Tuesday 8 May 2018

Farnes East MCZ and the end of another survey

It’s come to that time and we’ve reached the end of another survey. We’ve had a packed survey schedule and I’m really pleased with everything we have managed to achieve over the last couple of weeks. This includes more than 500 Hamon grab samples, and over 10 hours of video footage collected across Farnes East MCZ and North East of Farnes Deep MCZ.

At Farnes East MCZ we have now set up 16 sentinel monitoring stations, which we can use to build up a long-term time series to understand how the habitats and species communities at the site change over time.
Sampled stations at Farnes East MCZ

Completed sampling stations at Farnes East MCZ. Showing the long-term monitoring stations set up to show trends at the site, and the mud stations chosen to better understand the distribution so sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities at the site.

We also sampled areas of subtidal mud at Farnes East MCZ. In this substrate type we have evidence for, or suspect the habitat feature of conservation importance (FOCI) sea-pen and burrowing megafauna communities to be present. The burrows created by species such as Nephrops norvegicus are a key feature of this habitat. This data collected here will give us a better understanding of the distribution of this FOCI at the site.
A surprised little Nephrops norvegicus caught on camera

Nephrops norvegicus builds its burrows in muddy seabed habitats. This crustacean goes by many names, you may know it as; “Norway lobster”, “Dublin Bay prawn”, “Langoustine”, or “Scampi”.

The next step will be to have all this raw data processed and analysed, the results of which will be made available in a monitoring report.

So it’s goodbye to Farnes East MCZ and North East of Farnes Deep MCZ for now, but we’ll be back!

Thanks for all the effort from the Cefas scientists and crew of the Cefas Endeavor for making this another successful partnership survey.
Obligatory sunset photo from the end of the survey
Written by James Albrecht

Tuesday 1 May 2018

Sieving in the Moonlight

As my first survey with JNCC, and working alongside Cefas I was incredibly excited when James and I boarded their research vessel, the Cefas Endeavour. At the time of writing, I am one week into the 12-day survey, and we have made great progress.
Couldn't get a closer selfie as the Cefas Endeavour wouldn't fit in!
The team has completed the survey of North East of Farnes Deep MCZ, and collected a full dataset that will help us assess how the features of the site change over time. Being on the night shift team, it was quite daunting to get used to a working pattern of 00:00-12:00, and really weird to say “Good Morning!” to the team at 23:30, and “Sleep well!” at 13:00! But after a couple of days (and mountains of coffee) we’ve got into the swing of things. 
Hamon grab before deployment
The survey at North East of Farnes Deep MCZ was focused on gathering evidence of the broadscale habitats of the area and the infaunal communities by using sediment grabs with a Hamon Grab. 
Although it sounds strange, I have found sieving mud, gravel and sand is a fantastic method to see the complexity and variety of life on the seabed here, and we were lucky enough to land several of the species of conservation interest, Arctica islandica, or ocean quahog,  for which the site is designated to conserve.
James sieving the sediment samples
Plenty of variety in the sieved sediment samples!
After effectively sampling North East of Farnes Deep MCZ, Cefas Endeavour steamed south west to Farnes East MCZ, which we have been sampling for a few days now. The survey at Farnes East MCZ is designed to build up a robust dataset and evidence on order to inform management and further monitoring efforts of the site, and includes camera sled operations as well as Hamon grabbing. 
Camera sledge in the moonlight
The camera sled has given a fantastic view of the seabed, and we have seen plenty of evidence of the burrowing megafauna that the site is designated for, as well as many hagfish, crabs, sea stars, tube worms, anemones and bryozoans. Although unfortunately today camera operations have been suspended. Gathering information has not ceased though, and grabbing of the site to develop sentinel stations, in order to allow of change over long-term scales to be assessed effectively, has gone underway! In certain areas (and today especially) sediment grabbing can be hit and miss, and it often feels as if we are fishing for cobblestones, rather than infaunal species! However, we’ve been lucky in grabbing fish, octopus and hagfish, which got everyone excited! 

The fish we found in one of our grab samples

Tomorrow (or 00:00 tonight, actually) we continue to survey Farnes East MCZ, taking grabs at the sentinel stations which represent each of the broadscale habitats within the site and hopefully continue with camera sledding deployments! But right now, I’m going to get some rest!

Written by Chris McCabe