Conference presentation: Using local knowledge to predict baleen whale distribution around the Falkland Islands

Veronica Frans, from the Marine Spatial Planning project team at SAERI, attended and presented her research at US-IALE 2016 (the International Association for Landscape Ecology). The conference took place from 3-7 April 2016 in Ashville, USA. Veronica presented the results from the work she has been doing in the Falkland Islands since August 2015 on baleen whale historical distribution and sighting numbers, as well as an innovative species distribution modelling (SDM) technique using local knolwedge data to determine suitable habitat for baleen whales around the islands, now and as their numbers recover. The results will inform the MSP process for the islands. See the abstract here.

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Veronica giving her presentation at US-IALE on Monday 4 April 2016.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

———-Veronica F Frans, Amélie A Augé, Jan O Engler and Hendrik Edelhoff (2016). A whale of a tale: using local knowledge to predict baleen whale distribution around the Falkland Islands. US-IALE 2016, Ashville, North Carolina, USA.——————————–

The modelling work is conducted in collaboration with German scientists with expertise in SDM, Jan Engler (Zoological Researchmuseum Alexander Koenig) and Hendrik Edelhoff (Dept. of Wildlife Sciences,Georg-August-University Göttingen, Göttingen).

The presentation was very well received with some great feedbacks and interesting ideas to complement and improve the research.

The Darwin Plus Marine Spatial Planning project funded Veronica’s attendance but she was also awarded a NASA travel award that provided assistance with travel costs (congrats Veronica!).

Veronica receiving her NASA award

Veronica officially receiving her NASA award from Jack Liu and Janet Franklin during the conference.

 

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Soil mapping exercise and field work in New Island

By iLaria Marengo

New Island is one of the western islands of the Falkland Islands archipelago. Its western coastline is characterised by sheer cliffs (mainly sandstone) which are the nesting (breeding) ground of black-browed albatrosses, king cormorants and rockhopper penguins. The cliffs are a distinctive character of the island and the most scenic and spectacular landscape that people can enjoy along with several white sandy beaches scattered all over. A field research station built in the 1970s has been offering a great support to researchers coming to study what nature shows at its best in this place. The mix between the natural beauty, the self-contained and small environment, and the research facilities provided by New Island, made the location the perfect ground for attempting the first ground truthing of the Falkland Islands interpreted soil map.

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The map (see May blog) is one of outcomes of the TEFRA (Terrestrial Ecosystems of the Falklands – a Climate Change Risk Assessment) project and it is a very valuable dataset considering that there are very few studies of the soils of the Falklands and the most prominent goes back to the 1970’s. The interpretation was by Rodney Burton, a soil specialist who has worked previously in the Falklands, on the basis of the superficial deposits described in the geological map drawn up by the British Geological Survey. In late May Rodney came to Stanley and delivered a two week soil course funded by the TEFRA project and the result was a familiarisation with the identification of types of soils and above all a new interest in an element of the landscape that generally is not eye-catching, except in eroded areas.

The ground truthing work ended in coring locations across 80% of the island (the southernmost area and Sabina point were not visited) resulting in a total of 160 cores and describing the soil characteristic of each core such as depth, colour, texture, stoniness, structure and mottling. Dutch and gouge augers were the tools used to extract the cores; the latter was preferred in the case of peat or very peaty soils (figures below). According to the landscape and the interpreted soil map, the cores were taken along transects perpendicular to slope and longitudinal to the valleys in order to have a good representation of changes in soil types if these occurred.

nisoilsurvey IMG_0341 IMG_0393 IMG_0332 IMG_0049The data and description of the soils cored to different depth have been entered in a postgres database and mapped in QGIS. The last part of the work, currently in progress, is to match the soil descriptions with the soil type classification scheme adopted by the World Reference Base for Soil Resources (WRB). A simplified illustrated legend of soil types with related pictures was presented by Rodney in May and it will provide a valuable visual aid. WRB methodology for soil classification can be summarised in three steps: determining diagnostic horizons, properties and materials; allocating the soil to a Reference Soil Group; allocating principal and supplementary qualifiers. The principal qualifier are ranked from right to left in order of importance and differentiate the RSG according to the primary pedogenetic process (soil-forming factors or processes that most clearly condition the soil) that characterise soil features. The supplementary qualifiers, used in alphabetical order, are added in brackets. The two tables below offer example of a simplified guide to the WRB RGS and the classes of soils identified in the Falklands.

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WRB

Scale is the factor to be taken into account after the soil identification at each sample point has been completed. In fact there is a discrepancy between the scale of the interpreted map, which is at 1:250,000, and the level of detail provided by the ground truthing, which is in the order of 300-500 metres (where the coring took place the samples were taken on average at 300-500 metres). A full report will be available in early 2016 and the hope is that the results can be useful to refine the interpreted map; the methodology could be applied to other small islands; conservationists can refer to the outcomes for planning habitat restoration projects and other researchers can be inspired to carry out further investigations. We would like to thank the New Island Conservation Trust to give us the opportunity to carry out the field works and to offer the Field station facilities as base camp. Thank you to the wardens of New Island for their kindness and hospitality.

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Mapping areas at risk of marine invasion from biofouling

By iLaria Marengo

In a recent blog, it was revealed that the Falkland Islands, although remote, actually receive a considerable amount of marine traffic. More than a thousand different vessels (tankers, cargo ships, supply vessels, fishing boats, cruise liners, yachts etc) entered the Falklands Conservation zones from May 2014 to May2015.

Biosecurity is a set of precautions to reduce the risk of introducing or spreading invasive non-native species (NNS), and other harmful organisms such as diseases, in the wild. Biosecurity is a hot topic in the Falkland Islands because the characteristic of being remote does not exclude the risk of invasion from NNS that in such isolated islands and pristine environment can be very detrimental to the local habitats and their unique native species.

The Falkland Islands can be reached either by plane or boat. It means that in terms of biosecurity, introduction and spreading of invasive NNS can occur via both. The maps below show the connections from the rest of the world to the Falklands by air and by sea. It is evident that biosecurity control on ships is more crucial considering the annual number and the various locations from which the boats depart before reaching the Falklands, compared to the more regular and limited air connection.

annual_air_linkport_of_callsOne of the main biosecurity risks associated with boats is biofouling which is the colonisation, and the transport on the submerged surfaces of the boats, of unwanted organisms such as bacteria, barnacles and algae. These organisms travel on the ship hull and can be released and introduced in a new area where, as NNS, they may become invasive and damage the native marine environment or its resources. Ship biofouling is therefore a marine biosecurity risk that needs to be managed. Site monitoring in areas known to be at risk can also help detecting invasive NNS and remove or eradicate them before they spread.

yacht_biofoulingIt is therefore important for the Falkland Islands to identify the most susceptible areas of introduction of NNS. In the context of Marine Spatial Planning, GIS were used as analytical and mapping tool to provide useful information for biosecurity policies. Mapping areas at risk of invasive NNS from biofouling was a collaborative work between the GIS specialist (Dr iLaria Marengo) and the Marine Spatial Planning project leader (Dr Amélie Augé) at SAERI.

The shipping data were split by vessel category and were classified into groups with a high risk of introduction (from overseas) of NNS such as cargo ships, tankers, cruise ships and pleasure boats, or with a high risk of diffusion (within the islands) of NNS such as cruise ships, harbour, military and internal ferry. The risk of introduction and diffusion generated by each vessel category was scored according to the likeliness of biofouling, and the frequency of activities.

QGIS was used to conduct all the analyses and mapping. A Kernel density analysis was performed for each vessel category to map the density of boats for 5km cells within the territorial sea (12nm from shore) all around the islands. Density was multiplied by the number of different vessels occurring in the same area because variety, along with the quantity, of boats will have an impact in terms of risk of introduction of NNS. The resulting values were then multiplied by the risk scores. Finally, the maps for each vessel category were added to each other to create the final map of risk of introduction and diffusion of NNS in the Falkland Islands.

risk_diffusionIn parallel, a second GIS analysis was run to map areas with environmental features that would be sensitive to invasive NNS. The locations of breeding colonies of albatrosses, penguins, and pinnipeds were taken into account along with the distributions of kelp beds, Important Plant Areas, RAMSAR sites and tussac islands. The sensitivity of each environmental feature was mapped by creating buffers (ranging from 500m to 3 km) from the centre of the colonies or from the centre of the area. The areas of the buffers were attributed a value of 1, which corresponded to a high sensitivity score, so all the environmental variables were equally assessed as high in terms of sensitivity. The maps were added together to produce the overall environmental sensitivity map with values from 0 (low) to 1 (high).

sensitivityThe conclusive part of the GIS analyses was to highlight which environmentally sensitivite areas are most at risk to be affected by introduction of NNS due to biofouling. The resulting maps show that the area with the highest risk of introduction of NNS is Port Williams/Stanley Harbour. This did not come as a surprise because the Shallow Marine Survey Group has already detected some invasive NNS there. The areas of high risk of diffusions are the main touristic islands since they are well known sites of seabird and marine mammal colonies. Mare harbour stood out as a likely area at risk too.

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The overall conclusion of this GIS analysis is that there are significant risks of introduction and diffusion of NNS, which may damage the pristine environment of the Falkland Islands. Some sites were highlighted as most at risk of direct introduction and should be surveyed, while biosecurity measures should be taken. Other sites at risk were identified from the diffusion process all around the islands. The results are preliminary and should be taken as initial findings. They are however already good indicators of where the biosecurity officer could target efforts, and provide good information for marine spatial planning. The analysis could be refined with more data and by taking into consideration other ways of introductions of NNS such as ballast water. More in-depth analyses of potential impacts of some NNS on inshore marine species should also be explored in the future.

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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.

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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: http://south-atlantic-research.org/research/current-research/marine-spatial-planning. 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.

 

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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: http://www.nafc.uhi.ac.uk/departments/marine-science-and-technology/strategy/marine-spatial-planning.

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 AAuge@env.institute.ac.fk.

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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Assessing the demand for science on South Georgia: consultation with Asian polar research institutes – Part 2

NARC University of MalaysiaThe South Georgia Future Science team embarked on the second leg of their trip by flying to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on February 18th. Prof. Azizan Abu Samah, Director of the National Centre for Antarctic Research (NCAR) and numerous scientists from NARC and other local institutes hosted the South Georgia Future Science team for detailed discussion on the NARC science strategy and how South Georgia may feature within it. A primary focus of the NARC Antarctic programme is the ‘connectivity between the poles and the tropics’, a theme which spans a number of disciplines from atmospheric and oceanic circulation to latitudinal gradients in biodiversity and ecosystem tolerances to environmental change. With ongoing projects at Rothera Station, Antarctic Peninsula and Signy, South Orkneys, complementary studies at South Georgia would extend this latitudinal transect into the Subantarctic, a ‘stepping stone’ between the poles and tropics. We are hopeful that South Georgia will feature in NARC’s future strategy.

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The last polar research institute that the South Georgia Future Science team visited in Asia was the National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research (NCAOR) in Goa, India. Director Dr. Rajan and a number of NCAOR scientists spent the day discussing NCAOR’s science strategy and the opportunities that South Georgia presented to them. NCAOR research spans the three poles, the Arctic, Antarctic and the Himalayas, as well as Indian Ocean. Atmospheric and cryospheric sciences, in addition to paleoclimate, microbiology and remote sensing feature high within the NCAOR polar science strategy. Dr. Rajan expressed a keen interest to explore the possibility of NCAOR to work within an international consortium on South Georgia. In this idealised model each institute can provide their niche expertise within a co-ordinated framework ensuring optimal utilisation of resources, logistics and expertise and generation of the best possible science. This concept is something that the South Georgia Future Science team are keen to promote and will be discussing further with representatives from each institute at a workshop in the Falkland Islands in August 2015.

Thank you again to both NARC and NCAOR for their support for the South Georgia Future Science project.

We would also like to take this opportunity to thank the UK Science and Innovation Network for co-ordinating our meetings throughout this trip. Special thanks go to Mr. Gareth Davies in Korea, Ms. Elizabeth Hogben in Japan and Dr. Rita Sharma in India.

Paul, John and Vicky are now back home from their three week trip and are busy planning their next meetings at polar research institutes within Europe and North America.

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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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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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