February research blog.
Well February has seemed to just fly by and Minke Witteveen, the new researcher who joined the ORCA Foundation, has been busy settling in and getting ready for a jam-packed and exciting year ahead! We officially started a project collecting elasmobranch egg cases in collaboration with Lisa Schroeter from ELMO (ELasmobranch Monitoring www.elmoafrica.org). We aim to run this project over the course of the year collecting egg cases from three beach sites between Natures Valley and Robberg Nature Reserve. We hope that the information collected will allow us to determine spatial and temporal variation in oviparious (egg-laying) elasmobranch (shark, skate, and ray) species in this area. To date, the ORCA team has collected 209 egg cases for the project, and an additional 106 egg cases (and 2 dead Lesser Guitarfish Rhinobatos annulatus sightings) which we have added to the ELMO database. ELMO is primarily a citizen science project, this means that ANYONE can contribute valuable data to our knowledge of elasmobranchs in the area – if you do have a finding or sighting to add, visit the website above.
Minke has been assisting Alejandra Vargas with her PhD project on Bottlenose Dolphins (Tursiops aduncus) in the Garden Route (www.conserbio.org) for a number of months, and the ORCA team was privileged to join her on a research boat. The team learnt that there was a lot of information to be gained from watching, and taking photos of, dolphins. Over 6 hours at sea saw a tired but happy team beach with hundreds of photos of the pods of Bottlenose Dolphins seen in the bay, and a plan to keep adding to the catalogue of fin profiles by using every boat trip offered to them to take fin profile photos!
The ORCA team also joined a session of bird ringing hosted by Dr Mark Brown from Nature’s Valley Trust (www.naturesvalleytrust.co.za). It is always great fun learning about the various fynbos species and getting hands on releasing birds with their new bling! We will be starting up our own ringing site closer to Plettenberg Bay in March so keep checking our facebook page for news on that!
The first miniSASS of the year was done in Wittedrift on the Bosfonteinrivier – using miniSASS protocol we are able to determine the health of the river, and this information gets uploaded and plotted on an interactive map (www.minisass.org). We are hoping to start regular monitoring of this and other rivers and streams in the Plettenberg Bay area.
We look forward to seeing what the rest of the year is going to bring and what other exciting projects are going to kick off in the next few months!
Written by Minke Witteveen, ORCA Foundation Researcher
These are some of the samples that were found during February.