The cool thing about Twitter is that one can converse with scientists around the world from the comfort of your own home.
It's on Twitter where TFUI Founder Melissa met Samantha Sherman, a PhD student at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia (aka Melissa's dream school). Melissa began to follow Samantha's adventurous life , as she is currently working as part of the Global FinPrint project and is the secretary of the Oceania Chondrichthyan Society.
Samantha completed her undergraduate honours degree in Marine and Freshwater Biology at the University of Guelph in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 2012. She then moved to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia to teach SCUBA diving, and began a Masters at James Cook University. The rest... well, all very exciting as Samantha travels the world!
She hopes to add to the limited knowledge scientists have of ray diversity, abundance and distribution, particularly in SE Asia.
The Fins United Initiative: What is your project about?
Samantha Sherman: My project looks at batoid diversity and abundance throughout Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific. It is part of the Global FinPrint project (www.globalfinprint.org). There is very little known about batoid populations so this is a baseline survey to see what species' and abundances of batoids exist in these areas. I will also be looking at seasonality of batoids in Indonesia, comparing diversity and abundance in wet and dry seasons.
TFUI: What are BRUVs?
SS: BRUVS are baited remote underwater video systems. They consist of a metal frame housing a GoPro (or other video camera) with bait in front of the camera. Having the bait attracts predators like sharks and rays to the front of the camera allowing for the species and sex to be identified.
TFUI: What does BRUV data help show?
SS: BRUVS data can help show many things. Because there is a video record of everything, species specific data can be acquired more easily than other survey methods. Behaviour can also be analysed as it is unaffected by humans.
TFUI: What data do you hope to get from them?
SS: I hope to get a good baseline of batoid populations. In Southeast Asia, elasmobranch catches are the highest in the world so this project will allow for an indication of the abundance of sharks and rays in this area. Batoid populations in the Western Pacific have not been studied so there is no baseline data for that region. This BRUVS study will provide some insights into these populations.
TFUI: How have you found working with BRUVS to be like? What are the challenges?
SS: This is my first time working with BRUVS and so far it has been a great learning experience. BRUVS are an advantageous survey method because you can set many at a time, we set 6 or 7 at once. We can get 7 hours of data in just a single hour with one crew, which you can't do when swimming transects. BRUVS also provide a permanent record, meaning you can watch footage over and over again to get a better look at an animal for species or sex. You can also watch the footage with different questions in mind. In this project, I have volunteers that look for elasmobranchs, turtles, snakes, morays, cephalopods, and mammals. Someone else could watch the same footage and look at teleosts. Using BRUVS mean there is a plethora of questions that can be answered.
Working with BRUVS can also be quite frustrating. It is great when you see exciting things on the videos, like big tiger sharks or a rare species, but it's also frustrating knowing this was happening just below you and you didn't get to see it yourself.
TFUI: What’s been the most interesting BRUV video data you’ve had?
SS: Some of the most interesting things we have seen are not directly related to the project questions but have just been interactions between animals. As a diver, I'm used to seeing entertaining moments underwater but on the videos, when animals don't know we're watching, there are more intricate interactions. For example, we have seen mating behaviour in some rays, a long fight between a crab and an octopus (the crab won), and sharks rolling on their back to feed from the bait bag.
If you are interested in seeing more photos and videos from BRUVS follow Samantha on Twitter @SammSherman27 and follow Global FinPrint @globalfinprint
you may also like:
TFUI Founder Melissa C. Marquez is author of all animal bios and "Behind the Fins" segments.
SEE MELISSA'S TEDx TALK HERE:
SEARCH BY CATEGORIES