Geographic Information Systems: are maps only pretty pictures or is there more?

by iLaria Marengo

We see maps every day, we use them when we travel and we refer to them to look for places and locations, but have you ever thought what makes a map? Basically, a map is a symbolic representation of a space. All objects within that space have a location and can therefore be mapped.. These objects, once associated with their geographic reference (location) are called spatial data. For example, a map displays boundaries, addresses, roads, buildings, wrecks and it is possible to attribute different colours or symbols according to what the objects represent. Think of the town plan for instance and its divisions into zones: residential, industrial, ports and marinas etc.
In the past, maps were made by hand, but this is no longer the case. Instead, there are computer programs called Geographic Information Systems (GIS) that allow drawing or importing data and create digital maps. GIS are very flexible and user-friendly tools as they facilitate the visualisation and analysis of spatial data. The great and unique property of GIS is not only to make pretty maps, but also to relate spatial objects (draw on maps as points, lines or areas) and overlap these data to derive information and provide it to the decision makers and the general public.

Figure 1:French hand-drawn map, circa 1800 (

But what makes a map a good map, or the information useful? It would not be so good if you were to follow a map for kilometres and figure that the building you were looking for was actually on the other side of town! Because the map reflects the data that it displays, it is obvious that the quality of a map depends on the quality of the data. The way of saying “garbage in, garbage out” is applicable to GIS. Hence, it is important to have good data, to trust the data providers, and eventually to store the data in a central repository.
In order to spread the use of GIS and initiate spatial data management in the Falklands, a project called “Information Management System and GIS Data Centre” started two years ago, funded by the Foreign Commonwealth Office. This project included several free training courses. The last course was held on the 22nd and 23rd October at FIDF and was tailored to the FIG’s policy, planning and public work departments. After the course a trainee commented “Highways operate an asset management plan that is best managed and presented in geographical form.  Undertaking the training in GIS has given me the tools to help improve the capture and presentation of information which should provide an easier approach, in the long term, to asset management”. Another trainee said “Using GIS will enable us to graphically represent statistics and information for the Islands in a comprehensive way. It will be particularly useful in visualising data for large-scale projects such as the upcoming Census, and in communicating those results to decision-makers and the public.”
 Figure 2: Map of part of the Stanley plan (2015) made with GIS.
Establishing a long term plan for developing GIS and data management within the government has multiple advantages. In fact, it means the introduction of rules and concepts such as data standards, data sharing, data access and metadata (which is information about data) recording. Thanks to a collaborative work and joined effort (FIG, SAERI, and FC) everybody can now search for information on data collected in the Falklands through the IMS-GIS Centre and its metadata catalogue online on the SAERI webpage.
In the future, public data will be accessed through the internet using a webGIS service to show and communicate information derived from mapping and analysing spatial data. Falkland Islanders will access the service without using their megabytes. So next time you look at a map, think that behind that pretty picture, there is a long process of data management and that GIS are likely to have played a role.
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Marine spatial planning: Ensuring long-term future of the Falkland Islands’ economy and beauty

The ocean around the Falkland Islands is very productive, hosts many marine species, and is still in excellent condition compared to most other parts of the world. The long-term economy of the Islands depends almost entirely on this prolific and healthy marine environment. Commercial fisheries and tourism are the two main current activities that, if managed sustainably and safely, will provide long-term economic security for the Islands. In comparison, oil exploitation will be a fixed-term economic benefit and is, by default, not sustainable because it relies on a non-renewable resource that will run out. New and expanding marine activities should therefore be managed co-ordinately and soundly to ensure fishing and tourism can still thrive along with potential new sustainable activities. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is the process of developing a strategic plan to manage marine activities and ensure that economic, environmental, and also cultural values are included in the decision process.

The easiest description for MSP is “land-use planning – for the sea”! Most people understand the need for land-use planning. For instance, it avoids someone building a house and realising 2 years later that, next to it, was the only suitable plot for a sewage treatment plant… Planning is all about looking in and thinking about the future. Keeping the marine environment healthy and safe is crucial for the long-term economy of the Falklands because it will keep providing fish and squids and habitats where they can reproduce and grow, but also because it will allow charismatic wildlife attracting tourists here to thrive. Though, it does not end here. An often-forgotten link to the marine environment is cultural. Watching the waves, walking on the coast with the kids or the dog, admiring a sunset over the ocean, and visiting a historical wreck are examples of personal enjoyment the sea can bring to us. The beautiful areas that you cherish also require management to ensure that they are still there for future generations and stay clean. Finally, another benefit provided by efficient MSP is increased marine safety because the aim of MSP is, overall, to decrease the risks of maritime accidents by managing where things happen. Imagine if a boat grounded next to your favourite spot, threatening the life of the crew on board, while having oil and rubbish cover the coast. Would you have thought that asking that boat to travel only a few kms further from the coast (taking that boat may be an extra 30 mins) would have been too much then? Well, this is exactly why MSP is so important, because it provides the tools to FIG to think of future risks and act now to manage them so that no one has to be sorry in the future.



The figure illustrates the intricate links between the marine environment and economic and cultural values of the Falkland Islands..



The Falkland Islands currently have no MSP in place at the exception of temporary fishing closure areas. With an increasing level of human activities in the ocean, in particular for oil exploration, but also for shipping traffic for instance, the need to identify areas sensitive to safety and environmental risks has been wisely identified as a priority by the current government. The Islands Plan 2014-18 states as an action to “Implement appropriate […] marine spatial planning frameworks to ensure the preservation and management of […] marine environments of the Falkland Islands”. In July 2014, a 2-year project funded by Darwin Plus (a UK Government grant scheme for the UKOTs) was initiated at SAERI to produce scientific data and a best-practice framework needed for FIG to implement an MSP process here. The project webpage contains more details and reports you can download: The project is conducted with a strong stakeholder engagement that has included public consultation and local workshops, meetings with MLAs and FIG staff, and a steering committee with local stakeholder representatives. The spatial data gathered and mapped so far are, for example, shipping traffic, military exercise areas, pleasure boating areas, and anchoring areas. Wildlife data are also gathered and analysed. Areas of potential conflicts are then identified by overlapping the spatial datasets, which can reveal where risks exist, for safety and/or environmental damage. All data, results of analyses and recommendations will be provided to FIG that will then decide what MSP will look like in the Falklands. SAERI provides objective scientific tools to FIG to help them make appropriate decisions for a sustainable future and ensure long-term economic wealth and clean enjoyable marine and coastal environments of the Islands.


shipping colour

The figure shows hourly locations of all ships and boats (red dots) around the Falkland Islands over one year (May 2014 to May 2015). During that period, over 1,500 different boats used the Falklands’ marine area, including 119 oil tankers. The data come from the AIS system run by Sure in Stanley (thanks to Mark Street for providing the raw data from this system).


An interesting example of established MSP can be found in the Shetland Islands where, for the last 12 years, a team based at the local university has worked on MSP providing scientific tools that helped the government managed new development, including for oil, aquaculture and marine wind turbines, by making informed decisions. You can check out their website here:

For more information, questions or interest in being involved in MSP in the Falkland Islands, Dr Augé can be contacted at SAERI by phone 27374 or email

Written by Dr Amélie Augé, spatial ecologist at SAERI, leading researcher and manager of the 2-year Darwin Plus-funded project ‘Marine Spatial Planning for the Falkland Islands’. This article was published in the Penguin News on 9 October 2015, starting an MSP series of 4 articles.

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Learning how to identify soils in the Falklands Islands

By iLaria Marengo

Soil is a natural, unique and multifunctional resource that provides and supports a range of ecosystem services, in the form of food and as a host for organisms and material that are important for human life. However, much we know about what we are standing on? How much are we aware of soils, their characteristics and properties? Can we use the soil in a more advantageous way for our activities without damaging them?

The Falklands Islands are an archipelago that spread across a bit more than 12,000 square kilometres and we know only approximately and generically about the soils within the islands. In order to start addressing this, a two week course in soil identification was funded as part of an EU BEST project, the Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Falklands – A climate change risk assessment (TEFRA), led by Dr Rebecca Upson and Prof Jim McAdam.

Rodney Burton, with 45 year of experience in soil survey, has travelled all the way south to train and enthuse representatives of Falklands Conservation (FC), Department of Agriculture (DOA), landowners and SAERI about soils. The aim of the course was to provide information and stimulus for the participants in understanding the basics of soil, its properties and processes, and how to apply that understanding to their everyday work and own specific needs.

The lack of a soil map is a noticeable and important gap in the baseline spatial information of the Falkland Islands. Hence, the main objective in learning about soils is to enable the participants to gather soil information (through description, interpretation and recording) to improve the first draft of the TEFRA project soil map. This map is an interpretation that Rodney Burton has produced based on the solid and superficial deposits geological maps.


The new skills acquired during the course are going to be applied to the identification and description of soil profiles for the main soil types derived from the TEFRA soil map. The idea is to do surveys at specific study areas chosen by Dr Stuart Smith, leader of the habitat restoration project at FC, add some opportunistic auger holes at farms where DOA is taking already soil samples for lab analyses and wherever leisure walks take iLaria Marengo in her attempt to walk each 1 km2 cell of the OS map.

The course was fascinating and enjoyable. It comprised of two days in the classroom, where Rodney gave a general introduction on soil genesis, classification, sampling, interpretation and a description of the soil survey field handbook. This was followed by a week spent in the field finding spots for the description and interpretation of soil profiles.

Each day in the field revealed something new. We went from some extreme conditions, such as snow and freezing strong winds, to a more “balmy” temperature of 8 degrees and absence of wind. We found that the soils are largely shallow, except in areas where peat accumulates. In Cape Pembroke we dug through almost 4 metres of peat but in the other locations we didn’t manage to dig more than 40 cm because the bottom (clay) was too hard.



Interesting periglacial polygonal features were spotted in all the location and in Saladero ventifacts were scattered across some bare land. Both features thrilled an already enthusiastic Rodney and were evidence that the geomorphology of the Falkland Islands is extremely rich in fascinating and puzzling features which are worth further investigation.



We would like to thank Rodney for the way he taught us soils, for his passion and the clarity of his explanations. Another thank is for the TEFRA project which made possible this course. We hope that as participants we can use the new skills efficiently and in a useful way.


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My two weeks with the Falkland Islands

by Katie Moon

When I tell people that I went to the Falkland Islands, there are invariably two responses; either they are insanely jealous, or smile knowingly before opening another Google tab. The former is, thankfully, more common, but the latter is entirely defensible given the fact that the islands are on the other side of the world. As a PhD student from Australia working on penguin parasites, getting to the Falklands to take samples for my project seemed like a bit of pipe dream. Lucky for me, associations like the Shackleton Scholarship Fund exist to make those sorts of dreams come true. With their support, I visited the Falkland Islands in January of this year to undertake sampling in the penguin colonies that hug its coastline.


So by this time you’re probably shifting in your seat, wondering uncomfortably what I mean by ‘sampling’. One word, 1 000 001 uses. For me, sampling means taking penguin ticks from their colonies, putting them in tiny tubes filled with ethanol and doing genetic work on them. I am looking at how they move and interact across the Southern Hemisphere, and want to figure out how penguin movement effects their gene flow and evolution. I am a phylogeographer, and my penguin-tick system is brilliant because it’s a rare case of immobile, terrestrial parasite meets highly vagile, aquatic host. Not quite boy meets girl, but for us science geeks, it’s an interaction equally fit for the silver screen.

In real life, this means that I get to hang out with two of the coolest and most odd groups of species on the planet (though one is more fluffy than the other). It also means I get to go to penguin colonies all over the world (Southern Hemisphere limited of course), pull parasites off the adults and their babies (fluff-balls of poo and noise) and from around their nests. In the Falklands, it meant walking around Rockhopper, King and Gentoo Penguin colonies, grabbing ticks from under rocks, and getting investigated by the inhabitants who were clearly vexed that I wasn’t paying them enough attention.

photo3My first stop, was at Volunteer Point, where Gentoos, Magellanics and the ever popular King Penguins breed in a cacophony of feathers, feet and (you guessed it) poo. The only way to get to this part of the East Falklands, is with some talented drivers and a flock of Land Rovers. It’s hard not to see these ever present symbols of Falkland Island life as alive in their own right, especially when they race across the swampy landscape in a pack formation. Volunteer Point itself was beautiful, with Magellanic burrows skirting the beach and King and Gentoos in discrete patches behind. It rained (perhaps sleet is a better term), and although crawling through mud and poo looking for parasites isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face. Everywhere around me were penguins, all interested in me and what I was doing. They grew bolder, and came closer and closer until eventually I was just one of them, wandering about the colony. An experience I would trade for no amount of sunny days.

photo2The remainder of my stay in the Falklands was noteworthy for its brilliant weather. The sun was out, the wind was playing fairly nicely (a rarity I am told) and my site visits to The Murrel and Pebble Island (as well as a short stop at Bertha’s Beach) were made fun and easy. Rockhopper colonies were my main focus, and these were invariably perched on the sides of beautiful lichen-covered cliffs. I assume the famed yellow eyebrows of the penguins raised slightly when I turned up (tweezers in hand), but their fears were soon abated and only curiosity remained. There were plenty of ticks for my project, and a few great photos as well.

I was also lucky enough to coincide my trip with the Falkland Islands Science Symposium, which meant I got to chat to the delegates throughout most of my first week. The delegates were from all around the Pan-Americas, and brought with them impressive scientific knowledge from an incredible range of disciplines. Public seminars gave the Falkland Islanders the opportunity to hear about scientific goings-on in everything from mosses, to microbes in oxygen-depleted environments and whale conservation using phylogeography (hooray for phylogeography!).  Together we had a memorable trip out to Kidney Island to watch nesting Sooty Shearwaters en masse in the sunset (a sight to be seen indeed). I must admit, however, that the real winner for me, was the pod of Sei Whales we encountered along the way. I was in awe, but got the impression that it was just another day in the Falklands.

 My time in the Falkland Islands was brilliant, not just because I am a huge nerd (though I am) nor because I adore environments that are extreme and rare (though I do). I met great people, in particular the SAERI team who helped me through every step of the process, I saw amazing things and I got to join the small number of people on the planet that have made it out to this tiny island group. That’s not a bad way to start a year.

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Falkland Islands Science Symposium: A Microbiologists Perspective

By Virginia Edgcomb, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, USA

Our Pan-American Science Delegation visit to the Falkland Islands is over now, but I leave with many incredible vistas imprinted on my mind, a new cohort of scientific colleagues and potential collaborators, and many ideas about scientific research opportunities in the area. The people we met in town, including business and local government officials were so friendly and welcoming, and were universally concerned about protecting and managing their resources and unique ecosystems in a sustainable fashion. It was refreshing to see a society that is forward thinking on this theme, especially given the relatively pristine condition of the environment there. Sadly, people the world over frequently only start to pay attention when they witness deterioration or experience personal impacts. Scientists at the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute are already conducting excellent research on a wide variety of very important topics to the area. Yet there are many opportunities for collaborative research that can pull in complementary expertise to bear on new questions. Researchers at my home institution, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution include many who are engaged in studies of physical, chemical and biological oceanography, including fisheries, and of impacts of climate change on marine ecosystems worldwide. Climate change is significantly impacting our polar regions, and these changes have impacts that propagate to subpolar regions in the form of altered weather, ocean currents, temperature, etc. As a marine microbiologist I am particularly keen to collaborate with scientists at SAERI to collect data on impacts of these alterations to major biogeochemical cycles where microorganisms have center stage. Any major shifts in microbial communities and/or processes carried out by these communities can affect the many important fisheries in the region of the Falklands. We envision a very international collaborative study of atmospheric and marine processes involving SAERI, the British Antarctic Survey, and several US and South American institutions.

Interspersed among the many intense and stimulating scientific discussions this past week were amazing field trips to see some of the local treasures; including Elephant Seals, nesting Shearwaters by the gazillions, and of course, penguins. I was enthralled by the penguins, particularly a small cluster of King Penguins who approached me on a beach as I sat still. It was clearly a mutual inspection, the outcome of which was universal agreement that clearly, they were better dressed. Another highlight for me was gazing through the microscope at interesting protozoa zipping around in a water sample I collected from an Elephant Seal wallow. The water was the color and consistency of soy sauce (probably a cocktail of peat, seawater and Elephant Seal feces). A microbiologist is easily amused.

Thank you to all the folks who made this past week possible. Now we all need to work hard to get funding for our research ideas!

Ginny and Penguins

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Falkland Islands Science Symposium: A Social Scientist in the Falkland Islands

By Kate Sherren, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada

Our Land Rovers lumbered slowly along the heathland like a convoy of awkward insects. We were heading to the penguin colony at Volunteer Point on the eve of the Falkland Islands Science Symposium. Recent rains had turned the track – rough at best – into a sodden mess. As one and then another of our eight vehicles ran into trouble, the others would fan out to avoid the same fate, resembling ants that have lost their pheromone track. All in all it was a six-hour round trip through rain and hail, and three vehicles had to be pulled out of precarious positions. The jarring drive made my ears ring well into the night. I remarked afterward that it was about the hardest place I’d ever tried to get to. This was greeted with surprise by my fellow delegates. “But I’m a social scientist, so you have to take that in context,” I said. My field destinations can usually be reached in a hatchback. Despite my discomfort, I was more than glad we had made the effort to reach the Point. Three species of penguin, each with its own personality, charmed us for hours.

Photo credit: Carlos Andrade

Photo credit: Carlos Andrade

Sheep wandered among the penguins at times, reminding us that Volunteer Point was part of a working farm. Several of the agricultural experts I met later in the week felt that the penguins played an important role in keeping farms viable. The ranching style of farming traditionally used in the Falkland Islands has resulted in substantial vegetation change. Most of the giant tussac grass that once fringed the islands is gone. Patches of it persist in ungrazed outer islands and fenced minefields left over from the Falklands War. In its place are coastal paddocks that are deemed to have the best grasses for grazing, and hence are used for lambing. The health of these fields is in large part thanks to penguin poop. Guano rich in fish remnants returns critical nutrients to the soil, and sheep help distribute it.

Photo credit: Steve Campana

Photo credit: Steve Campana

I have been one of the Pan-American delegates to this Symposium, representing the social sciences. My research often examines how people respond to local landscapes and how that affects resource decisions. My inspiration comes from talking to local people in places experiencing or facing change. This week I have spoken to leaders of legislation, policy and industry; cabbies and tour operators; long-time Islanders and members of a diverse network of contract workers with a cacophony of Commonwealth accents. These conversations have suggested many exciting research opportunities. Like Volunteer Point, it takes some effort to get to the Falkland Islands. But the destination – and its future – are worth it.

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Falkland Islands Science Symposium: South Atlantic Seduction

By Steve Campana, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Dartmouth, Canada

I was seduced! And it wasn’t just me. The entire scientific delegation to the Falklands was seduced at one time or another while visiting. No – it wasn’t because of the open and charming people who lived here and welcomed us at every event. Nor was it because of the superb meals (and wine!) with which we were plied at every dinner. It wasn’t even because of the field trips to photograph penguins, or seals, or collect fossils, in wonderful outdoor settings. Rather, this was a totally non-subtle, full-on, in your face seduction that took advantage of a scientist’s greatest weakness. I’m talking of course about our unstoppable excitement when faced with new scientific challenges and possibilities. So the decision by SAERI, the Falkland Islands and the British government to fly us all down here to woo us with scientific seductions was a brilliant move. I suspect that all of the scientists in the delegation are already fully engaged in other projects back home and in other countries. So few of us expected to take on any new projects when we accepted the invitation to come to the Falklands; we just couldn’t resist the invitation to see a new part of the world. But once here, and once confronted with new scientific possibilities, we were hooked. Most of us are now committed to collaborate with SAERI on various projects. Scientists are so naïve!056IMG_3586

I do scientific research on fish and shark populations in Canada and Iceland, where the environmental conditions are very similar to those in the Falklands. So to a Canadian scientist, it is fascinating to see how life has evolved under Canadian temperatures in a location on the other side of the world. One thing that piqued my interest was the occasional capture of porbeagle sharks in the waters around the Falklands. Porbeagle sharks, which are a smaller relative of the great white shark, are a common fishing target in the waters off of eastern Canada, where the conditions are very similar to those here. So why aren’t there more porbeagles here? After asking around, I found out that none of the fishermen here use the pelagic longline gear and large hooks that would be suited for catching porbeagles. So it could be that porbeagles are actually quite common in Falkland waters. And if so, I wonder if they behave, live and grow in the same way that those in the North Atlantic do. How interesting! As I said earlier, I’ve been seduced!porbeagle thrashing in water_996

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Demographic and tracking data of black browed albatross on New Island

by iLaria Marengo

New Island is one of the islands of the Falklands’ archipelago and lies to the west of West Falkland. It is approximately 22.7 square km; the northern and western coastline is characterised by precipitous and breath-taking cliffs (max 200 metres). These are perfect locations for black browed albatross (BBA), rockhopper and shags colonies. In contrast, the eastern coastline is lower lying or has smaller cliffs and scarps. Sandy beaches are scattered throughout the northern and southern ends and centre of the island and offer perfect places for penguins, sea lions and, less frequently, elephant seals to come ashore or depart for the open sea. New Island is owned by the New Island Conservation Trust (, which is a non-profit charitable conservation organisation and aims at assuring the future of the island as wildlife reserve in perpetuity.

Conservation is therefore the main activity carried out on New Island: currently there are researchers from all over the world studying demographic, migratory behaviour, and foraging ecology of gentoo, rockhopper and magellanic penguins, black browed albatrosses, striated caracara, thin-billed prions, white chinned petrels, southern giant petrels and Falkland skuas. The amazing diversity of species and their “accessibility” makes New Island a special place. This is helped greatly by the good infrastructure (accommodation and lab space) provided by the Trust that allows researchers to carry out field work and long terms studies. Along with seabirds, plants and habitats have also been the focus of studies, the most recent being the broad scale habitat mapping carried out by Dr Rebecca Upson in 2010-2011.

While visiting the Island in early November it was extremely interesting to participate in the field work conducted by Dr Letizia Campioni, who is a postdoc at the ISPA-Instituto Universitario of Lisbon and one of the members of the team of scientists led by Dr Paulo Catry. Since 2003 the team from Portugal has been conducting yearly monitoring of the BBA colonies at the so called “Settlement rookery”. Through the collection of data (such as count of breeding pairs, eggs and chicks) and the ringing of breeding or immature birds as well as chicks, researchers obtain information that helps to understand the dynamics of the albatross populations. The main goal of such long-term project is to use these demographic data as a tool for conservation and environmental monitoring. Further details on the Albatross Project at:

At the same time, the team collected ecological and behavioral data. In the latest years, Dr Letizia Campioni has been focusing her work on immature BBA, studying the foraging ecology, foraging specialisation and strategies during the breeding and wintering season. She is doing this by sampling blood and feathers for stable isotope composition and by tracking birds using GPS-loggers, activity loggers and geolocators. These data will enable the identification and modelling of the parameters that are driving population changes and relate those to environmental variables (i.e. climate and fisheries) and management practices (fisheries regulations).

The team, led by Dr Paulo Catry, also conducts low to medium intensity biological and monitoring studies of two predators of chicks: the Falkland Skuas and the Striated Caracaras (Johnny Rooks).

Overall, the data gathered and analysed by the researchers in New Island will provide a better understanding of the population dynamics, their distribution and relationship with resources (e.g. food), other environmental variables (e.g. climate, oceanography) and human activities. In addition, the metadata of these data will be kept available through an online catalogue. Metadata will offer the opportunity to quickly find the data that has already been collected. As such, it will facilitate data sharing and increase scientific partnerships and collaborations, with benefits and advantages for both the conservation of wildlife in New Island and the researchers.

IMG_7218 IMG_7571 IMG_7576 IMG_7486

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SAERI Does its bit for the Falkland Islands National Clean Up Day

By Amélie Augé

Last Saturday (11th October) was the first National Clean Up Day organised by the Falkland Islands Government. Over one hundred people took part in a morning of picking rubbish all around Stanley. Amongst them were five members of SAERI, armed with pretty yellow and blue gloves and large bags, who cleaned up a stretch of 1km of road on the edge of Stanley. Megan, David, Emily, iLaria and Amélie filed up an entire skip in a  less than inclement weather (think blizzard really!). But they had a lot of fun nonetheless and Stanley is now a nicer place to walk around. In all, it is estimated that around 40 cubic metres of rubbish were removed by all the volunteers on the day.

Amélie Augé, Megan Tierney and iLaria Marengo with the skip that helped to fill

Amélie Augé, Megan Tierney and iLaria Marengo with the skip that their hard work helped to fill.

Rubbish is not just an offence to the eyes of people walking or driving around. It can also have major impacts on wildlife. Animals, in particular seabirds such as albatross, ingest rubbish floating on the water thinking they are pieces of food. Because they cannot digest it, their stomach filled up with rubbish, can no longer feed and sadly die. With the windy weather of the Falkland Islands, obviously any rubbish let loose will quickly end up in the sea. With such an amazing array of marine wildlife around the Falkland Islands, we certainly do not want this to happen. Ensuring that rubbish are securely contained and not thrown is important. Hopefully with some simple measures less rubbish will fly free around Stanley.

So let’s not litter and do pick up rubbish (in particular if you are on a beach: the last chance to get them before they get to the sea!).

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Hans Hansson Inshore Fisheries Research Cruise (7th-17th August)

Over a 10 days research cruise, a mixed team of divers and scientists have been collecting data for the Inshore Fisheries Research Project, led by Dr Deborah Davidson (Debs) and Dr Paul Brickle.

The Hans Hansson, originally a Norwegian rescue ship, had a major refit in 2005, becoming a comfortable cruiser and research vessel and provided the platform for this trip. The ship, captained by Dion Poncet and first mate Juliette Hennequin, was loaded with gear in Stanley, and left a couple of days before the rest of the team for an arranged rendezvous at New Haven. On 7th August, the final seven members of the group joined the vessel and they departed for the South-West Islands.

Despite a very poor forecast for high winds, low temperatures, and various levels of precipitation, the following week was spent collecting and processing samples of potential commercial species. The dive team was comprised of members of the Shallow Marine Surveys Group, SAERI and volunteers (Stevie Cartwright, Dr Paul Brewin, Dr Paul Brickle, Joost Pompert, Dion Poncet, Jamie Simpson and Juliet Hennequin). Two pairs of divers were deployed from the Zodiac at each of the sites we visited. The pairs were assigned either a “shallow” or “deep” transect to sample. Whilst one diver ran out a 30m reel of tape that defined each transect line and counted the species we were looking for, the second diver laid out 0.5m2 quadrats and took photos for habitat and species mapping purposes. Throughout the trip, we generally managed to get 3 sites per day, and along with each set of dives, we deployed a CTD, which is a water quality probe that measures temperature, depth, salinity and chlorophyll a as it is lowered through the water from the side of the ship.

Some of the potentially commercial species collected by divers were Chilean urchins (Loxechinus albus), Patagonian scallops (Zygochlamys patagonica), ribbed mussels (Aulacomya ater), keyhole limpets (Fissurella spp.), and long and short spired volutids (Adelomelon ancilla and Odontocymbiola magellanica). The processing team was Debs and Emily, who set themselves up in the available lab space to measure, weigh and dissect the species as they were collected by divers. Despite the difficulty of getting into some of the bivalves, once a technique was mastered, the processing became much faster. Everyone helped out to speed up some parts of processing, such as scraping orange Iophon sponge off the scallops or barnacles of the mussels (for accurate weight) or assisting in shucking open any immense buckets of bivalves.

50mph winds on Wednesday 13th August may have stopped much of the commercial fishing fleet from trawling, but we anchored in the relative shelter of Beaver Island Harbour and spent the day diving and mapping out a shallow clam (Eurhomalea exalbida) bed.

Over the duration, we managed 35 dives in 7 sampling days (map to follow), around Weddell Island, New Island, Beaver and Staats Island, and deployed 32 CTDs. We tried out some new equipment including: a drop-down underwater camera, that gave us a good snapshot idea of different habitats, and at greater depths than the divers can attain (limited to 20m for safety purposes); a side scan sonar that presented images of the sea bed – although this was limited because of the regular rough weather experienced. We also used an Isaacs-Kidd plankton net (borrowed from the Falkland Islands Fisheries Department) and did several plankton trawls after dusk or before dawn to collect samples of various species that have planktonic life stages.

It was a busy and eventful research cruise, and the team is excited to have collected so much data despite the prevalent poor weather. We were lucky to have such a fantastic chef in Juliette, who prepared us some beautiful dishes (utilising some of the samples – even though she doesn’t eat shellfish!) and Paul Brickle knocked up a couple of tantalising curries. Thanks to everyone who was involved, and watch out for the Penguin News article to follow, which will have some preliminary mapping and results, as well as some stunning underwater photography!


Divers getting ready whilst Peale’s dolphins play by the Zodiac

The team with a large seastar (Cosmasterias lurida)


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