Opportunity: Research Assistant for Cape Verde Loggerhead Turtle Research.

Our lab has an exciting opportunity to come join us in Cape Verde and assist with our data collection this season.

Background: Conservation of marine organisms is a true challenge as most remains to
be discovered from the oceans which cover about 70% of the world’s surface. Our project aims at using state-of the art molecular Turtle returning to the water with a tag.and telemetry techniques to develop novel conservation programs for the Cape Verde loggerhead turtles (Caretta caretta).

Only recently scientists discovered that Cape Verde supports the third largest nesting
population in the world. Like all sea turtles, the loggerhead turtles are highly endangered of extinction and listed on the Red List of the IUCN. Robust scientific monitoring and preservation of genetic diversity of the Loggerhead turtle has therefore become a crucial necessity to identify future directions of conservation efforts.

Researchers from Queen Mary University of London will be working with Project Biodiversity on the island of Sal.

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Where: Sal Island, Cape Verde.

When: 1stAugust – end of October.

Fieldwork: The fieldwork will be on 1km of beach on Sal Island. Beach patrols will be undertaken overnight and early morning. The candidate will be trained to run full data collection of individual turtles (including: ID Tagging, measurements, skin and blood sampling). Additionally, the assistant will help with satellite tagging and nest relocation as well as in the hatchery later in the season. The assistant will be expected to ensure that data is collected to the highest standards and will take on considerable levels of responsibility at times. The work will be varied and interesting, but extremely challenging. You can expect to learn and improve your practical field skills and be exposed to laboratory protocols.

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Requirements: All training will be provided. However, the suitable research assistant needs to be dedicated to long hours in the field and capable of working independently. A good candidate will be happy working and making decisions independently, whilst being able to function for long periods within a team composed of a wide variety of volunteers, researchers and local workers. Ideally the successful candidate would either be a student or recent graduate holding a degree in a relevant discipline, wanting to gain more experience before continuing a career in a related field.

  • Minimum age of 18.
  • The candidate needs to be fluent in English and language skills in Portuguese or Creole would be beneficial.
  • Physically fit and able to handle challenging conditions (long walks late nights, hot weather, carrying equipment, insects).

Preferred skills include having worked with turtles before and having a strong desire to work in a related career. Preference will be given to those able to commit to the entire season.

Included: Flights to Cape Verde, accommodation, and contribution to subsistence costs will be provided.

Not Included: Food, mobile phone costs, visa costs, medical and travel insurance.

To apply for this position please send a cover letter specifying why you would like to assist in this project, your CV, and names and contact details of two references to l.fouda@qmul.ac.uk and Chris Eizaguirre c.eizaguirre@qmul.ac.uk.

Deadline: Tuesday 26th June – applications will be considered until July 10th in the case no candidate is found before.

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My First Paper.

Just like the first day of school and the first piece of art you bring home, your first paper as a scientist is a pretty big deal and I am super excited about mine. This paper will always be very special to me as it is the first piece of work that I a fully sending out into the world with my colleagues to be continually and forever more judged by my peers.

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Ta-Dah!

This paper is also from a project exceedingly close to my heart it is a topic that I have been interested in for a long time and the road to its completion was not always smooth but what is life without a challenge and out of it has come a piece of work that myself and my colleagues are exceptionally proud of.

The paper is:

Wellard, R., Erbe, C., Fouda, L., Blewitt, M., (2015), Vocalisation of killer whales (Orcinus orca) in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. PLoS ONE 10(9)

It is the result of two years of data collection to look at the different vocalisations produced by the killer whale population in the Bremer Canyon, Western Australia. My involvement was full time in the second year, where I was involved in data collection, data analysis and manuscript preparation.

What did we see I hear you wondering out loud…? Well we used K-Means clustering analysis to group the calls into categories with the most similar acoustic features. We looked at whistles (frequency modulated, tonal sounds, with or without harmonic overtones) and burst pulses (consist of rapidly repeated pulses with inter-pulse intervals shorter than in echolocation click trains). We did also detect clicks while collecting data however they were not a focus of this paper. Through the analysis the calls have been separated into nine different Bremer Canyon call groups four for whistles, three for burst pulses, one for whistles that are pulsed in the middle, and the final group consists of burst pulse to whistle transitions and vice versa.

This paper is unique in that it is the first paper to describe the vocalisation of killer whales in Australia. The vocalisations are the topic of my colleague Bec Wellard’s PhD and there will, I am sure, be many more exciting developments to come in the realm of Australian killer whale acoustics. My focus is now shifting more in the direction of ecology, population studies and conservation so keep your eyes peeled to see what comes with that.

Some of the Bremer Canyon Killer Whales. ©Leila Fouda

Some of the Bremer Canyon Killer Whales. ©Leila Fouda

How did you feel after your first paper was published? Did you keep a close eye on citation indexes and metrics? Was it a thrill or a relief once the paper was submitted and accepted?

I know I am definitely looking forward to working fully on my next paper now!


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula

A Contrasting Orca Adventure.

I have been thinking a lot about writing the post and talking about my time on my second killer whale field season in 2015. It was not the season I had hoped for but it was a season where I learnt a lot about how I would proceed next and what I would do differently and that has to count for something during a period when I am lucky enough to have the time to use to learn and grow as a researcher.

As a preliminary fieldwork season I had more freedom but minimal funds compared to my time in the Bremer Canyon. Due to this I was not able to conduct and complete research in an order and manner to which I have become accustomed to. We were very lucky to have many generous people supporting our research in non-monetary ways such as providing accommodation and boat time which made the limited funds less of a pressing issue. It especially was nice to have a roof over my head after a day on the water. I guess this is all a factor of doing science research at a time when funds for research are minimal and reducing rather than increasing for many areas in particular environmental and conservation research.

Augie.

Augie – the young male killer whale making a beeline for our vessel. ©Leila Fouda

I will forever call this a reconnaissance field season. I now know the region and the local community a lot better, I have a feel for the research site, and through conversations have built up a better network, I have some idea of how the animals like to move in and out of the area from talking to other researchers and I also know that the end of July and beginning of August is much too late in the season to be looking for killer whales in order to collect consistent and robust sightings data.

We were lucky to have one spectacular encounter where we observed a pod of killer whales attempt to predate on a humpback calf in a mum/calf pair over close an hour period. The pod were inquisitive and milling around before hand with several whale shark boats watching from a respectable distance and then there was an almost instant perceptible shift in the animal’s behaviour as (can only be assumed) the pod detected the humpback whale duo and shifted their focus to “predation mode” and went off in pursuit of their prey.

Across the encounter the pod of four killer whales attempted to separate the calf from its mother,  and we were lucky to see the known young male killer whale – Augie – in the pod breach during the action. After 40 minutes though the action came to an abrupt end, from its intensity we were sure the killer whales had been successful in their predation attempt and that the mother humpback would be continuing north alone however, from further investigation by another small vessel it was found that this time the mother humpback had won the “Mum Of The Day” award and was escorting her calf north without any major physical injuries to be seen. The killer whale pod then headed south after this in search of other prey.

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Humpback and killer whale during the predation event. ©Leila Fouda

It was interesting to note that most people on the boats fell into either Team Orca or Team Humpback in regards to who they were “routing for” in the outcome. Maybe next year we will all have t-shirts. It was fascinating to get to see the killer whales involved in this behaviour as predations events were a much rarer occurrence in the Bremer Canyon.

I am excited to see what next year hold when I can have a longer field season in Exmouth and really get to discover more of the secrets of this killer whale population.


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula

The Fieldwork Comedown

We have been back from the field officially for two weeks now and getting back in to the swing of desk life

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Desk Life (Pre-Snacks!!).

It has been tough to go from every day on the ocean to everyday at a screen! This is the other side of the awesomeness, the side where I get to work out what I learnt and how it can be used. The side where I get to disseminate my research once I have researched it and also the side where I get to reconnect with my other colleagues who were not in the field with me to bounce ideas off them and hear their opinion. That part is actually awesome to get a different perspective to my own and expand my thinking beyond the bubble I was in for weeks in the field. Sometimes when you are in your bubble for a long time you struggle to see what is right in front of your nose!

Snack are VERY necessary!

Snack are VERY necessary!

Also, if you are lucky (like me) you have pretty wonderful colleagues who are more than happy to make introductions for you, send you a paper that crossed their path and may not have made it to yours, and also who just want to grab a cup of tea and discuss life, love and cetaceans!

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Missing these black and white cetaceans!

I am missing the open ocean but I feel lucky to be back with a crowd of like minded and unbelievably smart individuals.


You can also follow along on the Deep Blue Conversations Facebook Page. I post interesting articles related to marine conservation, share awesome stories as well as photos from the marine conservation and environmental world in general. Come on over and have a look! I also have Twitter come and join the conversation you can find me as @Leila_Lula!