Welcome to the Wessex Portal, an online community created by the Faculty of Science & Technology at Bournemouth University in order to promote a better understanding of our regional and international environment. Meet the team: Professor Genoveva Esteban is the Principal Investigator in this project. Dr Esteban’s research focuses on biodiversity at the microbial level. […]
Help the Dorset Wildlife Trust (DWT) by taking the Pollinator Pledge! President Dr George McGavin joined the DWT at the Prince of Wales First School in Dorchester to launch our biggest ever campaign: Get Dorset Buzzing. You can read all about it here. We want everyone to take the pledge to help pollinators in their garden, […]
BU2025: A new vision Bournemouth University 2025 (BU2025) vision has been released. BU2025 is the next step in BU’s development, building on our success. We have retained the core of what makes BU different, and the culture and approach that our students and staff value. Our values Excellence We strive for excellence in everything that we do. Inclusivity […]
PhD student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
Omo-Turkana basin (Kenya/ Ethiopia) is a key reference region for human
evolutionary studies, and provides a detailed record of vertebrate evolutionary
patterns. Several aspects of hominins’ ecology and habitats can be investigated
using fossils preserved here, as well as global climate and regional
environmental processes that drove our evolution.
My research projectaims at reconstructing prevailing vegetation conditions through time in the Omo-Turkana basin between 3.5 and 1.6 million years ago, by examining the dietary evidence of the fossil impala (genus Aepyceros) and springbok (genus Antidorcas), through stable isotopes, mesowear and microwear evidence. Changes in the diets of the studied species are expected to be informative about larger-scale habitat and vegetation changes, due to the high dietary adaptability of these abundant mixed-feeding antelopes. A key part of this project will also be to assess the links between modern antelope diets and vegetation cover of the present landscapes, which will be quantified via remote sensing techniques
PhD student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
My project is researching human disturbance and its effects on wildlife populations. The majority of my study is concentrated on migratory wintering waterfowl, brent geese (Branta bernicla) and wigeon (Anas penelope), on the Exe Estuary in Devon and their responses to various human related activities that take place on the Estuary. The aim is to identify how different types of human disturbance effect these waterfowl and whether human disturbance in general is affecting waterfowl survival. This research is being conducted through the combination of field observations of disturbance events and through the use of individual based modeling. With the combination of these factors the hope is to be able to identify thresholds for human disturbance that waterfowl are capable of experiencing before there is a population level effect. Results from this can then help to inform management as well as provide insight into understanding the effects of human disturbance on other animals.
MRes student at Bournemouth University, Faculty of Science and Technology, Department of Life and Environmental Sciences
Jack Dazley is a Masters
research student whose work is primarily focused on the feeding behaviour and biodiversity
of ciliated protozoa; tiny single celled organisms less than a millimetre in
size which can be found in a variety of habitats. His research aims to
understand the mechanisms of prey selection by these organisms, with particular
emphasis on diatoms; microscopic plants with a glass-like shell. Ciliates form
a fundamental part of the microzooplankton in aquatic environments, providing
food for larger zooplankton species (mesozooplankton) such as rotifers and copepods,
and Jack’s research will incorporate microbial diversity into higher trophic
level food webs of aquatic ecosystems.
Jack also has wider interests in biodiversity and conservation of both
terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, from megafauna to microbial species,
and also in the paleoecology of extinct species and their ecosystems.
Jack is heavily involved in public engagement in the faculty, having
delivered guest lectures at BU, and has run stalls for several of BU’s
public engagement events, including the festival of learning and the
Bournemouth air festival.
‘Sustainable’ fishing is causing major environmental problems according to new research published by Bournemouth University.
While fishing to sustainable targets as aspired to by the UK, EU and many other countries, prevents year on year decline of fish stocks, it still requires ecological devastation in terms of fish numbers (a removal of up to 80% of the initial level) to reach a population capable of producing maximum sustainable yield.
Changes caused to the ecology of the ocean from ‘sustainable’ fishing can have far reaching effects, including limiting the potential for the ocean to absorb greenhouse gasses. Hence, poor fishing practices can exacerbate climate change.
The research, published in the journal Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene, also provides a solution to the problem of overfishing.
Professor Rick Stafford, from the Department of Life and Environmental Sciences at Bournemouth University, says, “The key is to restrict offshore fishing. Generally, offshore fishing uses bigger boats, which can cause more environmental damage with their fishing techniques. Reducing, and maybe eventually eliminating, these boats will create big marine protected areas in the offshore Economic Exclusion Zones of countries and the high seas and allow fish stocks to grow again.”
The focus of fishing then falls on smaller-scale inshore (or artisanal) fishers, which often use less environmentally harmful techniques. They will also benefit from enhanced fish stocks as they ‘spill over’ from the protected offshore areas. While fewer fish would be caught overall, the local supply to coastal communities may increase. This would benefit many people who rely on fish, from struggling coastal economies in the UK through to ensuring protein from fish is readily available to these communities in the developing world.
Such a transition could be timely for the UK in post-Brexit negotiations, and especially beneficial for smaller fishing ports. However, there is a problem, which is the British palate.
Professor Stafford explains, “We don’t eat the fish we catch in the UK, and mainly rely on exports to France and Spain – for the maximum benefit of this approach, we need to change our tastes and eat more shellfish and flatfish. It’s a change which would hugely help the marine environment and coastal jobs and economy.”
The researchers also highlighted the need for more to be done to highlight the problem of over-fishing compared to, say, plastics in the ocean. The latter often gets more media coverage, but actually has less of an impact on the environment when compared to over-fishing.
Rick Stafford continued, “We all know the problems caused by ocean plastic on wildlife and the mess made to our coasts and beaches. To address the issue, many of us carry around refillable water bottles, coffee cups, try to avoid over packaged food, and may even participate in beach cleans, and these are important issues – but not necessarily the most immediate concerns when it comes to climate change and our oceans.”
In a new article in the journal Marine Policy, Rick and colleagues from University College London argue that this is environmental greenwashing, encouraged by large corporations and many governments, but ultimately distracting us from addressing the major environmental issues of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The actual environmental implications of plastic pollution are unknown, but many studies show little direct toxicity effect, and while plastic has been shown to result in death of seabirds, whales, fish and seals, there is little data on the population level effects of plastic on wildlife. This contrasts with the urgent need to address climate change and reduce biodiversity loss, which have been well established in recent international scientific reports.
Professor Stafford concluded, “In terms of reducing plastic pollution, there’s a huge emphasis on individual choices, such as refusing reusable coffee cups or plastic straws. There’s also a range of technological solutions, from the Ocean Cleanup project which is trying to ‘sieve’ plastic from the ocean directly, through to new plant-based plastic alternatives.
“These individual choices and technological ‘fixes’ are simply minor tweaks to a political and economic system which needs a major overhaul, and allow ‘business as usual’ to continue.
“We need to place environmental issues at the heart of our political and economic systems, and address overconsumption and overuse of natural resources as our number one priority – including over-fishing. Unless we do this, we can’t save the planet from plastics, biodiversity loss or climate change.”
Professor Amanda Korstjens is a behavioural ecologist, who studies animals in their natural environments. Her work has taken her around the world to places such as Indonesia, Côte d’Ivoire, Costa Rica and Uganda.
In her inaugural lecture, which took place at Bournemouth Natural Science Society (BNSS), she explored how monkey and ape behaviours are shaped by their environment. She also explained how human modifications to natural environments and climate change are affecting monkeys and apes globally, drawing on her research expertise and work in locations across the world.
Hunter N. Hines posts photos and footage of the organisms he studies during his PhD research under his microscope, including single-celled organisms like ciliates and micro-animals like worms and tardigrades (known as water bears).
Hunter said: “The videos and photos on my Instagram show these awesome creatures in their natural state as they are behave and move, rather than just drawings from a textbook.”
Hunter is currently studying for his PhD at Bournemouth University, conducting research in Florida on single-celled organisms called ciliates, looking at their biodiversity and biogeography in freshwater ecosystems.
Alongside ciliates, his Instagram account @microbialecology shows microscopic creatures including worms, larvae and micro crustaceans doing everything from laying eggs to eating each other.
At one point the account received over 1.4 million views in a single week.
Hunter said: “These are organisms at the foundation of foodwebs and important for ecosystem health. I collect them from freshwater habitats, such as ponds, in Florida, and some are from soil.
“For many viewers this is the first time they are seeing these creatures from the micro world as living things.
“I hope that my posts can reach a global audience, and show microbiology in a positive light, while inspiring interest in science to anyone with internet access.”
On Friday the 25th of January, three students from Arocampus Quest University in Rennes, Brittany came to the GWCT’s Salmon and Trout Research Centre at East Stoke, Dorset to present two videos (you can watch them below) and posters they had made to aid the recovery of tags from our tagged adult sea trout for the SAMARCH project. They filmed two videos, one for beach walkers who may find a tag on the beach and one for anglers who may catch one of our tagged sea trout. Its imperative that we get as many tags back from our sea trout because of the invaluable data they hold.
Last year when we trialled the process where we tagged 16 sea trout and recovered one tag from a beach in Cornwall and three tags from the fish trap on the river Bresle.
A huge thank you to Manon Fredout, Barbara Raguenet and Charlotte Buland for their hard work over the last few weeks in putting the two videos together.
Also thank you to two students from Bournemouth University, Ossi Turunen and Oskari Heimonen for their support with fieldwork on SAMARCH and helping to promote the project.
In April 2018 I completed a placement on the River Frome, Wareham, Dorset, as a research assistant from Bournemouth university in collaboration with the GWCT for SAMARCH. From late March to mid-May, the team aim to recapture a percentage sample of the previous years tagged fish. An acoustic bubble is positioned on the main river to divert fish down through the RST on the Mill Stream.
The shifts were run by a supervising fisheries scientist and one research assistant (i.e. myself). Day shifts began at 08:00 and night shifts at 20:00. At the start of the shifts, we entered the fluvarium to check water flow and ensure the trap was running correctly. The RST was then lowered into the river and environmental data and timings entered in the recording sheet. We set up the laptop to record any tagged fish caught, and a tub of anaesthetic solution to temporarily and humanely sedate the fish for efficient processing.
The RST was checked every 30 minutes for salmon (WSSM) and trout (TSM) which would then be netted out into a tub of freshwater. Any other species found were noted and released downstream. The salmon and trout were then put into the anaesthetic solution and the fisheries scientist would check them individually for a tag. Any tagged fish had their details entered onto the computer and scale samples taken; different sides for smolt and parr. Any that weren’t tagged, had their measurements logged, and scale samples were taken from one of each size. Multiple fish caught of the same size were recorded but had no scales samples taken. The scales are sent off to Exeter University and used to determine the sex of the fish and the growth and lifecycles at sea. The fish were placed back into the freshwater tub to readjust to conditions and then released safely downstream.
Going into this placement, I had no experience of working with fisheries and was eager to learn more about research processes and sampling techniques. I expected the night shifts to be busier than they were, with capture rates barely reaching 20, however this was likely due to the temperature not reaching 12°C. As the placement had many quiet periods, opportunities arose to learn more from the fisheries scientist of the biology and physiology of salmon and trout, and the small morphological differences to assess when identifying the species.
Catching the occasional minnow and roach prompted discussions of the ecology of the river, with eels, perch and dace also caught throughout the run. I learnt more about the lifecycles of salmon and trout, their migration patterns, and their evolutionary responses to risk and challenges. For example, how the majority of smolt migration occurs during the night, likely due to adaptation or behavioural decision making to decrease predation risk and/or increase feeding due to a higher abundance of food, and so day shifts are likely to be much quieter.
Whilst working with supervising scientist, Bill Beaumont, I gained further knowledge of tagging techniques used to track fish. For example, the functional differences between acoustic and radio tagging, how they collect the data, and the environmental conditions that affect them. Whilst visiting the lab between processing times, I was shown how to read the information contained in the fish scales; analysing scales is similar to observing tree rings with aging and growth, condensed lines indicate winter growth, spread/spacious lines indicate summer growth and erosion on these lines indicate spawning. These quiet periods between trap checks also gave opportunity to engage with other scientists in the field to learn more about their careers. This provided me with important directional knowledge and contacts for experience in fisheries ecology and management.
I attended the Global Engagement Fusion Seminar at Bournemouth University on 24th January to present and share my own experiences with the SAMARCH project. The seminar was hosted by BU academics Professor Genoveva Esteban and Dr Dan Franklin whom both presented their on-going and forthcoming work with the Interreg Channel Programme.
I had prepared, in collaboration with another BU student, Oskari Heimonen, a short presentation to highlight the great placement opportunities SAMARCH has to offer. Other presentations were given by other BU academics and our French peers from Agro Campus Ouest.
This Global Engagement Fusion Seminar was first of its kind and from my perspective, especially after discussing with all the other presenters and also with the audience, the seminar was a great success. In the future the upcoming SAMARCH Newsletter will keep you updated on events like this!