I’m the Monitoring Officer for the cetacean research charity, Sea Watch, based in New Quay, Wales. I run the Cardigan Bay Monitoring project which focusses on the local semi-resident bottlenose dolphin population that inhabits the two Special Areas of Conservation in Cardigan Bay. In practice this means that I spend less time than I’d like balanced on the bow of a boat with expensive camera equipment laughing – and cursing profusely- while trying to photograph dolphins and a lot of time in my office shouting at my computer. Despite the occasional frustrations of field work and the everyday computer niggles, I consider myself extremely lucky to be working in this position and am very proud to be part of a charity that has achieved so much on such a comparatively diminutive budget. Sea Watch has been monitoring cetaceans for over 20 years and was instrumental in the designation of Special Areas of Conservation in Cardigan Bay. Currently the Cardigan Bay Monitoring Projects provides annual reports and recommendations to Natural Resources Wales to report on abundance trends, habitat use, population structure and anthropogenic impact using a combination of vessel and land based surveys.
I have been working with Sea Watch for six years in various capacities, starting as a voluntary Research Assistant in 2011. I knew I wanted to return to Wales eventually but spent some time in my adopted home on the Wirral as Regional Coordinator where I set up a local network of volunteers to carry out land based cetacean observations as well as acquiring funding to run our first photo-identification survey of Liverpool Bay which confirmed the presence of Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphins in the North West! Citizen science is a very important aspect of Sea Watch’s work, our sightings network relies on local volunteers to set up watches and report sightings and I was delighted when I had the opportunity to return to Wales as Wales Development Officer in 2013 with the aim to further and grow our local groups, liaise with boat operators and raise awareness of the fantastic marine wildlife that can be seen in Welsh seas.
I’m also a full time fantasy nerd (there’s been a distinct trend in dolphin names in the last few years…), devoted cat lady, travel enthusiast, least flexible yoga student in existence, one of those annoying, unembarrassed feminists and finally back in the saddle (in the literal sense) after a 15 year break!
My week at Biotweeps coincides with Sea Watch’s annual National Whale and Dolphin Watch so as well as telling you about the bottlenose dolphins of Cardigan Bay I will be encouraging you to go out there and get involved in some citizen science!
I was born and raised in Switzerland, a landlocked country mostly covered by the Alps, where I love to spend my free time hiking, snowboarding, mountain biking and climbing. For work, however, I prefer travelling to remote tropical islands to study the behaviour or coral reef fishes. I started my studies in biology at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland), where I did a master thesis on the behaviour of the cleaner wrasse Labroides dimidiatus. Cleaners pick parasites off the body of other reef fishes, called “clients”, and have a very elaborate behaviour in order to deal with their incredibly high number of daily cooperative interactions (up to 2000). This was an amazing experience, and I got the chance to keep doing research on cleaners during my PhD at the University of Neuchâtel (Switzerland). For this project, I spent extended periods of time in beautiful locations such as the Egyptian shores of the Red Sea, the island of Moorea in French Polynesia and Lizard Island, on the great Barrier Reef in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, it is not because marine biologists go to paradisiac locations for work that the job is easy. Fieldwork is hard, physically demanding, and often frustrating, but being rewarded with a sunset over the ocean at the end of the day makes everything much, much simpler.
Over the past years I also got interested in collective behaviour, and I had the idea to test some of the emerging questions in this field with group-living damselfishes. Just after completing my PhD, I obtained a fellowship from the Swiss National Science Foundation for this project, which I am currently working on in the Department of Collective Behaviour, at the Max Planck Institute in Konstanz (Germany). You will get to hear more about this endeavour since I will be tweeting for @biotweeps live from Eliat, Israel, the field site where I collect data for this project.
Through all these travels I also developed a strong interest in photography. With my background, unsurprisingly, my favourite place to take photographs is underwater, on the reef. One of the reasons why I love this environment so much is that you can get very close to the animals, much closer than you could on land, which also makes great opportunities for animal photography. But I don’t limit myself to underwater photography, I also enjoy capturing the beauty of mountains and other natural landscapes. You can see a collection of my pictures on my website www.simongingins.com, and interact directly with me on twitter @SimonGingins.
Looking forward to interacting with you all on @biotweeps!
BIG PICTURE THINKING
Our vision is global, with partnerships and field programmes in most ocean basins either side of the Equator. Past and current sampling sites include: Western Australia, Palau, New Caledonia, the Chagos Archipelago, Tonga, French Polynesia, the Savage Islands (Ilhas Selvagens), The Philippines, and the Gulf of Oman.
SCIENCE THAT MATTERS
Our goal is to make a difference
Our research boasts high academic and real-life impact. It is used to directly inform and influence both policy and management actions. We are a member group of the Ocean Science Council of Australia (OSCA), an independent consortium of leading Australian experts concerned with advancing marine conservation.
Our research focuses on marine ecological questions relevant to conservation and largely explores the influence of human activities on marine ecosystems.
Key questions our research explores include:
– How do pelagic sharks and fishes respond to the establishment of large marine reserves?
– What roles do apex predators play in tropical marine ecosystems?
– How is climate variability manifested in fish growth and what does this mean for warming oceans?
– How are sharks and fishes distributed on biogeographical scales and in relation to habitat?
– What are the socioeconomic drivers of illegal fishing?
These questions are addressed using a range of techniques included BRUVS, telemetry, biomarkers and predictive modelling.
Dr Phil Bouchet
I am a jack of several trades – marine mammalogist by training, converted into shark/fish ecologist as a doctoral student. I have a keen interest in spatial ecology and statistical modelling as they relate to wildlife conservation problems. Recently I developed abundance models for a number of cetacean species (humpback whales, bottlenose and snubfin dolphins) and distribution models for large pelagic fish (tunas and mackerels) around Western Australia.
My PhD research concentrated on ‘hotspots’ of mobile marine predators, and how these aligned with prominent physical features of the ocean floor such as seamounts, submarine canyons, or offshore shoals and banks. This involved coordinating or partaking in field expeditions to Shark Bay, the Timor Sea and the Perth canyon, where I used a new generation of midwater baited underwater video cameras to film endangered oceanic sharks in deep-water environments.
Dr Shanta Barley
Reef sharks are being removed from coral reefs globally yet we do not understand how this affects these hotspots of biodiversity. Where sharks are absent, prey may change in terms of abundance, size, behaviour, diet, condition and growth rate, which could have severe knock-on effects on the rest of the ecosystem.
I explore these issues using stereo underwater video systems, stable isotopes and a range of other techniques.
I am investigating how spatial ecology and population genetics impact the exposure and vulnerability of sharks to illegal fishing on Indian Ocean reefs, and how social, economic and legal factors affect the scale and range of the fishing effort in these locations. The study will use a combination of ecological tools (fine- and broad-scale movement tracking and population genetics), fisheries data collection at landing sites, and interviews with fishers and other actors to collect data on both the ecology of reef shark species and the fisheries that target them.
The spatial ecology and genetic studies will help understand the role of large MPAs such as Chagos in providing a refuge to reef shark species, and its wider role for these species in the Indian Ocean based on the connectivity (or lack thereof) between sub-populations. The study of illegal fishing aims to help quantify the magnitude of illegal fishing in a large oceanic MPA, identify the key drivers of this activity, and suggest points of engagement with regional stakeholders that will reduce illegal fishing effort.
I am a marine biologist with a special interest in shark behaviour and conservation. My research in shark ecology, behaviour and genetics focuses on the role of sharks as regulators of tropical and temperate ecosystems across the Indian Ocean.
This research involves studying a variety of shark species and their prey to discover the implications of reduced shark populations in our oceans, and to determine the relative health of sharks in the Indian Ocean. I attained a Bachelor of Science with distinction in ecology and a Bachelor of Arts in mandarin from Queensland University of Technology. Following on from this, my research on shark and ray biomechanics earned me a Bachelor of Science (Honours I) degree from the University of Queensland. My research will highlight the importance of sharks in our oceans.
Pelagic (open-water) marine ecosystems are the largest marine environment on Earth. A key ecological component of pelagic systems are their sharks and fishes. My research will explore spatial ecology and behaviour of sharks and fishes using observations from two large marine protected areas (MPAs), the Chagos Marine Reserve and the Palau Shark Sanctuary.
I will be looking at spatial structure and behaviour patterns relating to environmental and habitat characteristics, regarding three pelagic ecosystems key components: (1) juveniles fishes; (2) forage species, and (3) top predators. I will use an innovative, non-destructive and fishery-independent approach, remote underwater camera system to sample pelagic fish and shark. By improving our understanding of how pelagic species use the environment, it will also contribute to improved MPA design.
Pieter Torrez is a marine biologist from Belgium. He received his bachelor in general biology from the University of Ghent. Thereafter he continued his scientific career by studying an international master in marine biodiversity and conservation, by following courses at the University of Ghent and GMIT, Ireland. His thesis topic was about a certified shrimp fishery in Suriname, South America. Pieter tweets about marine science and he has a keen interest in (interactive) scientific visualization. He is the founder of Scigrades (Scientific Graphic Design), providing the scientific community with great visuals to improve science communication. Pieter regularly writes articles for different kinds of science communication platforms and likes to exchange ideas on how we can involve the general public more into scientific research.
Lali has been a teacher and scientist all her life. Her first experiments were meticulously labeled materials tests on the snow-encrusted window ledge of her bedroom. School friends have jokingly referred to her Bus Ride Lecture Series, where she would expound on everything from germ theory to adaptive social behavior. Raised by science-minded parents, Lali was encouraged to read, investigate, and question everything. Childhood trips to aquariums and museums went hand-in-hand with poring over grisly pictures in medical texts on lazy afternoons and marathons of Cousteau documentaries.
Lali studied Oceanic and Atmospheric Science at a science magnet school in the southeast where phenomenal high school teachers cultivated her love of school and learning. She was afforded an opportunity to work in a planktonology lab as part of a work-study program, and was immersed in marine science and culture as part of the daily curriculum. Drawn always to science, Lali realized that her place was not in a research lab, but rather in the classroom, where she could cultivate a love of science in the next generation of learners.
Lali went on to earn degrees in Biological Sciences at a New England liberal arts school, and Science Education at a Florida university. Currently at an independent school in Florida, she is teaches biological sciences and is developing a science writing curriculum for middle and high school. Believing that science communication is the key to improving science literacy among both students and the general public, Lali is eager to explore how online communication can enhance science education. You can find her other writing at Life in the Nerdlet Estuary.