equipment. With its implementation just beginning, we look forward to learn from each investment made possible thanks to Darwin Initiative funds and use them as catalysers for community dynamism and capacity building.

Fishers describing important and common fish species in Principe (credit: Litoney Matos)

Our emphasis on participatory approaches and local capacity building is starting to pay off. Project efforts are increasingly recognized by the wider community and discussions about potential future measures (e.g. co-managed areas) and project expansion to neighbour island are on the table. With much progress still to be made, it’s very encouraging to see that this project, only possible thanks to funds from Darwin Initiative, Forever Principe and the Halpin Trust, is creating momentum for sustainable small-scale fisheries and marine conservation on this small island nation.

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