The Falkland Islands Science Symposium

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During January this year, the SAERI hosted a group of Pan-American scientists for the first Falkland Islands Science Symposium. Delegates came from Universities throughout the Americas, including from the US, Canada, Chile, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico and a member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. During a week of workshops and field trips, we showcased the fantastic opportunities for environmental research not only within the Falkland Islands, but the wider region encompassing the South Atlantic Overseas Territories. Presentations from local scientists provided a great background to the scientific work being conducted in the region and reciprocal presentations from our visiting international scientists provided us with an insight of what could be done given further facilities, resources and collaboration. One of the greatest achievements was that all of the delegates, local and overseas, made strong connections, friendships and potential research partners.

The proceedings of the Symposium, detailing the work that was presented, the discussions had and some of the exciting opportunities have now been completed and are available for download here.

The ICEFISH 2004 Cruise: Biological Sampling of Sub-Antarctic Marine Habitats from Punta Arenas to Cape Town

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In the continuing series of talks presented by SAERI, Professor Bill Detrich, a visiting scientist to the Falkland Islands from the Marine Science Centre at Northeastern University, Boston, USA, is presenting his research as part of the ICEFISH Cruise.

Bill is the chief scientist of the IceFish cruise. In 2004, he organised and led the IceFIsh cruise that took 30 scientists from Cape Town to Punta Arenas via Tristan Da Cunha, South Sandwich Islands, South Georgia and the Falklands. The studies included fisheries science, biodiversity surveys, biotechnology, genetic sampling etc. An upcoming new cruise is also on the horizon. Bill has been working for over 25 years in the US Antarctic research program, on the ice and on ships around the Southern Ocean. He has written several books about his work, published many scientific papers and supervised students.

The talk is taking place at Bittersweet Cafe on Wednesday 11th March at 5pm

Side Scan Sonar Training Course

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A training course on the use of side scan sonar for marine habitat mapping will take place in the warm waters of Ascension Island from the 21st to the 26th of January. Sam Cherret, from Saint Helena, will be leading the course, utilising her experience using side scan sonar to identify marine habitats in the inshore waters of Saint Helena since last May. Participanting in the course will be the AIMS team of Ascension, and iLaria Marengo and Deborah Davidson from the Falkland Islands.

The course will be focussing on the practical use of the StarFish side scan sonar, with a 50 metre cable. Data will firstly be gathered and then processed using Triton Perspective sorftware package, from Triton Imaging. This is an advanced data processing and interpretation package that allows the user to erase noise in the data, mosaic the images and convert them into a format readable with GIS programs such as QGIS.

Areas of the sea to be surveyed will be decided based on the weather conditions at the time, as this has a strong impact on data gathering. The sea state and the priority areas for the AIMS team will be coordinated by Senior Marine Fisheries Scientist, Andrew Richardson. The training programme has been made possible thanks to the joint support of the Ascension Island Government Conservation Centre and the IMS-GIS data centre.

More details on the outcomes of the course will be available on the blog section of SAERI website in February.  

Fishing Industry support important fisheries research in South Georgia

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Georgia Seafoods Ltd is sponsoring a PhD studentship on the Patagonian toothfish, also known as Chilean seabass. The Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides) is a large predatory demersal fish endemic to the Southern Hemisphere. It supports a valuable commercial MSC certified fishery in South Georgia. Relatively little is known about what makes ideal breeding conditions for this species although there are indications that environmental factors play a key role. An improved understanding of the mechanisms driving recruitment variability is needed to forecast years of good or poor recruitment. The aim of this studentship is to generate knowledge essential to understanding variability in the recruitment of toothfish in South Georgia and use this to develop predictive models. Time series data including sea surface temperature, abundance and physiological condition of spawners are among the datasets available

Director of Georgia Seafood Stuart Wallace explained that in a market that demands sustainability it is important to the company that they support the science underpinning that aim. With this in mind he approached Dr Paul Brickle of the South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) to identify a knowledge gap they could assist in, which in turn has created an exciting opportunity through Aberdeen University for a PhD student to research the reproductive biology and recruitment dynamics of this important commercial fish. “The research will benefit science and ultimately give the industry a better understanding into the management and monitoring of the stock by providing insight into the core fishery of the region.” said Mr Wallace. A sentiment reinforced by Chief Executive and Director of Fisheries for the Government of South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands, Martin Collins, who agreed the project would, “provide valuable data to assist in our management of Patagonian toothfish in South Georgia waters and help ensure the long-term sustainability of the fishery.”

Patagonian toothfish (Dissostichus eleginoides). Photo credit - University of Aberdeen.

Dr Tara Marshall, Senior Lecturer at the School of Biological Sciences, University of Aberdeen said “The research questions posed by the project are central to understanding why there are large fluctuations in productivity of Toothfish. Consequently the project will deliver biological and ecological knowledge essential for developing effective strategies for sustainable management. Examining the links between the environment and reproduction are of particular interest given that the South Georgia ecosystem is characterised by highly variable oceanographic conditions.”

This studentship is collaboration between Georgia Seafoods Ltd., Government of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands (GSGSSI), University of Aberdeen, South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI), British Antarctic Survey (BAS), and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science (CEFAS). “This collaboration represents an excellent model whereby industry and the scientific community join forces for the improved management of a valuable marine resource.” commented Dr Brickle.

Delighted British Antarctic Survey Scientist Dr Mark Belchier stated “A greater understanding of the mechanisms which underpin and drive recruitment variability in this highly valuable fish will help to ensure the continuing sustainable management of the species across its geographic range.”

Developing a Falkland Islands and wider South Atlantic Information Management System and GIS Centre

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By Paul Brickle 02/03/2013

The South Atlantic Environmental Research Institute (SAERI) is delighted to announce a new programme, the South Atlantic Information Management System and GIS Centre, which officially binds the UK South Atlantic Overseas Territories in SAERI’s South Atlantic scope that ranges from the equator down to the ice. The Centre is funded by the FCO via the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Falkland Islands Governor Nigel Haywood commented “This is very exciting news. The development of robust information systems is vital in underpinning environmental research in the South Atlantic. This project will enable us to assemble baseline information, manage knowledge and establish linkages to enhance even further the outstanding scientific work already being done in the region.” St Helena Governor Mark Capes added “St Helena, Ascension Island and Tristan da Cunha warmly welcome this exciting opportunity to work with our friends in the Falkland Islands on this valuable project, which provides a fine template for further co-operation in our South Atlantic Community”.

Seabird recovery after rat removal

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By Dr Michael Brooke who was in the Falkland Islands in December/January.

Conservationists busy themselves doing good works, often with little evidence that their efforts bear fruit on the ground. Such is broadly true of island restoration programmes. Over 1000 islands have now been cleared of invasive vertebrates, principally cats, rats and goats, and this is presumed to be good news for seabirds. Probably it is, but the evidence remains sketchy. Therefore I reckon it would be good to gather that evidence so that, if funders come asking for facts, conservationists are not put in the position of goldfishes gasping for air.