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Field work with Nature Live

4 Posts tagged with the shark tag

Today we invited the local school children to SWIMS (Spanish Wells Institute of Marine Science, remember!) to have a look at what we have been up to. They really enjoyed sieving for worms in the sand but I think they thought we were all crazy for wearing summer clothes in March!



Above: Diva and Leigh leading a sieving workshop on the beach


While we were sieving with the pupils we came across a tiger shark tooth. Yet more evidence that they are abundant in these waters ... but we still haven’t managed to actually see one on this field trip!



Above: More evidence of sharks - but still no sighting


After the schools children left the team got back to work looking at samples under the microscopes. The big question on everyone’s lips was whether the goat skull we found yesterday had any Osedax on it.


The scientists spent a long time studying the skull and debating the findings. They can see tubes on the skull that belong to a worm but that doesn’t necessarily have to be Osedax.


Adrian is not convinced that it’s Osedax at all. He believes they may have found another polychaete worm from the family Terebellidae.



Above: Terebellidae found on the goat skull


However, if it is Terebellidae then it shouldn’t be living on a goat skull. Usually they live in limestone crevices but the goat skull may be close enough for it to call home. Basically you can see how sometimes discoveries can create more questions than answers! I don’t think we are going to get a conclusive answer before we get back to the Museum.


We only have one day left here in the Bahamas but here are some of the great pieces of footage that REX has shot over the last week.

This is the moment that REX went over the Grand Bahaman Canyon that goes down to 3,000m …



For me, some of the most amazing footage we have seen was when REX went through the purple bacteria in Ocean Hole. Also, look out for when REX meets the goat skull…



Tonight is our last night in the Bahamas. We’re saying goodbye in an appropriate manner – a drink on the beach at sunset!



Above: Our last sunset in the Bahamas


Our last Nature Live event from the Bahamas was a bioblitz with Helena and Diva. It was great fun as we trawled the beach, against the clock, to find whatever we could for the family-friendly audience.



Above: Helena, Diva and 1 talk to the Nature Live audience in London

(Click images to see them full size)


With yesterday’s shark incident still at the fore of our minds, we set out to recover the 2nd package and to try and find and recover the 3rd package.

We made visual contact with the 2nd package late last night but it was getting too dark to bring it to the surface. So we returned to the spot today and hauled it up on to the boat.


The shark damage was obvious but we got a piece of good news…it hadn’t taken all of the whale bones! We found a small bone still attached to the basket which lifted everyone’s spirits. Helena was particularly excited – even though it was a small piece she will be analysing it under the microscope for any evidence of Osedax.



Above: Helena was very pleased that some of the whale bones had been recovered


After lunch we moved on to the 3rd and final package which was perched on the edge of the Great Bahamian Canyon. If it wasn’t were we left it six months ago then it had slipped into the abyss, far out of REX’s reach. It took nearly 2 hours to locate it and the control room was full of people waiting to catch a glimpse of it in the blue. This is the moment Nick spotted it…



After the initial excitement of finding the package we quickly realised that it would be a challenge to recover. At 55m deep, it was too deep for divers to go down to get it so we had to make sure that REX had a good grip on it so as it didn’t drop as it came to the surface. We carefully raised it to the surface and Nick and Leigh jumped in to retrieve it.



Above: Despite its appearance we were very glad to see our basket!


Using REX meant that we knew, even when the experiment was still on the sea floor, that it too had been visited by a curious/hungry shark as all the whale bones were missing. But this time all the wood was still attached to the baskets. We now know that sharks, if given the choice, don’t like eating wood! The best bit was seeing how many lionfish were surrounding the basket…



That wrapped up our time on the boat and it was great that we managed to recover all 3 experiments using REX, it’s just a shame that sharks got to the them before we could!



Above: This sums it all up beautifully. Lesson #1: Sharks like whale bones.


Tomorrow will be a long day of microscope work but the day after we head out to Blue Hole to drop REX down to nearly 200m. Will we get to finally see sharks instead of just their bite marks?!


We started the day early with another successful round of live-video-links to the UK to talk to school pupils and the Nature Live audience in the Attenborough Studio.



Above: Adrian speaks to students back in the UK

(Click images to see them full size)


With the weather improving everyday, we got the news we'd been waiting for yesterday - that we could finally head out to sea and look for the experiments that were laid down six months ago. We left port full of hope for the day ahead and with a large supply of seasickness tablets.


It took nearly an hour to get out to the first site and there was a lot of waiting around but once REX hit the water, the excitement set in. I couldn’t believe I was getting just as excited about finding these whale bones as the scientists were. Would we find the first package and would we find Osedax?



It wasn’t long before we found the package however it wasn’t exactly how we left it…



When the remains of the basket were pulled aboard we saw that there were no whale bones left, let alone Osedax. I had no idea that whale bones were that attractive to sharks but the shark bite marks on the plastic basket were conclusive evidence!


Although everyone was a little disapppointed that the experiment had been lost they quickly started working on the other creatures found living on the basket. They found many different polychaetes and as I type they are still analysing them under the microscope.



Above: Helena and Diva inspecting the remains of the experiment for any life


As we moved on to the 2nd site many in the team were left wondering, what state would the next experiment be in?!


Adrian did a great job of piloting the ROV and we found the second package in a relatively short period of time. But REX delivered some more bad news…



We were asked today by a student during our live video link if Jaws could happen. Well, I suppose if you’re a plastic basket it most certainly can!


We're heading out tomorrow to look for the third package which is deeper down at 55 metres. Will it be sharks - 3, scientists - 0?


And don't forget you can speak to Helena and Diva live in the Bahamas today at 2.30pm in the Attenborough Studio.



What do you study?

At the museum, my project looks at organic falls - these are large packages of food like dead whales and trees that sink to the seafloor. Once on the seafloor they provide lots of food and shelter for many deep sea animals and a whole new ecosystem is formed. My background is mainly deep sea biology but growing up in the Caribbean has allowed me to have good knowledge of tropical biology also.


What are you most excited about seeing/finding on the trip?

It would be incredible to find some Osedax worms on the bone packages we put down in October when we were last there, as they would be the first ones found in tropical waters. I’m also really looking forward to seeing some sharks as the Bahamas recently declared their national waters as a shark sanctuary.


Where have you been previously on field work?

I have previously done some field work off Bermuda and more importantly, I was part of the scientific team that journeyed to the Cayman Trench to discover the world's deepest hydrothermal vents. I've also done some work in my home of Trinidad and Tobago.


What is your best experience whilst on field work?

The best experience I've had while on field work would be when we saw the first live footage of the world’s deepest hydrothermal vents and the amazing animals living around them. It was so amazing to realise that our expedition were the first people on the planet to see this environment. I definitely shed a tear or two.


What advice would you give to someone going on field work for the first time?

Preparation is key - always have a back-up plan!