Here at SAMPLA, we like to be called “dirty” scientists – perhaps a little ambiguous but it basically refers to us getting our work done in the field, with the smell of rotting fish and the ocean swell, rather than in an office (which is sometimes required, too!)
The sea can be a dangerous and unpredictable place, so bad weather puts us firmly behind the desk. Behind the desk we work on data, we deal with administration (boring!!!) or take care of vessel maintenance. For the last three days, the weather has been bad. The chores have to be done, but this is also an opportunity for us to introduce you to our internship program. SAMPLA started the 2008 internship program last February. Thus far, we have focused on surveying the seal movements to and from Seal Island and taking photos of the white sharks for our identification study.
Before introducing the students, we would like to set the scene by telling you a little about Mossel Bay. Mossel Bay is a benign location. With the sea reaching temperatures up to 25°C in Mossel Bay during summer, and a generally mild climate the year round (only Hawaii is ‘milder’) we, as do the great whites (or so it appears) love this place. However, even a place as agreeable as Mossel Bay has its off days. Currently, we have two students gaining first hand experience of what it is like to work on a multi-program research project, an experience that has been restricted to desk duty for the last three days on account of heavy swells.
The two students we have seem more than capable of dealing with on or off days.
Antonin, a 23 years old from France, is a polite student who is willing to help and has an adventurous spirit – highly valued qualities at SAMPLA. He is working on a project for his master’s degree concerning predator-prey interactions between the white sharks and the Cape fur seals.
The second student is Andrea, a 28 years old Italian. He is passionate about research work and also enjoys books concerning cultures and societies (no shortage of culture in Africa!) He is eager to learn about the radio telemetry techniques and is working towards gaining an understanding of individual movement patterns of the white sharks within the bay. The times he invests in mastering radio telemetry here will enable him to use similar techniques studying the spiny dogfish in Italy’s Adriatic Sea.
Both students fit perfectly into the SAMPLA mould: they are both diligent, adventurous and passionate.
So although currently stuck behind the desk with the bad weather outside, we eagerly anticipate our return to the ocean, ready to tag and track great white sharks and gain new insights into the behaviour of this legendary creature.