A busy quarter for DPLUS148 project

Dr Jesse van der Grient

Three (or more) is company

The zooplankton revolution continues as we welcomed several new people to join us during the surveys. Amy Constantine, Siobhan Vye and Chris Bean were excellent help and hopefully as amazed as we are about the fantastic creatures that zooplankton are. They both proved excellent fish larval catchers, which was especially challenging on Amy’s trip as we still had lots of kelp confetti hiding the fish. We also welcomed back an old face! Rhian is back to continue her studies on zooplankton and fish larvae. She has her work cut out for her as we have been collecting many fish larvae over the months. A friendly competition started to see who could collect most fish larvae between the surveys, but spring was not in our favour
 and the win went to Rhian’s first trip back. The variety in fish larval abundance and size as the year progresses provides value information for her project to understand which species are present in the coastal waters, and when. The patterns we are seeing in the last couple of months are surprising – the phytoplankton bloom is late, and some of the zooplankton also seem a little behind (but this depends on where we look). It has been a long and cold winter, and this year is an El Niño year, which may explain the delays we are seeing. This also proves the importance of sampling over long periods of time (many years) to really understand inter-annual variability and change in these communities.
Image above : Amy with Jesse on one trip 
Image below: Siobahn givign Rhain a hand on the follwoing trip
Images below & right: the difference in zooplankton biomass between station is very striking lately:

The squid and the experiment

We are especially excited about the results of the squid respiration experiment this year. The cold and long winter meant we had to wait a bit longer than expected for the experiment to finish, but we are very pleased with the data. Warming has an impact on respiration rate, meaning the eggs require more energy as they develop, but the egg yolk is of course limited. Warming means the eggs hatch earlier, and the hatchlings are born smaller. This sparks many other questions and ideas, as these factors could affect the hatchling survival rates. We will need to do some more and different experiments and analyses to really pin down the effects. In the meantime, we are celebrating that we finally found squid eggs from the spring spawning cohort, which also were late this year.
The results of the squid respiration experiment will provide vital information on climate change responses

The taming of the ecosystem model

We have made great progress with our ecosystem model. We now have incorporated the information of food-web interactions, vital biological rates, biomass pools, and we can recreate historical patterns for most groups based on the effect of key oceanographic variables. This is a huge step in our modelling process and we will use this model as a basis to investigate some future scenarios to get an idea if and how the ecosystem may change, and how this may affect fisheries. It is a useful tool that can be used in the Falklands community as we think about how to maintain healthy ecosystems and fisheries in the future.

The great biology week

Jesse had the real pleasure to participate in the Biology Week at FICS, an absolutely fantastic week and hopefully will be repeated for many years to come. She talked to the students about how we can know the ocean using different sampling methods and techniques, going from observation, experimentation to modelling. We talked about coastal waters and the deep ocean, hinting at the use of other subjects that can help discover this wondrous world. We were amazed by both videos of deep-sea animals and baby squid just hatch that morning that joined the show. Thank you so much for organising, Liam!
None of the fantastic work and adventures described above would have been possible without the tremendous help of all our partners, and I am grateful for the opportunities they provide. Thank you to all for their continued support.
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The project is funded by the UK Government through the Darwin Plus Fund : DPLUS148
And  also receives financial support from the Falkland Islands Government’s Environmental Studies Budget.
Our partners for this project are Falkland Islands Government Directorate of Natural Resources, Fisheries Department (FIFD) and Policy and Economic Development (DPED), Falkland Islands Fishing Companies Association (FIFCA), Oregon State University (OSU), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and the Shallow Marine Survey Group (SMSG).
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