This little critter is a limpet. From the photo they may not look like the most exciting of creatures. If you’ve ever been down to the coast and taken a look at them yourself… your opinion may not have changed. They don’t seem to move around a lot, or do a lot. Of course looks can be deceiving. Under that shell is the limpet’s squishy body – and their big, muscular foot which, alongside a pretty amazing adhesive secretion, they use to cling onto rocks and other hard surfaces. Anyone who has ever had a go at trying to get a limpet off a rock knows how good a grip they can have. This fabulous foot isn’t just used to stop them from drying out when the tide leaves them exposed to the air, or keep pesky predators (or nosy humans) at bay. Limpets are grazers, feeding on tiny algae on the surface of rocks with their raspy “tongue” (called a radula). See that empty space behind the limpet in the photo? That’s where it’s been grazing. Once they have grazed an area they need to find more food. That foot gets to work, and along moves the limpet, munching up all the algae in its path. Some limpet species even appear to have a home – a particular crevice that they return to just before the tide will expose them to the air.
But this isn’t a post about how amazing limpets are. This is a post about animal movements in the ocean.. Or at least 3 different types of animal movement. Some of them move a lot further than you think. Yes, even limpets.
Continue reading Just keep swimming
In my last post I mentioned that I am starting a PhD. I promised to tell you a little more about what my research will be looking at, so here we go!
The project outline
My research comes very broadly defined already – the work’s raison d’être if you like. Here it is:
“Movement and dispersal connects marine populations, allowing restoration of depleted local populations by immigrants that renew genetic diversity. Although Canada’s Oceans Act prioritizes ‘linking Canada’s network of marine protected areas (MPA)’, connectivity has not weighed significantly in MPA network design in Canada. This study will optimize regional marine connectivity among protected areas in the Atlantic region by determining optimal locations for new MPAs and evaluating how commercially important species would be representative in the entire MPA network. To model species distribution based on larval dispersal, fishery pressure, and climate change, we will use 3-D ocean circulation models. Then, based on metapopulation theory, we will develop novel spatial network algorithms to optimise the number and spatial connectivity between MPAs under current and future scenarios of climate and fishery pressure that may alter larval supply”.
Sounds complex? Yep, for me too. Continue reading Where the wild things roam: Dispersal, connectivity, marine protected areas, and my PhD project
Hello my fellow readers
You may have noticed that I have been away for some time. Some of you have even gotten in contact with me to find out why, and encourage me back – thank you! Your words of kindness and encouragement were very much appreciated. I honestly did not mean to disappear for so long, but I did get incredibly busy. I thought I’d share with you all some of the questions I’ve been asked during my time away – and my responses! Continue reading On being MIA – and what’s next
This week it has been brought to my attention that there is a proposal to dredge for scallops inside a ‘Special Area of Conservation’ located in Cardigan Bay, Wales. This proposal has divided opinions. On Twitter this week Professor Callum Roberts, a marine conservation biologist at the University of York (UK) lamented that there was ”No hope for UK marine conservation if this mad proposal to scallop dredge in a protected area goes ahead” . Dr Magnus Johnson, a Crustacean Fisheries and Ecologist researcher at the University of Hull (UK) quickly countered “It is worth reading the science by first!”, following with a couple of hashtags “#eatmorefish #eatmoreshellfish”. Two scientists, with two opposing views… what is going on?
What is a Special Area of Conservation anyway?
These are something unique to the European Union. They arise from the Habitats Directive, first adopted in 1992 in response to a European convention called the Berne Convention. Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) are designed to protect a number of habitats and species (plants and animals) considered endangered, vulnerable, rare, or endemic. Once a SAC has been formally designated, the establishment and implementation of management measures are largely left down to the individual Member State. However, there are certain things that they must do. Briefly, under Article 6 of the Habitats Directive, these include:
Continue reading How special is a ‘Special Area of Conservation?
This is a big post. It’s about big things. Important things too. It deals with Canada – a big country. Actually by area, it is the second largest country in the world. It also has a lot of ocean under its jurisdiction. Take a look at the website of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, a Federal government body, and you will see statements like this:
“The Government of Canada is working to ensure the future health of Canada’s oceans and ocean resources by increasing understanding and protection of our oceans; supporting sustainable economic opportunities; and demonstrating international leadership in oceans management”
Sounds good doesn’t it. The Canadian Federal Government (which has just changed as of yesterday – see bottom of the post) have a several Acts in place to govern the bit of the ocean they have claimed as theirs. Great stuff! Except maybe, as demonstrated in a recently published paper, authored by 19 Canadian scientists including lead-author Megan Bailey (Dalhousie University), “over the past decade decision-making at the federal level appears to have undermined the government’s own mandates for the sustainable management of Canada’s oceans” Continue reading Oh Canada – what about your ocean?
Marine protected areas (MPAs) are pretty nifty tools for marine conservation. You take an area, you give it a designations and (hopefully… but the reality can be quite different) you attach some regulations/legislation to remove harmful activities to whatever it is you are trying to protect inside the MPA and make efforts to rebuild and conserve this spot. The situation of picking an area to designate can become trickier when dealing with ocean wanderers – species that move around a lot, and over great distances. It is safe to say that it is politically unfeasible to designate one area big enough to encompass, for example the movement of sea turtles. Instead, sea turtles may find critical habitat – feeding areas or nesting beaches for instance, covered by an MPA. We can’t protect them everywhere, but we can build a case to protect them where we know they hang out in large numbers. Some species are a little less predictable – or we simply don’t know where their critical areas are. Take southern Kenya’s populations of Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) for instance. Apparently these critters are the most abundant of the marine mammals in Kenya’s Kisite-Mpunguti MPA. Abundance does not mean we know much about them though. The species is listed as data deficient on the IUCN Red List. Continue reading Protecting Kenya’s dolphin habitat
These weird looking things are plankton – from the genus Ancyrochitina to be a little more precise. They are also fossils – approximately 415 million old, from a period known as the late Silurian. That’s pretty cool in itself (at least I think so), but what makes this really interesting is that the individual on the left is malformed, whilst the one on the right is ‘normal’. What is even more interesting than that, is that these malformations coincide with the initial stages of extinction events.
Led by Thijs Vandenbroucke (researcher at the French CNRS and invited professor at Universiteit Gent | Ghent University) and Poul Emsbo (US Geological Survey), an international team of researchers have taken a look at these malformed (known as ‘teratological’) fossil plankton. They wanted to find out what was causing these malformations. Continue reading What 415 million year old fossil plankton tells us about heavy metal pollution and extinction
I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t mind being there right now. This is one of the Fijian islands in the Pacific, and the second largest in the group. As serene as the picture is, not all is serene for the Islanders. Fishers in Nagigi, a small community based on the south coast of Vanua Levu Island have been noticing that the number of fish and the size of fish have been decreasing, and habitat degrading – a big problem for a community heavily dependent on its marine resources. This decline isn’t necessarily down to big foreign boats coming in and taking the critters on which they depend. Instead, overexploitation and habitat destruction seems to arise from the ever-increasing number of locally based fishers. The source of this claim? The villagers of Nagigi.
In this paper, Abigail Golden from Columbia University and fellow researchers explore the idea of setting up a short-term no take marine protected area within Nagigi’s coastal tenure area (known aqoliqoli ). This idea hasn’t come from the researchers nor from any top-down government as tends to happen in western countries. Instead the idea has come from the village leaders themselves. This sort of bottom-up governance is far from unheard of. The Pacific Islands are small and numerous, and have a long history of small areas of land and coastal waters managed by local communities. Some have worked well, some have not, and many have come under strain or been lost through both technological developments, increasing population, increasing demands for resources, and cultural change. Still, a well-managed community based MPA can work well, particularly in these remoter locations, and especially were more rigorous research and recording is absent. Regardless of where you are in the world, there are a number of vital steps needed for good management. One involves getting as much information as possible – about the species that are there now, the fishing methods used, an idea of how conditions have changed, and perceptions towards different management methods. The other involves bringing the local community into the conservation planning in a meaningful way. So the team went out and conducted two types of surveys – one looking at the species living on the reef at the time, and one talking to some of the villagers themselves. Continue reading Community-based conservation to rebuild fish stocks