Today we got to work. As if that isn’t what we’ve been doing for the last few days already but now we are getting to the tasks that we have all been working towards. The science and data collection. I’ve been dive buddying Elizabeth Widman throughout the day and here are a few words from her:
“Today I have been taking photos of the coral communities around the northern atolls of the Chagos Archipelago. I take photos of the reef and also record the exact location and depth at which each photo is taken. Since GPS devices cannot receive signals underwater, we attach it to a flotation device which we drag along and then later match up to photos using specialized software. Later, back in the UK I will analyze these photos, determining what coral species are present in each image and what type of environmental conditions exist at the particular location at which they are located. I will then take a rather unusual approach to understanding how the reef ‘functions’ by translating the coral species composition into life-history trait composition. These traits describe among other things coral morphology (i.e. shape, size), reproductive behaviour, and aggression towards neighbouring corals. By focusing on traits we can gain insight into not just the diversity of species present (i.e. taxonomy) but also what they ‘doing’ (i.e. their function).”
Although the majority of scientists on the expedition are focussed on marine work there is a party that have been doing terrestrial science and that is rattling along at pace too. Pete Carr and Louis Elyse have ventured ashore with Jon B to start the bird work. So perhaps airborne could be a better descriptor than terrestrial but here are a few words from Pete on the bird programme:
“The ornithological programme is varied and challenging on this year’s scientific expedition. The long-term monitoring of the internationally important breeding seabird populations, especially of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) will occur as far as the expedition programme allows. This is extremely important information as an indicator of the health of the Marine Protected Area (MPA) and the data set now stretches back to 1996. In addition to the repeat surveys of the islands, as part of his PhD research, I am trialling GPS tracking devices on Red-footed Booby in order to try and identify key feeding and foraging areas for seabirds in the MPA. Today we fitted two Red-footed Booby with devices and it is hoped these birds will start to reveal the potential Marine Important Bird Areas within the overall MPA. In addition I am starting a long-term ringing and tracking project on Sooty Tern in the Chagos Archipelago. Sooty Tern is a key species in the designation of IBA status for islands in the MPA. It is thought that Sooty Tern move breeding islands periodically, probably due to excessive parasitism by ticks. We will be attempting to ring as many Sooty Tern chicks as possible (if breeding) in order to assess natal site fidelity and to ascertain if they do indeed “swap” breeding islands. This is important information from a conservation perspective and if proved, will bolster the argument I have made in press for making clusters of islands IBAs, rather than individual islands. I will also be collecting ticks on chicks for identification as part of a wider Indian Ocean project on tick associations with Sooty Tern.”
So the science expedition has now truly taken off. More tales of our exploration and discoveries to follow!
Select a blog
Every month one of the pieces held in ZSL’s Library and at ZSL Whipsnade Zoo will feature here as Artefact of the month.
Get the latest on ZSL's conservation work in Asia.
Find out more about life in our B.U.G.S exhibit
A new Open Access journal for research at the interface of remote sensing, ecology and conservation.
A blog for lovers of ZSL London Zoo. Bringing you amazing animal facts and exclusive access to the world's scientific oldest zoo.
Discover more about the UK's biggest zoo with our fun blog posts!
Join the ZSL Discovery and Learning team as they venture out of the zoo and in to the wild.
Catch up on our latest Conservation Blogs
Follow the latest news on ZSL’s Arts & Culture projects at ZSL London and Whipsnade Zoos, and ZSL’s conservation work through the lens of the Arts.
ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's elephant keepers give an insight into the daily goings on in the elephant barn.
Read about conservation of tigers in Asia.
One man is boldly going where no other ZSL videographer has gone before - the land of Mountain Chicken Frogs.
From the field, to the lab, catch up with the scientists on the cutting edge of conservation biology at ZSL’s Institute of Zoology.
The Wildlife Wood Project has been working in Cameroon since 2007 to encourage better wildlife management in logging concessions.
Updates from penguin conservation expeditions to Antarctica
Amur leopard conservation blog
Meet ZSL Whipsnade Zoo's latest (and leggiest) arrival, a baby giraffe!
Follow the ZSL Biodiversity and Palm Oil team, based in Bogor, Indonesia.
The Chagos marine reserve, designated in 2010 and currently the world’s largest no take marine reserve, is a sought-after spot for marine research.
Follow ZSL conservationists studying desert baboons in Namibia.