Friday 28 June 2019

Back on Solid Land Blog#8

Back on solid land!

After a really successful survey we have made it back to solid, dry land! On this survey we have completed all our planned survey objectives and, due to the kind weather and our effective team, we have also collected additional data which will tell us even more about Greater Haig Fras MCZ!

In total the survey:

  • Took 5 months of planning
  • Lasted 20 days
  • Involved 14 Scientists 
  • Completed 244 Video Tows
  • Collected 134 Hamon Grab Samples
  • Completed 167 Hours of Acoustic data collection

The maps below shows the successful stations visited.

Wednesday 12 June 2019

Getting beneath the skin of animals on survey Blog#7

As part of the sampling work the team have been carrying out, we have been collecting samples to support the work of our colleagues at the Natural History Museum and the Darwin Tree of Life project: ( 

During the collection of grab samples, we occasionally get samples that aren’t suitable for our MPA monitoring work. These samples may have had a stone caught in the grab jaws and have sediment washed out or have too little sediment for us to use. Rather than dispose of these samples, the team have been using them to collect individual animals, especially worms, sponges, bryozoans, starfish and brittlestars for the project, making maximum use of the time we spend and data we collect at sea.

Processing the DNA samples in the vessel's lab © JNCC/Cefas

When we’ve identified a sample for DNA analysis, we sieve off the sediment and retain the animals we find as well as any individuals living on the stones and cobbles that we’ve collected. The specimens are then identified by how they look to the eye (their morphotype) and a sample is extracted and preserved in ethanol to allow experts ashore to identify the animal and sequence its genome ( This allows us to build up a large dataset on what the genome of different species and morphotypes looks like, which is known as a biobank. One special request we’ve had is for the pelican foot gastropod (Aporrhais pespelecani) so watch this space to see if any turn up!

Keep up to date with all the latest from survey by following this blog, and using #CEND0719 on our Twitter and Facebook profiles!

Survey Fun Fact:
Aporrhais pespelecani is the Latin for ‘pelican’s foot’ which describes the outer lip of the gastropod which expands to a shape similar to that of the webbed foot of a pelican.   

Sunday 9 June 2019

A grab in the dark… the depths of Greater Haig Fras Blog#6

Hello again from Greater Haig Fras MCZ! The team here have been working hard to collect imagery and sediment samples from across the site in the last few days. The grabs that we have collected so far have highlighted the variety of biodiversity across this site with very diverse fauna and habitats found, including rocks, boulders and mud!

Optimum grabbing conditions on board the RV Cefas Endeavour © JNCC/ Cefas

The grab samples will form part of our monitoring dataset for the site and provide us with an insight into the world that these animals live in.

When we get grabs on-board, they are sieved down to uncover all of the hidden animals within the sediment. Sometimes these animals may have not been seen in these areas before, or in some cases may be new to science completely. On this survey we have already seen brittle stars, the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus and ragworms, alongside many other polychaetes, with many more species likely to be seen as we still have half the grabs to go!

An insight into some of the species the team have come across whilst on survey © JNCC/ Cefas

Collecting imagery data further allows the teams to investigate the seafloor habitats © JNCC/ Cefas

In addition to learning more about the animals in the site, particle size analysis of the sediment collected will allow us to 'classify' each grab we take (for how we do this, see, which in turn allows us to map where habitats are across the site.

Keep up to date with all the latest from survey by following this blog, and using #CEND0719 on our Twitter and Facebook profiles!

Survey Fun Fact:
The prefix "RV" on the name of the vessel "Cefas Endeavour" stands for Research Vessel. Prefixes like this allow for identification of the ship's purpose and have also been used in the past to denote the propulsion method, such as SS- Steam Ship. James Cook, on his voyage of discovery to Australia and New Zealand in the 1700's, captained the HMS Endeavour- His Majesty's Ship Endeavour.  

Saturday 1 June 2019

Echoes in the deep Blog#5

At Greater Haig Fras MCZ we have been busy collecting multibeam data from within the site, to the north and west of the central Haig Fras rock complex. We’ve targeted the survey area with the multibeam echosounder to hopefully capture the variety of habitats within the site on a larger scale than we can with grabbing or video techniques.

A multibeam echosounder is an acoustic tool that sends sound waves to the seabed and listens for how long that sound takes to return and how loud it is when it gets back. Multibeam tells us several things about the seabed; while perhaps most often used to chart the ocean depths to a very high degree of accuracy, it can also tell us about how rough and hard the seabed is. Check out this animation by The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Processing the multibeam data on board the Endeavour © JNCC/Cefas

Close up of some processed multibeam data © JNCC/Cefas

Having specialist technicians and equipment onboard means we can process the multibeam data we’re collecting in almost real time, allowing the scientists onboard to interpret it and use it to inform where we should place additional grab and video stations to make best use of the time we have at sea. Don’t forget you can track the vessel throughout the survey at

Survey Fun Fact: The Haig Fras rock complex is the only substantial rocky reef in the offshore Celtic Sea. It is composed predominantly of granite and this bedrock supports many species including anemones, brittle stars, and Devonshire cup corals to name a few.

Keep up to date with all the latest from survey by following this blog, and using #CEND0719 on our Twitter and Facebook profiles!