Meagan Dunphy-Daly is a graduate student at the Duke University Marine Lab studying the effectiveness of marine reserves in protecting apex predators. She also has ongoing research examining bullshark/dolphin interactions in the Neuse River, NC, where she recently caught an 8 foot bullshark.
Well, it’s Shark Week and instead of heading up to the Neuse River to try to track bull sharks, I’m sitting in front of my computer staring at the marine forecast. Right now, we’re under a small craft advisory until tomorrow night and we’re all keeping our eyes on what Tropical Storm Emily is going to do over the weekend. Such is the ever-exciting life of a field biologist. Although there are a fair number of days spent in an office in front of a computer (be it checking the weather, entering data, or hoping that a manuscript will write itself), the days in the field are what make this job so sweet. I’m a graduate student in Dr. Andy Read’s Lab at Duke University and, in addition to my dissertation interest in the effectiveness of marine reserves for apex predators (think sharks, tuna, and billfish), I have the chance to carry out and participate in many other research projects in North Carolina and elsewhere (check out Reny Tyson’s previous posts on our trip to Antarctica). This summer, I’m studying bull shark habitat use in the Neuse River. Andrew joined us for a day of fieldwork last week and, although we didn’t catch a shark on this trip, we caught a big bull shark on the first day of our season the week before.
Fresh from Antarctica, this update comes to us from Dr. Douglas Nowacek, one of the Principal Investigators for the MISHAP project, by way of our field correspondent, Reny Tyson. Follow along with their adventures at Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas.
Southern Fried Notice: Reny Tyson is a graduate student at the Duke University Marine Lab currently on location in Antarctica tracking Humpback Whales. The main expedition blog is Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas hosted at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Follow their adventure as they track Humpbacks through Antarctic Seas.
Today we begin a journey south towards the Western Antarctic Peninsula to begin year 2 of our program, Multi-scale Interdisciplinary Study of Humpback Whales and their Prey, aptly referred to as MISHAP. We are a team of scientists representing 8 institutions and organizations attempting to understand more fully humpback whale foraging ecology in Antarctic waters – how much are they eating, what are their behaviors associated with eating, and how does the behavior of their primary prey, Antarctic krill, affect their foraging behavior. During last years cruise we encountered some of the highest densities of whales ever recorded and many superswarms of krill (over 3 million tons) in several coves and bays along the Peninsula that the whales were happily foraging on. We are using the DTag (Digital acoustic recording tag) to observe the underwater behaviors of whales while concurrently measuring the behavior and density of krill with several acoustic samplers. This year we are adding a few dimensions to our study including putting a crittercam on the whales and obtaining biopsy samples of the animals. We are excited to see how the conditions will be this year – will we encounter such high densities of krill and whales this year? Will the coves be full of ice by the time we get there? We shall find out in a few short days..
Image courtesy Tagging Whales in the Antarctic Seas
From a personal note – I can’t express how grateful I am to be part of such an adventure. To be able to work with these scientists with these animals in this environment is indescribable.