Wild Lunch: Diving Deep in Greenland

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Yesterday, we live streamed our very first Wild Lunch event!  It was the first time we'd tried anything like this, and I have to admit I was a little nervous... mainly because you can never be 100% sure what the internet connection is going to be like! 

But I'm pleased to report that it all went smoothly and we had a fantastic response from viewers, keen to find out more about ZSL scientist Chris Yesson's fieldwork in Greenland.  Chris spoke about how he studies the deep sea floor, why his work is important and reminissed about memorable events - such as the time his research vessel hit an iceberg!

If you missed the event, you can watch it here:

Because Wild Lunch events are quite short (just 30 minutes) we weren't able to answer all of the questions that viewers submitted during the event.  So I caught up with Chris afterwards, to ask him the most popular remaining questions.  This is what he had to say...

Q: Do you have any interaction with Greenlandic people?
A: Yes, we work closely with local people. The research cruises are run by the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources and all our science is in collaboration with this institution. Many of the ship's crew are Greenlandic, so we have day-to-day interactions. We have always been warmly welcomed and enjoy working there. We have also conducted outreach events, including hosting a stall at a trade fair and conducting school visits.

IoZ researchers at the Polar Fish Trade Fair
Chris and other IoZ researchers at the Polar Fish Trade Fair

Q: Is the sea-bed in Greenland any colder than the deep-sea? What is specific about the arctic ocean floor which is not found in the deep ocean?
A: Our camera's have temperature sensors, so we get water temperature profiles from our camera deployments. A typical temperature profile in temperate or tropical settings starts warm (at the surface) and gets colder as you get deeper. In the Arctic we often see an inverted profile, where the water is coldest at the surface (where the ice forms) and gets warmer as you get deeper (at least in shallower areas). Another difference for the seabed is that larger icebergs often scour the surface of the seabed (iceberg scour marks have been seen beyond 600m depth), this means there is a natural seabed disturbance regime that you don't get in warmer areas.

Q: Are your research findings used by the fisheries (to help them manage fish stocks and avoid overfishing)?
A: Our research is used to inform the fisheries in their efforts to ensure sustainability. We are focussed on describing and documenting the wider seabed habitats and determining which are vulnerable to fishing impacts rather than the targets of the fisheries. So we don't feed directly into the assessment of stocks, that work is done by fisheries researchers at Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Q: Did you always know this was what you wanted to do?
A: No, I actually used to be a management consultant and retrained as a biologist around 15 years ago. ZSL have created a series of careers oriented videos that you might find interesting - mine can be found here and the wider series (featuring other scientists at ZSL) can be found here.

Q: Since you've been working in this area for a decade, have you observed any trends (e.g. certain species increasing or declining)?
A: Yes, we have seen the shrimp more prominent in the north and less in the south. This has been linked to warming sea temperatures, and the shrimp tracking their preferred climates. This has led to an increase in fishing effort in the northern areas, which are more accessible due to less sea ice and shorter winters. Fortunately we had some success in promoting a policy of the precautionary principle in this area (i.e. no fishing until there is evidence that this won't damage habitats) and protecting some of the more vulnerable habitats in northwest Greenland (see Chris' previous blog for more details).   

Thank you to everyone who watched Chris' event and submitted a question.  You can find out more about upcoming Wild Lunch events here: www.zsl.org/wildlunchwednesdays 



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