Gareth Price visits the Falklands!
Undergraduate Marine Biology – 3rd Year
University of Portsmouth
For my final-year undergraduate honours project I was fortunate enough to have the support of SAERI and the University of Portsmouth and was able to conduct my experiments in the Falklands.
Working alongside SAERI’s own Dr. Jesse van der Grient, we began to investigate the thermal tolerance of the invertebrate communities in the islands’ pristine kelp forests. The hope is, that this information will help us to predict how climate change might impact these creatures, and the kelp ecosystem as a whole.
Falkland kelp forests are essential nursery habitats for many commercially important fish species and are full of one of our test subjects, the juvenile lobster krill. This tiny crustacean is one of the main food sources for almost all the ‘charismatic megafauna’ (big, cool animals) that inhabit the ocean around the islands (penguins, whales, etc.).
Along with a few other common kelp species we exposed the krill to increasing temperatures over different timescales to find their upper critical thermal limit. Once we have completed all our experiments, we will use this data to estimate how much of a temperature increase might impact the organisms over a much longer timescale, perhaps even decades.
This is the first-time research such as this has been conducted on the local marine ecosystem, which makes it super exciting! We will also be able to compare the results of the community as a whole to similar experiments conducted in polar and temperate climates. Are the local species resilient to changing temperatures like temperate organisms, or vulnerable like Antarctic invertebrates that have evolved in the constant cold? Hopefully Jesse and I will be able to let you know.
Despite one 19-hour day of constant temperature changes and painstaking record keeping it certainly wasn’t all work. I got out of Stanley several times and into the incredible Gentoo and Magellan penguin colonies. I even had a close encounter with a family of Southern sea lions, which was nothing short of magical.
Image: King Penguins ©Gareth Price
Image: Southern Sea lions & a pup ©Gareth Price
Image: Gentoo Penguins at yorke Bay ©Gareth Price
Huge thanks to Paul, Jesse and Arlene at SAERI who helped me get to, and survive in the Falklands. It was an incredible opportunity and I hope that I can come back for a PhD.