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Marine Life & Conservation

Glasgow Uni students research under the Red Sea at Roots

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Our new blogger, Guy Henderson, reports on this summer’s undergraduate research expedition at the Open Ocean Science Centre at Roots Camp, El Quseir, Egypt…

June and July are busy months for science at Roots Camp and Pharaoh Dive Club El Quseir. This is when the annual University of Glasgow marine research expedition is based on site at the Open Ocean Science Centre. The students will be here until the end of July undertaking fieldwork for dissertations and doing data analysis in the purpose built marine lab. The team consists of eight members painstakingly selected way back in October. They have spent the last 8 months designing projects, applying for grants, fundraising and honing their diving skills. There is a good range of experience within the team with one first year, two second years, a fourth year (recently graduated) and four third year honours students. The third years will be collecting data for their dissertations and each have been assigned a buddy from the remaining team members to help with data collection.

GU Egypt Marine Expedition 2017: Left to Right, Back to Front – Max, Sarah, Dani, Stacey, Bella, Clara, Duncan & Rachel

Pilot studies and equipment familiarisation went without a hitch and the projects are all well underway with a substantial amount of data already collected. Below we will introduce the individual project methodologies and scientific relevance. We have two diving projects which are undertaken by members with diving qualifications at rescue level or higher, a shore based project on the reef flat and a rather exciting camera drop project which makes use of the speedboat.

Bella & Sarah – Camera drops in the mesophotic zone

Bella is investigating arguably the most mysterious of reef habitats; Mesophotic Coral Ecosystems (MCEs). Ranging in depths from 30 to 150 metres, MCEs receive enough light penetrating the surface waters for vibrant life but are generally too deep for traditional scuba diving techniques so are vastly understudied in comparison to shallow reefs. Round the globe there are gaps in our knowledge but particularly in the Red Sea, where the diverse marine life has yet to be fully charted on the map of scientific research.

Bella is using an innovative technique to capture footage of fish at varying depths within the MCE range. She is doing this by dropping a 3D camera off an RIB at GPS marked co-ordinates, 75-degree bearings from the shore, at depth level increments of roughly 10 metres. The footage will be used to identify and count all the fish found at each depth level as well as measure their biomass using EventMeasure software. Guy and her have been working hard on the construction of an intricate rig structure to protect the camera in the water, which will be essential to the effective success of the drops.

Bella deploying her 3D drop camera rig at Ras Quseir

Duncan & Rachel – Coral cover and light intensity

Duncan will be quantifying the effect of Photosynthetically active radiation (PAR) on the community structure of scleratinian (Hard) corals on the Abu Sautir reef. Understanding the impact differing PAR levels have on coral abundance and diversity will indicate the importance of light as an abiotic driver of coral community composition. Coupled with the lack of research and relevant literature in the Red Sea, Duncan’s study will provide valuable data relating to coral cover of a highly diverse yet relatively understudied Red Sea fringing reef.

Duncan filming a video transect with a custom camera mount

Clara & Stacey – Reef flat, rock pool diversity

Clara is investigating how factors such as distance from the shore, pH and salinity affect species diversity within the rock-pools in Abu Sautir. This is done by creating transects on the shore and using quadrat sampling to determine the species diversity and abundance. Rock-pools are found in intertidal habitats which may be extreme environments for inhabiting organisms; this is due to tidal changes, rough wave action and fluctuating water parameters. Some organisms have physiological coping mechanisms that help them survive the fluctuation in these conditions, such as starfish which can regulate their salt uptake. However those that are less well adapted to these variable conditions may not be found across the entire range of rock-pools, therefore it will be interesting to discover how the various species are distributed across the reef flat.

Clara and Stacey surveying a quadrat on the house reef Abu Sautir

Max & Dani – Hawkfish behaviour study

Max will be working on our longest running project by supplementing a 3 year data set. The hawkfish behaviour study aims to look at bold-shy behaviour of freckled hawkfish (Paracirrhites forsteri) in relation to mortality rates from year to year. Using 3D camera technology and photo identification software, the relative boldness of individual fish can be found and calculated by means of a simulated predator prey interaction. Animal behavioural studies are usually limited to lab settings with controlled conditions; this project is exciting as it allows us to look at the behaviour of fish in their natural habitats while investigating traits that may contribute to the evolution of populations.

Max ‘scaring’ a freckled hawkfish and recording the outcome in 3D

Aside from the Student expedition we have a number of volunteers with us throughout the summer months. The volunteers work closely with the local community organising clean up dives, beach and mangrove clean ups and educational outreach programmes with local schools and youth groups.

In the next instalment of this blog we will catch up with the volunteers and the students to see what they have been getting up to as well as checking on how the projects are progressing.

Follow the expedition Facebook page at www.facebook.com/GUEgypt2013/ or on twitter @guegypt

You can also visit: www.openoceanproject.orgwww.rootsredsea.com and www.pharaohdiveclub.co.uk

Guy completed his Bsc Hons in marine and freshwater biology at the University of Glasgow and during this time led four student research expeditions to the Egyptian Red Sea. His endeavours in Egypt earned him a scholarship from the Open Ocean Science Centre to undertake a PhD at the University of Glasgow. Guy's PhD thesis is on fish behaviour in shallow and mesophotic coral ecosystems and sees him based at Roots Camp, El Quseir six months of the year. Guy is a BSAC Dive Leader and PSAI sidemount qualified diver. He is passionate about coral reef ecology, conservation and engaging the general public in scientific research.

Marine Life & Conservation

Video Series: The CCMI Reef Lectures – Part 4 (Watch Video)

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Introduced by Jeff Goodman

Never before since human beings have had major influence over our earths climate and environments, have we come to so close to the brink of global disaster for our seas and marine life. We need to act now if we are not going to crash headlong into irreversible scenarios.

A good start to this is understanding how the marine environment works and what it means to our own continued survival. We can only do this by listening and talking to those with the experience and knowledge to guide us in the right direction.

CCMI (Central Caribbean Marine Institute) are hosting an annual Reef Lecture series that is open to the general public and Scubaverse will be sharing those lectures over the coming months.


Part 4: Stop Whining! Life as an Ocean Ambassador; Ellen Cuylaerts

Ellen Cuylaerts shares her insights on how to act, practice what you preach and use your voice to contribute to constructive change. Ellen is a wildlife and underwater photographer and chooses to take images of subjects that are hard to encounter like harp seal pups, polar bears, orcas, beluga whales and sharks, to name a few. By telling the stories about their environment and the challenges they face, she raises awareness about the effect of climate change on arctic species, the cruel act of shark finning and keeping marine mammals in captivity.

During this seminar, Ellen will take you on a virtual trip and show you the stories behind the shots: how to get there, how to prepare, how to create the most chances to come home with a shot, and how to never give up!

Ellen Cuylaerts is an ocean advocate, underwater & wildlife photographer, explorer, and public speaker.


For more information about the CCMI click here.

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Marine Life & Conservation

Fit filters in washing machines and slow the tide of ocean plastic

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The Marine Conservation Society’s Stop Ocean Threads campaign, which is calling for all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters, by law, by 2024, aims to stop plastic pollution at source by filtering microscopic plastics from washing machine waste water.

To date the charity’s petition has been signed by over 12,000 people. The petition calls on government to introduce legislation which requires all new washing machines to be fitted with microfibre filters by law. Now, the charity is taking direct action and encouraging supporters to tweet washing machine manufacturers, putting pressure on them to fit filters on all new washing machines and slow the tide of microfibres entering the ocean.

Research conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Marine Conservation Society revealed that most (81%) adults surveyed supported legislative change and a quarter (26%) of those said that they would be willing to pay an additional £50 or more for a washing machine fitted with a microfibre filter. Not only is there is clear public support for legislation to Stop Ocean Threads, but consumers are willing to pay extra for their washing machines to have ocean-friendly credentials.

It’s increasingly important to put this issue top of the agenda for washing machine manufacturers who can take action now helping to address the microplastic issue, rather than waiting for legislation to be put in place.

Dr Laura Foster, Marine Conservation Society’s Head of Clean Seas says: “Our research has found that the public is largely supportive of our call for legislation, and consumers are willing to pay a little more to reduce the flow of microplastics into the ocean.

“It’s fantastic to see the support our petition has received so far, but now we need the public to show their support and join our action to engage with manufacturers directly. If we can show manufacturers that the public wants these filters fitted as soon as possible, we hope to speed up the legislative process and get filters fitted in the near future.”

Members of the public are encouraged by the Marine Conservation Society to go direct to washing machine manufacturers, and get involved in the charity’s tweet action.

“Hey @Miele_GB @BekoUK @Hoover_UK @BoschUK @SamsungUK @WhirlpoolCorp  We want washing machine manufacturers to commit to fitting microfibre filters before 2024. Will you do this and help us #StopOceanThreads? Please retweet and share far and wide”

To sign the charity’s Stop Ocean Threads petition, visit the Marine Conservation Society’s website. Find out more on how to get involved in the direct action here.

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Sharks Bay Umbi Diving Village is a Bedouin-owned resort with stunning views and a lovely private beach. It is ideal for divers as everything is onsite including the resort's jetty, dive centre and house reef. The warm hospitality makes for a diving holiday like no other. There is an excellent seafood restaurent and beach bar onsite, and with the enormous diversity of the Sharm El Sheikh dive sites and the surrounding areas of the South Sinai, there really is something for every level of diver to enjoy.

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