Association of Polar Early Career Scientists

 

Antarctic Top Predator Meeting at POLAR2018

Jaimie Cleeland (APECS Representative to EG-BAMM)

The Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research (SCAR) Expert Group on Birds and Marine Mammals (EG-BAMM) met in Davos on June 16th, 2018 as part of POLAR2018. The meeting represents a gathering of polar researchers to discuss key issues and concerns regarding higher order Southern Ocean predators. Opened by Chair, Mark Hindell (IMAS, UTAS, Australia) and Deputy Chair, Yan Ropert-Coudert (CEBC – CNRS, France), the Davos meeting focussed on new technologies and international collaborative research initiatives.

Satellite imagery and drones are becoming increasingly popular tools to study polar wildlife populations. Hans Ulrich Peter (Polar and Bird Ecology Group, Jena University, Germany), Chair of the Action Group on Remote Sensing revealed that now through SCAR and the European Space Agency researchers have access to an important resource for censusing Antarctic wildlife: freely available and high quality multispectral imagery data from Sentinel-2 satellite based on a 10 days revisit time.

Anton van de Putte (Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Belgium) from the Trophic Interactions working group then enlightened us on the development of SCAR Southern Ocean Diet and Energetics Database (https://data.aad.gov.au/trophic/). This SCAR (EG-BAMM and Antarctic Biodiversity Informatics, EG-ABI) product contains information on the diet and energy flow for Southern Ocean species and ecosystems that is vital to a broad range of Antarctic and Southern Ocean biological and ecological studies.

The SCAR Health Monitoring Working Group aims to strengthen relationships within the Antarctic wildlife disease research community to work together on polar wildlife health. The group is currently working with EG-BAMM and Expert Group on Human Biology and Medicine (EG-HBM) members to develop protocols for mass mortality events of wildlife to be endorsed by SCAR and submitted to the Committee of Environmental Protection of the Antarctic Treaty through the Standing Committee on the Antarctic Treat System (SCATS). Andreas Barbosa (Spanish National Research Council, Spain) reported that after a successful workshop at Polar2018 a future workshop on methodology to study disease and health status in Antarctica is in planning. Clive McMahon (Sydney Institute for Marine Science, Australia) discussed new project assessing health of elephant seals across multiple Antarctic bases using blood samples and tagging.

The Retrospective Antarctic Animal Tracking Database (RAATD) is a multi-species assessment of Antarctic top predators to identify areas of ecological importance and an important SCAR product. Mark Hindell recounted on RAATDs latest activities, revealing that to date it has collated data from 79 contributors from 46 institutions, resulting in 4060 tracks over 3 million location fixes from Southern Ocean predators.

Susan Gallon (French Agency for Biodiversity, France) invited interested researchers to the Important Marine Mammal Area (IMMA) Southern Ocean Workshop, which will take place in Brest, France from 15th to 19th October 2018 (marinemammalhabitat.org). This meeting falls within an IUCN task force bringing together Marine Conservation and Management initiatives, which can utilise products of the IMMA Process.

Meagan Dewar (Federation University, Australia) gave a short presentation highlighting the Oxford Nanopore MinION, which is a small, cost effective device used for real-time processing for DNA and RNA sequencing, and its applicability to predator research in remote settings.

Prior to wrapping up, the meeting participants went on to propose four new working groups (WGs) recommended for scoping documents including:

  • Functional Response: a quantitative assessment of predator-prey interactions
  • Tag Resights: focussing on collation and integration of tag resightings
  • Demographic Synthesis to identify status and trends
  • Cetacean working group to summarize Southern Ocean research and highlight gaps in knowledge

The future of the proposed working groups looks bright with early career researchers well represented in all groups.

EG-BAMM welcomes new members to all meetings and encourages early career researcher participation in meetings and working groups. The next meeting is scheduled for the 2020 SCAR Conference in Hobart. At the meeting in 2020, new leadership roles will be determined for the upcoming eight years, including Chief, Deputy, and Secretary roles. See you there!

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