Wednesday 21 May 2014

Dog Days on Dogger Bank

Today marks our third day of sampling on the Dogger Bank Site of Community Importance (SCI), where we’re gathering evidence to help inform future monitoring options. Weather conditions have so far been exceptional with the water colour resembling what you would imagine seeing in some sort of tropical paradise rather than the North Sea!

Scientists and crew deploy a grab into the azure waters of the North Sea (A. Cunha JNCC)

At our first survey area we are collecting data for a Before-After Control Impact (BACI) study. This type of study is designed to experimentally test the effects of a particular event, such as closing an area to fishing or exposing an area to contamination. Samples are taken before the event happens both inside and outside of the affected area. The same locations are then sampled a period of time after the event to see if any changes can be measured. Sampling a control area is important as this helps us to say whether any change measured is happening because of the event or if it can be attributed to other variables or natural variation. 

Our sampling strategy involves collecting grab samples of the seabed to examine the animals living within it and get an idea of the types of sediment that are present. We’ve also been carrying out camera sledge tows and small scientific trawls to see what animals we can find living on the surface of the seabed. Sifting through the animals to classify them by species and size can be a risky business, with the swimming crab Liocarcinus being particularly pinchy! 
Handle with care! Liocarcinus crabs like to snap at the fleshy fingers of unsuspecting scientists... (A. Cunha JNCC)