New Deputy Director appointed for SAERI

The Peterborough based Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), based in the Falkland Islands, have agreed to the appointment of Tara Pelembe into the new role of SAERI Deputy Director. Tara Pelembe is currently employed by JNCC and is to be seconded into the SAERI role for a period of up to two years. The secondment will build on existing working links established between the two organisations, and will allow close collaboration in the study of the natural environment of the UK’s South Atlantic Territories, the sharing of technical expertise and the promotion of effective nature conservation in the region.

Marcus Yeo, JNCC Chief Executive,  comments ‘ This secondment represents a first class example of collaboration between JNCC and a key partner to pursue joint research objectives, and is particularly important at a time when we all need to ensure the effective and cost efficient use of our resources to support, in this case, the UK’s Overseas Territories.’

Paul Brickle, SAERI Director said ‘I am absolutely delighted with this appointment  - it will enable SAERI and the JNCC to fulfil shared missions in the UK OTs and indeed help build capacity for Environmental Science’.

Member of the Falkland Islands Legislative Assembly, Michael Poole,  commented ‘The agreement of an MoU between SAERI and the JNCC is a very positive step and will see them develop an even closer working relationship. This will only be reinforced by the secondment of Mrs Pelembe to the Islands as Deputy Director of SAERI. Building such partnerships and drawing in such expertise was a role envisaged for the Institute and this is another step along that road.’

The SAERI is an academic organisation conducting research in the South Atlantic from the tropics down to the ice in Antarctica. SAERI's remit includes the natural and physical sciences. It aims to conduct world class research, teach students, and build capacity within and between the South Atlantic Overseas Territories (

JNCC is the public body that advises the UK Government and devolved administrations on UK-wide and international nature conservation. Originally established under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, JNCC was reconstituted by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities (NERC) Act 2006 (

Ascension Island Special Issue

Abundance and diversity

Abundance and Diversity


This month the Journal of Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (Volume 97, Issue 4 (Ascension Island) June 2017), has released a special Issue focussing on Ascension Island’s marine biodiversity . Twenty papers reported on the results of 202 sampling events comprising a mixture of quantitative SCUBA surveys involving belt transects for fish and mobile fauna and quadrat photography for sessile fauna. Intertidal surveys and collections and subtidal collections were also carried out. The Issue also reports on the results and findings of the RSS James Clark Ross where the seabed was mapped from 100 – 1000 m revealing a complex, diverse and variable deep-water environment.

Highlights included one new species of alga and 2 new species of Heterobranch sea slugs, many new geographical records for fish and invertebrates therefore providing a much improved baseline knowledge of the coastal marine environment and a better understanding of topical Atlantic biogeography.

A checklist of the marine benthic macroalgal flora of Ascension Island (tropical South Atlantic Ocean), based on both new collections and previous literature was produced. 82 marine macroalgae were identified, including 18 green algae, 15 brown algae and 49 red algae. Species and infraspecific taxa are reported for the first time from Ascension Island, including seven green, three brown and 28 red macroalgae, raising the total number of seaweeds recorded in Ascension so far to 112 taxa in species and infraspecific level.


Underwater Work

Underwater Work


Age and growth of tropical oysters inhabiting rocky outcrops of the tidal zone revealed that they lived longer (up to 26 years) but had slower growth in Ascension Island comparing to those of the same species that inhabit tropical regions of Southwest Asia. That was probably due to comparatively low productivity observed in the central part of the equatorial tropical Atlantic.


Oysters and Oyster Growth


‘This is an incredible achievement and an exciting new step for Science in the South Atlantic, and in particular for scientific knowledge of marine species and habitats around Ascension Island. We are very proud that our collaboration, driven from the Falklands, working with scientists based on all of the South Atlantic Islands, has spear-headed this JMBA special issue. Science and research is about excellence and partnerships and in the South Atlantic I would like to think that we have both. It has been amazing to be able to work with this wonderful consortium of local, regional and international experts on this special issue’ remarked Dr Paul Brickle, SAERI Director.

Dr Paul Brewin, Director of the Shallow Marine Surveys Group based in the Falkland islands added ‘This series of expeditions has fulfilled a long-time ambition of SMSG.  Supported through our local Falkland and overseas volunteer team, we worked along-side our Ascension Island partners for the first time, in helping them address an identified urgent need for baseline, high-quality scientific marine understanding. Through this work we’ve built both strong collaborations and lasting friendships with all the team.’ 

Dr Alexander Arkhipkin of the Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department pointed out that ‘it was an exciting opportunity to participate in joint surveys of tropical shellfish and fish faunas on Ascension Island and be able to apply our experience in marine and fisheries studies in waters much warmer than those around the Falkland Islands’. 

Director of Conservation & Fisheries for Ascension Island Government, Dr Judith Brown commented ‘The research which is detailed in this special issue, carried out with such a knowledgeable and enthusiastic group of collaborators, established marine conservation research on Ascension and has provided much needed baseline data. Marine research on Ascension is going from strength to strength, with the partnerships that were made here and continued through further funding from the UK Government, Blue Marine Foundation, the Darwin Initiative, and EU Best. These projects will provide the information needed to allow the informed designation of a large MPA in 2019 based on the scientific evidence collected.”   

Cleaner shrimp with Apollo damselfish

Cleaner shrimp with Apollo damselfish


Notes for editors

Funding for this work came from a grant to the Shallow Marine Surveys Group (SMSG) from the Darwin Initiative (EIDCF012). The two expeditions were organized by SMSG and the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI). We would like to thank the volunteer members of SMSG for excellent work in the field, and the continued support of the Falkland Island Government Fisheries Department. We would also like to thank the Ascension Island Government, the staff at the Conservation Centre particularly Nic and Sam Weber, and the Ascension Island Dive Club for their logistical support, cooperation, accommodation and hospitality. We are very grateful to British Forces South Atlantic Islands for their logistical support. Furthermore, we would like to thank the Blue Marine Foundation in association with a Darwin Initiative Grant (DPLUS021), the National Environment Research Council (NERC), BAS for enabling the very successful deep water survey around Ascension in October 2015.

Finally we are extremely grateful for the following people who participated in the coastal fieldwork for the Darwin Challenge Award: Sam Weber (Ascension Island Government), Nicola Weber (Ascension Island Government), Martin Collins (SMSG), Stephen Cartwright (SMSG), Wetjens Dimmlich (SMSG), Steve Brown (SMSG), Dion Poncet (SMSG), Juliet Hennequin (SMSG), Vladimir Laptikhovsky (SMSG), Lt Col. Simon Browning (British Forces South Atlantic Islands/SMSG), Sarah Browning (SMSG), Jerry Pierce (SMSG), Simon Morley (British Antarctic Survey), Alexander Arkhikpin (Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department), Zhanna Shcherbich (Falkland Islands Government Fisheries Department), Peter Wirtz (Universidade do Algarve), Konstantinos Tsiamis (Hellenic Centre for Marine Research), Pieter van West (University of Aberdeen), Caz Young (Ascension Island Dive Club), and Jimmy Young (George Town, Ascension Island).

Contribute to Science, volunteer to be a wildlife observer

The Falkland Islands offer to their inhabitants, local and overseas researchers and tourists an incredible and amazing display of wildlife. Penguins, albatrosses, sea lions, elephant seals, dolphins, whales, butterflies, raptors and other birds, tussac and the native flora are the treasures of these islands. Nevertheless, the remoteness and the difficult/expensive access to most places are limiting factors above all when it comes to map the distribution of wildlife (species).

Researchers working on long term monitoring programs in general are tied to the location of their fieldwork (New Island, Sea Lion, Volunteer Point, Cape Dolphin and so on) and they make few trips to other places to assess the wildlife population which is the focus of their scientific projects. On the contrary, the islanders and the tourists have a much higher mobility and are more distributed across the islands. With their sightings, both islanders and tourists can really help researchers and contribute to enhance their understanding on species distribution.

Open Data Kit (ODK) is an open source application for field data collection. Thanks to the idea of its developer to make the app open and free, the GIS and data manager of SAERI in collaboration with Giovanni Manghi (owner of NaturalGIS) used the app to develop a wildlife data collector form tailored for the Falklands. SAERI, Falklands Conservation and EPD are inviting people to test the form that is currently focussed on dolphins, whales, orcas and seals (elephant seals, sea lion, fur seals and leopard seals).


The goal is to have between 10 and 15 volunteers, scattered across the islands (some in Stanley although the target is people living in camp) who have already an interest in wildlife and would like to share, for a couple of weeks their sightings with local and overseas researchers. The role of the volunteers is crucial as we will know whether or not the app is user-friendly, easy to use and effective in terms of final results. We need to understand what works and what doesn’t before promoting the app to everyone living and visiting the islands this coming season.

The app works only on Android smartphones and it can be downloaded from google play store. It has a small size (4 mega) and it is free. Internet connection is only needed for downloading the app and the wildlife data collector form. Afterwards the form can be filled in without internet connection. Internet is needed again to send the form back to SAERI. 

Phones need to have embedded a GPS (also called location) and a micro SD as well if the phones are not “last generation”. The latest phones have already large memory storage and the additional micro SD is not needed. Instructions on how to install and download the form will be provided by iLaria (SAERI). Anyone interested to be a volunteer for a couple of weeks please phone 27374 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. Your help and involvement is much appreciated!

Note: i-phones require licences that are not compatible with the standard licence of open source. To make an app for i-phones there is a cost. We are working for alternative solutions.


Microplastics in the South Atlantic Ocean: Ascension and the Falkland Islands

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Seaweed biodiversity: the crucial role of the Falkland Islands