Let's hear from some of our interns:
White shark research by Peter Berney
I’ve now been an intern here at Oceans Research in Mossel bay for a week but it has been such an amazing week with so many new experiences that I will never forget. On Wednesday it was my birthday and in the morning was my first time chumming for Great white sharks. We took a boat out in to the bay and after only half an hour of throwing chum into the water came the first great white I have ever seen, which was amazing, this was then followed by another eight over the course of about five hours ranging in length from around 2 to 4 meters.
Dolphin research by Lucinda Farmery
There are around six watch spots along the coastline of Mossel Bay. The one we visited was based on a hotel balcony. We scanned the ocean once every 30mins with binoculars to see if we could see any dolphin pods. This provides more of an understanding on how the dolphins move around the bay.
I have only been here a week so far, but overall I had had a really enjoyable experience. It’s hard work, but the work is rewarding. It also makes you appreciate the weekends a great deal!
Aquarium research by Jordan Housiaux and Janette Theuner
At the Ocean’s aquarium/ Shark Lab we learnt how to do water changes, how to feed the different animals and how to record data for these jobs. The one thing we picked up quickly from hanging at the aquarium that we weren’t expecting was the close relationship between the public and the aquarium staff and the importance of educating people.
Another aspect of the aquarium we enjoyed from day one was the interactions we got to have with the animals. We are using some of the sea stars to do research and we will present this project at the end of the month.
Seal research by Jessie Lee
January marks a new year for many things for Oceans Research. For one, the seal survey method has changed as of December 2010, where daytime surveys of the Cape fur seal (Artocephalus pusillus pusillus) movements from Seal Island are now done on the boat instead of from a nearby hotel rooftop, and in sectors other that the main seal movement path of Sector 2 at night. Seal surveys are now conducted in random sectors (total 6) around Seal Island, and in set blocks of 6 hours (0700-1300, 1300-1900, 1900-0100 and 0100-0700) which allows different shifts of people to have their schedules fit accordingly for the week. Changing from 24 hour blocks also means that all is not lost through bad weather. Which four time blocks we have for the week is totally random, as is our anchoring position, adding a little more variety to proceedings.
Given the opportunity to be closer to Seal Island, we can see that there are currently pups on the island, and gather incidental data regarding seal activities off the island: feeding on fish inshore of island, and some playful behaviour. Among the other benefits is that individual seals who are returning slowly are less likely to be missed than they would through binoculars from the hotel rooftop. Much is yet to be learned about seal behaviour, but having access to a boat has greatly helped with providing more data regarding their activity and consequently that of their main predator, the great white shark. Little activity is still good data even during the day when seals do not normally leave the island, and anchoring in the sectors with fewer seal movements is important so we can obtain field data (or a lack thereof) to support our previous predictions.
A total of six people are on board the vessel to take two-hour shifts in pairs observing any seal activity. Having a shift in the afternoon may make seal surveying seem like a bit of breeze, even like sunbathing on a boat. The sun’s rays are piercing and hard on the eyes without sunglasses though, and sunscreen is a must spending six hours under the sun. However, when one is assigned to a 1900-0100 or 0100-0700 shift, the situation changes drastically - people wearing as many clothes as possible and trying to find any inch of dry space aboard the boat. One lucky person may seek the cabin for shelter, leaving the rest out in the night cold of Mossel Bay. Those not asleep may be treated to the tranquillity of a pod of bottlenose dolphins swimming by in the darkness, and everyone secretly hopes to witness a white shark breach in ambush of its prey. Having the boat available during the day has allowed greater flexibility and scientific accuracy for seal survey, and it has also opened doors to embracing the field work of marine research.