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Meet our students – SAEON Elwandle Node MPA unit

By Albrecht Götz, SAEON Elwandle Node

Early in 2014 eight new students (two PhD, three MSc and three Honours) were registered with supervisors working with the Marine Protected Area (MPA) Unit of SAEON’s Elwandle Node. We take this opportunity to briefly introduce these students and, for the sake of completeness, provide the same information for the four ‘old’ students.

In the next two years (2015 - 2016) we expect up to 12 additional students (two Postdoc, two PhD, four MSc and four Honours) to join the MPA Unit.

 

Anthony Bernard

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Interests: I am a marine ecologist with a goal to contribute to the conservation of reef ecosystems through research and monitoring. Although my work is focused on the marine environment, I aspire to be a naturalist and find excitement and comfort in wild places. Beyond work my hobbies include trail running, hiking and surfing.

Degree: Postdoc

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node)

First registered for degree: January 2013

Registered at: Zoology and Entomology Department, Rhodes University

Expected completion: December 2014

Thesis/project title: Application of baited remote underwater stereo-video (stereo-BRUV) to investigate the structure, distribution and status of reef fish assemblages in the Agulhas Ecoregion of South Africa – Implications for conservation and resource management

Short abstract: My research is currently focused on: (i) developing stereo-BRUV research capacity within South Africa, (ii) conducting research on the population ecology of reef fish throughout their depth and geographic distributions, (iii) investigating the relationships between reef fish and the biotic and abiotic components of their habitats, and (iv) investigating the role of Marine Protected Areas in conserving reef ecosystems.

Status: Fieldwork and data analysis

Umbrella programme: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers and African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP)

Running cost funds: National Research Foundation; African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme, British Ecological Society, Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association, Rhodes University, SAEON Elwandle Node, South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity

Bursary: National Research Foundation and SAEON Elwandle Node

Email:  ant(at)saeon.ac.za

 

Elodie Heyns

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Interests: My interest in marine science started at a young age, but only after pursuing a career in 3D animation and as an art department assistant in the film industry, did I finally decide to dedicate my time to obtaining a degree in marine science. Through this I became interested in understanding the roles that both physical and ecological processes play in sustaining the production and delivery of harvestable goods. I enjoy diving, underwater photography and travelling.

Degree: PhD

Supervisors: Albrecht Gӧtz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Nicole Richoux (Rhodes University)

First registered for degree: April 2011

Registered at: Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University

Expected completion: February 2015

Thesis/project title: Trophic ecology of shallow and deep reefs in the Tsitsikamma MPA

Short abstract: This study is aimed at comparing differences in the structure and function of the well-studied shallow reefs (<30m) to the deep near-shore reefs that lie between 45 and 80 m within the Tsitsikamma Marine Protected Area. Samples were collected by employing a remotely operated vehicle (ROV), Stereo-BRUVs and SCUBA divers. The first component of this research is focused on establishing abundance and distribution patterns of rocky reef macro-benthos and fish communities.

The second component aims to investigate the trophodynamics of the reef communities by employing stable isotope and fatty acid techniques obtained from tissue samples of the abundant fish and macro-benthic species. Food-webs of the shallow and deep rocky reefs will be constructed through synthesis of the findings from the abundance, biomass, fatty acid and stable isotope results. Differences in shallow and deep reef ecosystem functioning will provide information in support of current and future resource management and conservation strategies for the deeper near-shore reefs within the South African warm temperate biogeographic region.

Status: Data analysis, lab work and write up

Umbrella programme: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node and South African Institute of Aquatic Biodiversity

Bursary: Professional Development Programme (NRF)

Email: e.heyns(at)saiab.ac.za

 

Denham Parker

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Interests: I have chosen this field of study because I am passionate about fish and fisheries ecology. I am an avid conservationist with a realistic outlook on the relationship between resources and their users. I enjoy the outdoors, and fishing and diving are two of my favourite pastimes.

Degree: PhD

Supervisors: Albrecht Gӧtz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Henning Winker (University of Cape Town)

First registered for degree: April 2012

Registered at: Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University

Expected completion: August 2015

Thesis/project title: Long-term monitoring of subtidal reef fishes in the Tsitsikamma MPA

Short abstract: Tsitsikamma is the oldest, and one of the largest (350 km2) ‘no-take’ MPAs Africa. After 50 years of protection, the MPA represents a unique reference site, with a species community closely resembling that of a pristine inshore ecosystem. A monitoring programme which utilises standardised controlled angling methods to sample the nearshore fish communities was established in 2006 in an attempt to understand ecosystem variability in an unexploited area. This dataset represents the longest and most comprehensive time series on subtidal reef fish abundance trends in Southern Africa.

Preliminary analyses of controlled angling data revealed high levels of variability as well as fish mortalities. In an attempt to overcome this and optimise the sampling strategy, a novel technology, Stereo-BRUVs, was introduced in conjunction with controlled angling. The study will assess the spatial and temporal variability within the Tsitsikamma MPA’s ichthyofauna, compare controlled angling and stereo-BRUVs as sustainable LTM sampling methods, assess possible climate change implications on LTM and provide recommendations for future monitoring programmes.

Status: Write up

Umbrella programme: None

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node and South African National Parks

Bursary: DAAD/NRF, Rhodes University (Henderson Scholarship), Ernst & Ethel Eriksen Trust

Email: denhamparker(at)gmail.com

 

Sarah Halse

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Interests: I spent my childhood growing up in Malawi, Southern Africa. Growing up with the influence of the lakeshore and surrounding rivers concreted my interest in fish and fisheries. I’m an avid SCUBA diver and swimmer and have always been enamored by science and nature as well as cooking and photography.

Degree: MSc

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University)

First registered for degree: January 2013

Registered at: Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University

Expected completion: November 2014

Thesis/project title: An assessment of stereo-video techniques to sample shallow and deep reef-fish assemblages.

Short abstract: Over the last few decades it has become evident that both the management and monitoring of reef fish resources have been inadequate, or inappropriate, to ensure the sustainable utilisation of target species, and the conservation of biodiversity. Stereo baited remote underwater video systems (stereo-BRUVs) are globally recognised as one of the best techniques to determine reef fish abundance and sizes, as the data have minimal biases and data can be collected across a broader range of depths and habitats than conventional non-destructive fisheries independent methods. This monitoring method is novel to South Africa and the methodology needs to be optimised to enable effective sampling of the reef fish populations in the Agulhas ecoregion. This thesis is an investigation of the methodology of stereo-BRUVs with emphasis on bait types, light sources and observer bias.

Status: Data analysis and write up

Umbrella programme: None

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node, British Ecological Society, Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association

Bursary: Innovation Fund (NRF)

Email: g09h1939(at)campus.ru.ac.za

 

Lauren De Vos

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Interests: In a nutshell? I’m curious, and I’d be delighted if I never had to be indoors again. I love wild spaces and tailored my research accordingly: from scaling termite mounds to hurtling after baboons! I love freediving, dabble in surfing, experiment with film and writing and fell head-over-heels for life in/on/under the waves.

Degree: PhD

Supervisors: Colin Attwood (University of Cape Town), Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University)

First registered for degree: February 2014

Registered at: Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town

Expected completion: December 2016

Thesis/project title: A stereo-baited remote underwater video system (BRUVs) assessment of marine biodiversity patterns to contribute to marine spatial planning in False Bay, South Africa.

Short abstract: False Bay is important for marine biodiversity, but its significance to human users makes it a pertinent study site. A growing human population surrounds False Bay, and where biodiversity meets anthropogenic pressures, evidence-based research must form the basis of informed spatial planning to manage resources and mitigate conflict. Stereo-BRUVs will sample the invertebrate and ichthyofaunal diversity of False Bay across a range of environmental gradients. Baseline relative abundance and diversity estimates achieved will inform long-term monitoring strategies and future conservation planning. The ecological data derived will be overlain with ‘human-use’ information to identify high conflict regions and generate spatial planning scenarios for the region.

Status: Fieldwork

Umbrella programme: None

Running cost funds: Save our Seas Foundation, Rufford Foundation, SAEON Elwandle Node

Bursary: David and Elaine Potter Fellowship; Scarce Skills Doctoral Bursary (NRF)

Email: lauren(at)saveourseas.com

 

Ameil Harikishun

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Interests: I am interested in marine ecosystem response to climate change, particularly exploited marine ecosystems. This interest extends from the future of coral reefs to how exploited fish populations will respond, and be managed, in a changing environment. I believe that good science serves to inform effective policy that can lead to sustainable usage of marine resources. I am concerned with the understanding and therefore management of marine biodiversity.

Degree: MSc

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node), Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University) and Sven Kerwath (Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries)

First registered for degree: February 2014

Registered at: Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University

Expected completion: December 2015

Thesis/project title: Benthic community structure of the Walter’s Shoal seamount in relation to depth, light and location.

Short abstract: My MSc project is part of the Walter’s Shoal seamount expedition, project three of the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme. I will be focusing on the effects of depth, light and location (i.e. relative to prevailing currents, water temperature and turbulence) on species composition, abundance and size/biomass (if possible), of sessile and to lesser extent mobile invertebrates. In addition to this, I will investigate the ecological theory of seamounts regarding depth-related patterns in diversity and abundance.

Data on benthic invertebrate communities and the prevailing oceanographic conditions, including spatial patterns of plankton distribution, were collected over two weeks during May and June 2014. Data on the composition and distribution of species will be collected using photo-quadrats, video transects and stereo-video stations. Fine-scale species composition will be determined in the lab from physical invertebrate sub-samples collected by either divers or dredges. Data collection will take place between 15-600 m and will focus on four areas on the seamount related to the prevailing currents: downstream, upstream, left side and right side of the current axis.

Status: Fieldwork

Umbrella programme: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Running cost funds: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Bursary: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Email: harikishuna(at)gmail.com

 

Alexei Dyer

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Interests: My broad interests lie in population, community and evolutionary ecology and their interaction with human influences. I am particularly interested in the role of prediction in ecology and how this may improve the management of natural resources. In my spare time I can be found diving or hiking as I ponder how the world works, or playing guitar when it all gets too complicated for me.

Degree: MSc

Supervisors: Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University), Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node), Sven Kerwath (Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries) and Henning Winker (University of Cape Town)

First registered for degree: February 2014

Registered at: Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University

Expected completion: July 2015

Thesis/project title: Quantitative assessment of the ichthyofauna associated with different habitats and depth zones on Walter’s Shoal, a shallow seamount in the Western Indian Ocean

Short abstract: The abrupt topography of Walter’s Shoal rises from the abyssal plain to within 20 m of the surface. Its impingement of the prevailing current is hypothesised to facilitate a number of processes responsible for the distribution of seamount-associated fishes. How oceanographic processes interact with different seamount habitats and their significance to prey delivery and the resultant patterns of fish abundance still remains unclear. Depth-stratified visual sampling by baited remote underwater stereo-video systems (stereo-BRUVs) of the seamount’s upwelling slope and downwelling flank aims to reveal how these habitats differ with respect to their ichthyofaunal assemblages. Additional sampling conducted at night will also allow patterns of habitat use associated with the topographic trapping of dielly migrating micronekton to be explored. Together with knowledge of oceanographic conditions and prey distributions, this project aims to reveal the contribution of Walter’s Shoal to regional biodiversity, and discover the processes which may be important to sustaining it.

Status: Fieldwork

Umbrella programme: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Running cost funds: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Bursary: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Email: adyer(at)environment.gov.za

 

Richard Llewellyn

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Interests: I’ve always had a passion for the ocean, but when I started diving was when I decided that marine biology was what I wanted to do. I have a wide range of interests within the field as I worked with cephalopods and limpets in my honours year and am now working with fish.

Degree: MSc

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University)

First registered for degree: January 2014

Registered at: Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University

Expected completion: December 2015

Thesis/project title: The effectiveness of the De Hoop MPA as a tool for the conservation and management of reef fish.

Short abstract: The project aims to assess the effectiveness of the De Hoop MPA. This will be accomplished through establishing a baseline of fish assemblages using stereo-BRUVs; investigating patterns of exploitation outside of the MPA by analysing catch data acquired from the Nation Marine Line-fish System; and finally by comparing size structure and fish assemblages between selected sites inside and outside the MPA.

Status: Fieldwork and data analysis

Umbrella programme: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node and Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Bursary: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Email: richard.llewellyn90(at)gmail.com

 

Rita Steyn

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Interests: My interests are invertebrates and invertebrate communities. These (often overlooked) communities form the foundation of larger ecosystems and support larger vertebrate populations. The driving force behind my interests is conservation and preservation of habitats and emerging ‘health’ indicators. My master’s degree research was completed in Indonesia where I studied coral reefs and the impact of bomb fishing on those reefs. I love to travel, learn new things, immerse myself in new cultures, and always work towards a greater understanding of our natural world. My hobbies include photography and photographic blogging.

Degree: PhD

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University)

First registered for degree: March 2014

Registered at: Department of Zoology and Entomology, Rhodes University

Expected completion: December 2017

Thesis/project title: Requirements for monitoring of subtidal benthic reef invertebrates in South Africa's Agulhas Ecoregion

Short abstract: Subtidal benthic reef invertebrate communities provide habitat, shelter and food for most of the over-exploited marine fish species in the Agulhas Ecoregion of South Africa. Although only a few components (i.e. abalone, alikreukel and lobsters) are targeted directly by fisheries, the impact of oceanographic patterns, pollution, habitat destruction (e.g. bottom trawling on reef) and sedimentation can alter the population viability and structure of all sessile invertebrate communities. Despite their importance to reef fish, subtidal benthic reef invertebrates have received little attention in monitoring programmes for the Agulhas Ecoregion. This is mainly due to the relative inaccessibility of subtidal habitats and a lack of taxonomic knowledge combined with an absence of clear recommendations for methodological approach and protocols.

Status: Fieldwork and data analysis

Umbrella programme: None

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node

Bursary: Professional Development Programme (NRF)

Email: rita.adele.steyn(at)gmail.com

 

Sheroma Surajnarayan

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Interests: I have a passion for research and for working with animals, particularly marine-based animals and reptiles. I have a very good eye for marine fish identification. I am also currently working with fur seals and penguins. I love anything to do with the ocean and exploring the wide variety of ecosystems from rocky shores, inshore reefs to the open ocean. I am a novice snake handler, I have worked with various species of venomous snakes in captivity such as adders, vipers, rattlesnakes and cobras. My passion is divided between Marine Biology and Herpetology, however, my current field of study will be marine-based.

Degree: Hons

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node), Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University) and Sven Kerwath (Department of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries)

First registered for degree: February 2014

Registered at: University of South Africa

Expected completion: February 2015

Thesis/project title: Aspects of the fish diversity on a shallow seamount on the Madagascar Ridge

Short abstract: Depending on the amount of data collected during the field trip, aspects of seamount fish diversity will be evaluated comparatively to mainland data.

Status: Fieldwork

Umbrella programme: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Running cost funds: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Bursary: African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (NRF)

Email: 55047467(at)myunisa.ac.za

 

Roxanne Juby

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Interests: I have SCUBA dived for many years and gained a great interest in the ocean and the life within it. Studying ichthyology has given me the opportunity to spend more time in and around the ocean, and learn more about my passion.

Degree: Hons

Supervisors: Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node) and Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University)

First registered for degree: January 2014

Registered at: Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Sciences, Rhodes University

Expected completion: November 2014

Thesis/project title: The effectiveness and influence of an electric shark repellent device on reef fish behaviour

Short abstract: The effect electric shark repellent devices (ESRDs) have on reef fish behaviour is poorly understood despite their wide use during diver conducted underwater visual censuses (UVCs). Three major concerns are associated with this gap in the knowledge, including (1) the safety of the observer, (2) the potential introduction of bias in scientific data and (3) the general unknown ecological effects of these devices. To determine the effect an ESRD has on the behaviour of reef fishes, stereo-Baited Remote Underwater Video systems (stereo-BRUVs) and stereo-Unbaited Remote Underwater Video systems (stereo-RUVs) will be used as a sampling technique. The stereo-BRUVs and stereo-RUVs will be fitted with a commercially available ESRD called Shark ShieldTM and deployed at two South African MPAs - Tsitsikamma National Park MPA and Bird Island MPA. Alternating between an activated and deactivated Shark ShieldTM, and a baited and unbaited system will ensure the effects of the ESRD are unbiased. I hypothesise that ESRDs affect the behaviour of some reef fish species in a way that may bias data collected during UVCs by improving data quality and diversity.

Status: Fieldwork and data analysis

Umbrella programme: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node and Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Bursary: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Email: g11j4071(at)campus.ru.ac.za

 

Nicholas Schmidt

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Interests: I have always had a passion and love for the ocean and am a keen surfer and fisherman. I have spent many hours snorkelling and exploring reefs and I feel strongly about the ecology of our marine habitats. I also have a passion for music and play various instruments.

Degree: Hons

Supervisors: Anthony Bernard (Rhodes University) and Albrecht Götz (SAEON Elwandle Node)

First registered for degree: January 2014

Registered at: Department of Ichthyology and Fisheries Science, Rhodes University

Expected completion: November 2014

Thesis/project title: The influence of bait on the sensitivity of abundance and size data to measure change in reef fish community structure recorded from baited remote underwater stereo-video systems.

Short abstract: Underwater video surveillance has been widely used as a non-invasive method for surveying reef fish communities. Remote underwater stereo video systems (stereo-RUVs) and baited remote underwater stereo video systems (stereo-BRUVs) have been used extensively as an eco-friendly technique for reef fish surveys. Although stereo-BRUVs are advocated as a highly suitable method to measure reef fish in all their distributions, the extent of bait bias needs further clarification. It has been argued that the presence of bait can lead to fish saturating the field of view in video analysis when abundances are high and visibility is low. Another issue concerned is that foraging behaviour of fish species is influenced further, biasing data on abundance and size class frequency data. In this project, the stereo-RUV and stereo-BRUV methods are compared to determine the effect that bait has on data that are obtained from these techniques.

Status: Fieldwork and data analysis

Umbrella programme: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Running cost funds: SAEON Elwandle Node, Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Bursary: Competitive Programme for Rated Researchers (NRF)

Email: g10s4694(at)campus.ru.ac.za

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