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.

PN_figure_2

 

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.

 

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: 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.

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.

IMG_5082

 

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.

IMG_5108

 

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.

 

From Rome to Nødebo, learning webGIS techniques and meeting with QGIS developers, educators and other users.

By iLaria Marengo

One of the aims of the IMS-GIS data centre is to make open data available to all. The best way to reach multiple users, who may or may not have skills and insight on GIS, is to develop and provide a webGIS service. Through the web, data can be visualised, queried and then downloaded.

In Rome I attended a two day course that was run by Paolo Cavallini (http://www.faunalia.eu/en/), one of the promoters of QGIS. The course was essential to understand how QGIS server runs and how it allows the user to work on a QGIS project and publish it to the web to make it accessible to a wider public.

The course was very good, with 5 participants and taught by Paolo with the help of Andrea Fantini (http://www.tecnostudiambiente.it/). First of all we explored a few plugins that allow publishing data online. Then we moved to the core of the course, which was the installation of QGIS server (it runs better on a Linux server) and the use of Lizmap as web interface. We were given a virtual machine to run the installations during the course, but now that I am back to the Falklands I will be installing QGIS server on the real server at SAERI, with the assistance of Synergy, the local IT Company.

The advantage of using QGIS server is that the webGIS reflects exactly what is in the project, symbology and attribute tables. Hence publishing data online and creating webGIS services is very easy and quick and all the changes and modification can be executed directly from QGIS. By the end of 2015 a webGIS service should be available for Falkland Islands users.

IMG_4257

IMG_4258

 

From chaotic but beautiful Rome, I then moved to tranquil and relaxing Nødebo (Denmark) to attend the first QGIS conference for users, developers and educators. Around 150 people gathered for the event, representing and 25 countries.

conference-user-map

The setting was ideal, the Skovskolen (Landscape and Forestry College of the University of Copenhagen) provided all the facilities and the organisation was superb thanks to the hard work of Lene Fischer and her team.

I had the chance to present the QGIS training courses and GIS development promoted by the IMS-GIS data centre across the UK Overseas Territories in the South Atlantic. I also had the opportunity to listen to many case studies presented by other users. The second day focussed on workshops and gave everyone the opportunity to have the developers of QGIS tools and plugins as teachers for a day.

What I really appreciated in my two days in Nødebo was feeling at ease and comfortable with the “geo-geeks”.  All of them were very approachable, helpful and interested to hear from the users, talk to them and understand the sort of issues we have encountered whilst using the software. I started using QGIS almost 2 years ago and I am extremely happy with the software. It performs very well, but above all it is supported by a wide community, which thrives on and is full of ideas and new developments.

Socialising at the conference was not difficult at all and it would have been great to be able to spend more time with the developers, as I found all of them extremely keen on making QGIS a better product. The strength and potential of open source was tangible, and it is important that the users contribute to improve QGIS by finding  bugs, asking for new plugins and highlighting those that still require some polishing. Promoting and sponsoring QGIS is also very important to broaden the community and make the use of QGIS more wide spread.

It was a great experience and I was happy to participate in this first event, which I hope is the first of many. I would like to thank the organisers, the developers that spent time listening to us and the rest of the users and educators that gave examples of the use and application of QGIS.

nodebo-conference

 

 

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.

Photo1

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.

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.

ncaor (1)

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.

New funding opportunities for environmental projects in the South Atlantic: BEST 2.0

The European Commission has announced that in order to address the need for facilitated access to funding in the European Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs), it is allocating new resources for concrete projects in the OCTs through a 5 year programme; BEST 2.0 (Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services in European Outermost Regions and Overseas Countries and Territories). This will mean a new source of funding that can be accessed for environmental projects within the South Atlantic Overseas Territories (OTs). The European Commission’s Directorate General for International Cooperation and Development (EuropeAid) has two calls for proposals organised in the coming two years, with a total budget of over € 6 million for this initiative.

BEST hubs

BEST 2.0 has been born from a recognised need for current support of projects on the ground whilst a long term financial mechanism is created from the existing BEST III initiative, which began last year. The aim of the BEST III project is to support and maintain biodiversity and sustainable use of ecosystem services, including looking at ecosystem-based approaches to climate change adaption and mitigation methods. This is taking place simultaneously across all European OCTs. The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) is the coordinator for the South Atlantic Hub, which includes Ascension Island, St Helena and Tristan da Cunha, the Falkland Islands and South Georgia & South Sandwich Isles.

Five of the existing BEST III knowledge hubs (Caribbean, Indian Ocean, Pacific, Polar/Sub-Polar, South Atlantic) will help assure the calls are adapted to the varying conditions and situations encountered in OCTs and will provide support to local organisations for submission of proposals. Independent regional advisory committees, with experts in the relevant fields, will assess the proposals and advise a decision board.

The objective of BEST 2.0 is to empower local actors, authorities and civil society organisations in OCTs. Within the South Atlantic OTs this will involve organisations who are committed to local development, maintaining biodiversity and the sustainable use of ecosystem services. This will particularly apply to the key biodiversity areas identified through the participative Ecosystem profiles process led by the BEST knowledge hub for the region. Eligible beneficiaries will be local authorities and services, civil society organisations and stakeholders working within the South Atlantic OTs.

The first call for proposals will take place in June this year. Please regularly check this website or the BEST webpage for further information.

For more information please contact:

SAERI: Maria Taylor and Dr Paul Brickle

EC logoIUCN logob4Life logoLogo_BEST

Assessing the demand for science on South Georgia: consultation with Asian polar research institutes – Part 1

By Victoria Peck

The South Georgia Future Science Project is assessing the international demand for science on and around South Georgia with an aim to make recommendations on future logistics and infrastructure which could make the island and surrounding region more accessible to scientists. On February 9th Dr. Paul Brickle, Prof. John Turner and Dr. Vicky Peck flew to the Far East to begin the first phase of consultations with world renowned polar research institutes to see how South Georgia may fit into their future science strategies. First port of call was the Korean Polar Research Institute (KOPRI), in Incheon, Seoul. Although KOPRI is currently in the process of “moving house”, with much of their science becoming focussed on their newly opened base, Jang Bogo, at Terra Nova, the South Georgia Future Science team were thoroughly impressed by the consideration that KOPRI scientists put into assessing the opportunities that South Georgia may offer their science. KOPRI scientist and Head of International Cooperation Dr. Hyoung Chul Shin, recognised the considerable synergy with the science that KOPRI undertakes at King Sejong Station at the northern Antarctic Peninsula and what could be done at South Georgia, and were enthusiastic about the opportunity for comparative studies between the two locations. Extension of upper atmospheric studies and bio-logging determination of penguin foraging behaviours were just two of the possibilities that emerged in a very productive discussion session.

KOPRI_low res

The next stop for the South Georgia Future Science team was Tokyo, to meet with the Japanese National Institute of Polar Research, NIPR. Although NIPR’s Antarctic research stations are located on the East Antarctic ice sheet, their scientific outlook is wide ranging and already includes NIPR scientists actively involved in research on South Georgia. The South Georgia Future Science team were particularly interested in the thoughts of Dr. Akinori Takahashi, who has worked on South Georgia over several seasons.  Dr. Takahashi was enthusiastic about the opportunities that South Georgia presents for the study of marine mammals, seabirds and penguins, recognising the “unparalleled diversity and abundance of marine predators” and the invaluable baseline knowledge that past research on South Georgia provides to this field of research. Dr. Takahashi and terrestrial biologist Dr. Satoshi Imura were also kind enough to share their thoughts and aspirations for future research on and around South Georgia and we will be sure to use this information in our assessment of how science could be better facilitated in the future.

NIPR (2)

The South Georgia Future Science team would like to thank KOPRI and NIPR again for sharing their time, thoughts, enthusiasm and generous hospitality with us.

In our next update we will report on meetings with scientists from the Malaysian National Antarctic Research Centre and the Indian National Centre for Antarctic and Ocean Research.

Turks and Caicos 2ND UKOTs GIS-Workshop: Learning, Sharing, Coming Together and Building Collaborations Across Territories.

By iLaria Marengo

Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI) hosted, from the 2nd to the 6th of February, the second UKOTs GIS workshop which saw the participation of representatives from the Caribbean (Anguilla, BVI, Bermuda and Cayman), Europe (Gibraltar), the South Atlantic (the project manager of the IMS-GIS data centre for Falkland Islands, Ascension, Saint Helena, Tristan da Cunha and South Georgia), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Environment Systems, and National Oceanography Centre (NOC). The event was fully supported and organised by the JNCC and by TCI Department of Environment and Maritime Affairs (DEMA).

The workshop entitled “understanding our islands: how to get the best out of our GIS and data” was focussed on achieving the following goals:

  • Providing members of TCI governmental departments with a training course in QGIS to allow them to become familiar with the open source program and demonstrate that it is a valid option to the proprietary and more expensive ArcGIS;
  • Identifying data priorities for TCI and finding solutions on how to address them in terms of GIS applications and data management;
  • Developing GIS and data management strategies to obtain long term benefits, such as standardisation of data, networking and data sharing, but also immediate gains, e.g. GIS and Remote Sensing based spatial analyses to support decisions on the islands’ policy priorities;
  • Looking at the main components of data management, which are people, data and systems and examine the way of tackling each one. The presentations on effective case studies delivered by each of the OTs offered “food for thought” and a starting point for discussion;
  • Drawing action plans to implement a sound data strategy in each territory and take forward the best practice of using GIS and Remote Sensing techniques as decision support tools.

The first two days of the workshop were entirely dedicated to the training in QGIS and had the participation of four TCI governmental departments: DEMA, Disaster Management, Planning and Surveying/Mapping. The training, led by Dr Katie Medcalf (Environment Systems) with the help of Dr iLaria Marengo (IMS-GIS data centre project manager), explored how to import the data, how to run basic vector analysis, how to create a map, and highlighted the best practice for structuring tabular data. In addition, practical examples of how Remote Sensing can be advantageous for evaluating environmental and ecosystem services were provided, as well as how spatial databases store and analyse geographic data more efficiently. Participants learned how GBIF can play a role for data sharing and how to upload/download data from it.

Besides the practical exercises, time was also spent discussing the current data management in TCI. Problems were identified and possible alternatives and solutions were found and translated into an action plan which should work as a starting point for the next months. The positive aspect of the first two days was the enthusiasm and the determination showed by TCI participants. Their genuine interest and desire to learn how QGIS works and how it can be advantageous to their project was a motivation for those delivering the training. TCI is currently facing two main problems: communication and data sharing among departments and consequently the lack of organisation and a data management system. The most evident and appreciated result at the end of the first two days was to see everybody discussing and finding solutions together round the table.

GIS 2015_1819Pic2Pic3IMG_0896

The excitement and interest in GIS and data strategy increased even further when the other UKOTs joined the workshop on the 4th of February. The discussion on how to make the most out of spatial data became wider and the presentations of projects and activities carried out in the Caribbean, Gibraltar and the South Atlantic were extremely inspiring.

Stephen Warr from Gibraltar wowed the audience once again with his demonstration of the advanced use of GIS and 3D modelling for environmental and planning purposes. Many people desired to have the drone and the plane with fitted camera that Jeremy Olynik from the Cayman showed in his presentation. Both are very useful technologies for getting high resolution data of areas that are not easily accessible. It was particularly interesting to learn about outreach activities from Rozina Norris-Gumbs which involve taking GIS to the schools and hosting a GIS day every year in BVI. Andre’ from Anguilla presented a superb use of remote sensing and GIS techniques to assess ecosystem services for his island. His motto “seeing is believing” was clear: to the politicians’ eyes maps realised from validated and sound data are more effective and compelling than reports. Mandy Shailer explained to us the way in Bermuda spatial data from aerial photography offer evidence and support for conservation and planning studies. iLaria Marengo, who represented the whole SA UKOTs, described the advantages of having a metadata catalogue online and how the data strategy for the entire region tackles issues such as data accessibility and data licence agreement.

Presentations from Tara Pelembe and Steve Wilkinson (JNCC), Katie Medcalf (Environment Systems) and Alan Evans (NOC) were very important as they described how their organisations can assist the territories in bidding for grants, addressing data management issues, providing technical consultancy on spatial analyses, buying basic equipment, and accessing bathymetry data and AUV instruments for further data collection.

The final key messages were that: a data system that supports the data organisation, management and sharing is fundamental; data need to be validated and quality checked before their use; metadata allow longevity and discoverability of the associated data; people should be trained and become familiar to GIS and Remote Sensing techniques as their application as analytical tools improves considerably the way of presenting geographic information and helps to make better decisions.

Although the workshop was very intense and stretched the full day, everybody had the opportunity to enjoy for one evening a local fish fry event close to a white sandy beach and turquoise sea. On Saturday the field trip to the pine trees restoration areas and to the nursery was guided by Naqqui, a real encyclopaedia of TCI plants and history, with the logistic support of Roddy, Luke and Kathrine. Finally, Sunday was time to relax on the wonderful beaches of TCI: sunbathing, swimming, bargaining the price of conch shells and then discovering afterwards that there were plenty on the beach!

IMG_0908_croppic6

Learning Side Scan Sonar Techniques And Sharing Knowledge Across The South Atlantic Territories

A successful and exciting week of training in the use of side scan sonar (SSS) for habitat mapping has just ended in Ascension Island. Participating in the course were, Sam Cherrett from Saint Helena , who led the course, Andy Richardson, Emma Nolan and Kate Downes (the AIMS team) from Ascension, Debs Davidson and iLaria Marengo from the Falkland Islands.

SSS is a valuable technique for the investigation of the type seabed and for the detection of different submarine features. Acoustic pings (pulses) sent by the sonar are reflected differently by sand, mud, bedrocks and artificial objects, such as metal (e.g. pipelines and wrecks). The sea state can influence the quality of the images, however, good results depend as much on a careful survey design and a proper setting of the device used.

The goal for the Ascension team was to learn how to use side scan sonar and drop down cameras, the latter for ground truthing and features/seabed verification, in order to undertake a fine scale marine  habitat classification and mapping up to 1000 metres from the coast. To provide a complete and accurate picture of the underwater environment, a series of targeted dives are also planned. These will be a valuable addition to the data retrieved and processed from the side scan sonar.

Similarly, the Falklands team came all the way to Ascension to gain essential skills, not in how to survive the equatorial heat, but how to identify seabed types in order to better understand and map marine habitats in inshore waters. Acquiring this knowledge is going to be important in making decision for the development of inshore fisheries, marine spatial planning and to support Environmental Impact Assessments.

The course completely hooked all the participants as it was cleverly planned by Sam Cherrett to focus on the practical and operational aspects and techniques of  survey planning, deployment of the side scan sonar (Starfish device and Scanline software) and processing of the images (Triton Perspective software). The days were split on the boat collecting data and in the office processing the raw data to produce images.

The areas at sea where the side scan sonar was towed were identified by the Ascension team, so that the data collected could be used for one of the deliveries of the AIMS project (supported by Darwin Initiative funding). The tows took place at PanAm, Comfortless Cove, White Rock and the Georgetown moorings. A series of tests were carried out to understand the best setting of the weight to be applied to the Starfish. Then, the drop down camera was utilised to verify 27 points which were considered particularly interesting after the processing of the images.

SSSRuns_LastWeekOnly

The seabed in the surveyed areas were found to be made by medium to coarse sand, maerl and bedrock. The green turtles, which are nesting in Ascension, were pleasant company and appeared as features in the images too.

Sonar_images

From the work carried out on boat and afterwards in the office, the participants could learn how the side scan sonar records the data, how significant ground truthing is, how influential the conditions of the sea are, how bottom tracking can be tedious in case of a bad scan, how important team working and communication is, how boat engines are “delicate” and sun cream might not be enough to avoid sunburn!

IMG_0694 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A major success of the course was actually the capacity to work in synergy that was shown by the participants. The collaboration of everyone was the main factor that made the full week extremely productive and enjoyable. Everybody contributed positively to the course by exchanging marine biology knowledge, sharing interests in working with fisheries and spatial data, and comparing research and life experience in the three islands of the South Atlantic.

Special thanks to Ascension Island sea rescue team and Blaine Chester, skilful boatman of Swampdog.

SSS_Group

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