7 SEYCHELLOIS RESEARCHERS FUNDED TO PARTICIPATE IN NEKTON MISSION.
SeyCCAT and Nekton co-financed five research projects led by different individuals in the Seychelles. Read more about the research projects undertaken on the Nekton Mission in Seychelles, here. All updates are derived from reports of the researchers.
Researchers: Stephanie Marie, Clara Belmont, Andrew Souffe and Nathalie Bodin.
Research Topic: Variability in trophic signatures of zooplankton and food web dynamics within Seychelles waters
Seychelles depends highly on fish, as their main source of protein, and planktons (small microorganisms in the water) happen to play a vital role in fish diet. However, the effect of climate change threaten the plankton communities. In order to ensure good fish quality for consumption the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) needs to observe how climate change is having an effect on the marine ecosystem and in turn, influence the management plan for sustainable fisheries.
Output: Zooplankton sampling protocol using Neuston Net.
COVID-19 delays: Stephanie secured a visit in the laboratories of CSIRO in Tasmania, Australia to undertake the analysis. This cannot take place until travel restrictions are lifted in Seychelles and Australia.
Researcher: Sheena Talma from the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.
Research topic: Spatio-temporal abundance and distribution of ichthyoplankton with the Seychelles waters.
The Indian Ocean remains a region of scientific interest as little research has been conducted within its waters and only a handful have investigated zooplankton communities especially the occurrence of fish larvae and eggs throughout the water column. This project aims to identify species found at different locations throughout the Seychelles waters.
Ichthyoplankton surveys gives valuable information as to the spawning dynamics of a host of different species. With the advancement of genetics methods, scientists are now able to investigate both larvae as well as eggs, with some scientists arguing that fish eggs provide a more precise method to evaluate the spawning habits of fish populations because eggs are easier to track as unlike larvae they do not swim (Richardson et al. 2009). The findings will inform the preliminary species occurrence and spatial distribution of fish larvae in the Seychelles EEZ.
COVID-19 delays: The closure of labs in South Africa has caused delays to the analysis of specimen collected.
Researcher: Dr Jeanne Mortimer
Research question: What species of seagrass and marine algae occur in the outer islands of Seychelles? How are the species distributed from island to island? What is the relationship between water depth and patterns of distribution and species composition? What is the maximum depth in which they can survive?
Jeanne, has so far been involved in shallow water collection from seagrass habitats in Poivre, St Joseph atoll, and Desroches Island (two sites). This involved collecting, curating and archiving sample from each site. Observer reports and photos taken by the submersibles and the ROVs indicated that large amounts of dead seagrass were raining onto the deep sea floor from above—at every depth surveyed during the expedition.
Read the findings and presentations of Dr Jeanne A. Mortimer here
Researcher: Jennifer Appoo – the Science and Projects Coordinator at the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF).
Research question: Investigating the marine predator community around Aldabra to assess connectivity between shallow and deep-sea ecosystems and the effectiveness of the Aldabra marine zonation strategy. This will combine data on top marine predators from the Seychelles Islands Foundation with the data collected from the Nekton Expedition and will provide a complete picture of the marine predator community around Aldabra down to 500m.
Aldabra’s near-shore marine area is divided into three management zones namely tourism zones, food security zones and conservation zones. This type of zonation strategy within a marine protected area is the first in Seychelles. The research will investigate the abundance, diversity and distribution of marine predators around Aldabra from the shallow to the deep sea and the effectiveness of the zoning plan on these top predators. The results will provide valuable lessons for sustainable fisheries management for Aldabra and this model example can be replicated in other locations in the country through the Marine Spatial Planning process.
Final Scientific Report: Aldabra marine predator report_JAppoo_final
Researcher: Damien Labiche assistant conservation officer from the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.
Research Topic: Identification of deep-sea shark and rays
Sharks and rays play an important role in the ecosystem as apex predators. Through a highly collaborative process our project aims to identify deep-sea sharks that may be collected on camera footage from ROV’s drop cameras and subs. The occurrence of species in the area will be key to be able to compare data sets with regional and international partners. This is an important undertaking as it will allow for preliminary data to be collected and possible shark species to be identified in the Seychelles, where previous records do not exist.
COVID-19 delays: This project included hosting a conference in the Seychelles but on hold until travel restrictions and gathering are restricted.
Africa – Oxford Fellowships
The SeyCCAT-Nekton collaboration offered two Seychellois the opportunity to participate in the AFox Fellowship. Read more.
Jennifer is combining data on top marine predators from the Seychelles Islands Foundation with the data collected from the Nekton Expedition to provide a complete picture of the marine predator community around #Aldabra down to 500m.
The results will provide valuable lessons for sustainable fisheries management for Aldabra and this model can be replicated in other locations in the country through the Marine Spatial Planning process.
“My fellowship focussed on, taxonomic identification of fish eggs and larvae, BRUV video analysis, taxonomic identification of black corals (at NRF-SAIAB, South Africa), and fish identification. The majority of my time was spent separating fish larvae and eggs for the zooplankton parent samples. This was a necessary step before going to South Africa to genetically identify and photograph the fish eggs and larvae samples. The fellowship also concentrated on skills necessary for to analyse stereo data of fish. ” Sheena
The researchers had the opportunity to share knowledge from the Nekton Mission through platforms such as the Encounter Edu. View episodes here:
Jennifer and Clara Belmont – https://encounteredu.com/live/broadcasts/submarine-q-a-290319-am
News items related to Nekton Mission:
Seven Seychellois researchers to explore waters up to 500m deep. (Seychelles News Agency)
Two Seychellois women awarded fellowships to Oxford to advance study of marine science (Seychelles News Agency)
Learn more about the Nekton Mission in Seychelles here.