ZSL’s Dr. Matthew Gollock and Rudy Pothin, are two of the lucky few to be taking part in the latest expedition to the Chagos archipelago, deep in the Indian Ocean.
Chagos is the world’s largest marine reserve, at 644,000 km2, and much of its rich marine life has gone undiscovered and unmonitored. This expedition will focus on the most neglected area of all; the big blue or pelagic zone. Understanding the populations, movements and behaviours of the wildlife in this vast and often hostile zone, without the use of fishing techniques, is very difficult. As such we are increasingly looking to new technologies to answer some of our questions.
In a large marine reserve like Chagos, great abundances of top predators, such as sharks and tuna, are able to take refuge from pressures that have destroyed their populations elsewhere. Shark numbers are thought to have fallen by more than 90% worldwide and understanding the importance of large marine reserves to them is vital to successful conservation. Matt and collaborators from the Universities of St. Andrews and Western Australia will be trialling new camera technology, named SISSTAS (Stereo Imaging System for Shark and Tuna Assessment), in conjunction with satellite tagging and acoustic monitoring. This will help develop robust methods for measuring the abundance, movement and fidelity levels of these threatened taxa in their challenging environment.
Working alongside Matt, Rudy will be documenting the whole expedition. Through blogs, photography and sketches Rudy plans to fully communicate both the ground-breaking science and the experience of taking part on a pioneering expedition such as this. Complimenting this will be updates from all the researchers on the trip – transporting the exciting advances and discoveries straight back to the UK.