Expedition blogs and news from the Shallow Marine Surveys Group

Team Members Sam and Nicola Weber

[caption id="attachment_175" align="alignleft" width="300"]Nicola Weber Dr Nicola Weber
University of Exeter & Ascension Island Government

Nicola and Sam Weber are Darwin Post-Doctoral Research Fellows at the University of Exeter and Ascension Island Government. They are based on Ascension where they are responsible for coordinating a Darwin Initiative project that will produce the first Biodiversity Action Plan for the Island. The project, which began in July, will bring together partner organisations from the UK, Sweden and Ascension to produce a series of Species Action Plans (SAP) for priority species that identify current threats and develop targeted strategies for their conservation. Prior to starting their present posts, Sam and Nicola were running an Overseas Territories Environment Programme project, which aimed to update population size estimates for nesting green turtles on Ascension Island and produce a revised management plan for this species.

[caption id="attachment_176" align="alignleft" width="225"]Sam Weber Dr Sam Weber
University of Exeter & Ascension Island Government

Sam first visited Ascension in 2007 as a PhD student at the University of Exeter to carry out research on the reproductive ecology of green turtles, and has been trying to find ways to come back ever since! Prior to starting his PhD, Sam also completed an MSc in Biodiversity and Conservation at the University of Exeter. He is a keen recreational diver and is looking forward to surveying some of the remoter corners of Ascension’s coast as a part of the SMSG team. Nicola has a BSc (Hons) in Marine and Environmental Biology from the University of St Andrews where she carried out her dissertation with the Sea Mammal Research Unit studying the energetics of grey seals. She also learnt to dive here in the cold Scottish waters where she gained her BSAC Dive Leader qualification. After completing an MSc in Conservation and Biodiversity at the University of Exeter, she remained there to carry out her PhD where she deployed proximity loggers to study the movement and contact patterns of the European badger and the implications that these have for the spread of bovine tuberculosis.

Within this group expedition to Ascension Island, Nicola and Sam will be assisting with dive surveys where needed, but in terms of research they will be focussing primarily on the critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles that are found in the near-shore habitats around Ascension. The hawksbills at Ascension are probably juveniles using it as a staging post before recruiting to adult feeding grounds in West Africa or Brazil, but compared to their more famous cousins the green turtles, very little is known about them. With the help of the SMSG team, Sam and Nicola are hoping to expand the flipper-tagging programme for hawksbills on Ascension to answer fundamental questions on population size, residence time and growth rate. They will also be taking DNA samples to help determine which nesting population(s) the juveniles around Ascension originate from, and collecting observational data on diet and distribution around the Island.

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Team Member Frithjof Kuepper

[caption id="attachment_169" align="alignleft" width="300"]Frithjof Kuepper Prof. Frithjof Kuepper
University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

Frithjof has recently been appointed to the Chair in Marine Biodiversity at the University of Aberdeen, after previous appointments at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS; initially as Lecturer and Head of the Culture Collection of Algae and Protozoa from 2003 until late 2008, then as Reader).

Over the past 20 years, he has studied the chemical ecology, physiology, biochemistry and biodiversity of aquatic and marine plants/algae, especially in the context of biotic / abiotic stress and biogeochemical cycles, resulting in the publication of 60 peer-reviewed papers and 3 book chapters.

At pre-university level, he won international recognition with First Prizes at the European Community Contest for Young Scientists and at the Young Europeans' Environmental Research Competition. He received a French-German Ph.D. on brown algal stress responses and pathologies (1998-2001), working at the CNRS – Station Biologique de Roscoff (France), the University of Konstanz and at the Université de Paris-Sud XI / Orsay, supported by fellowships of the German Academic Merit Foundation (Studienstiftung des deutschen Volkes) and of the European Commission (Marie Curie doctoral fellowship). He further studied the role of microbial metal chelators in marine ecosystems as a post-doctoral fellow at the University of California, Santa Barbara (2001-3), where he remained a visiting professor in the Dept. of Ecology, Evolution and Marine Biology (EEMB) until 2010.

Besides pathologies, he is interested in algal halogen metabolism and the atmospheric impact of algal halogen emissions. This work resulted in the first-ever description of an inorganic antioxidant in a living system, iodide in kelp, and was selected as one of the 100 Science Stories of the Year 2008 by DISCOVER Magazine.

He has conducted and participated in expeditions and field trips with a scope in phycological / marine research throughout the world, notably to the Shetland Islands, French Polynesia, Malaysia, Chile, Argentina, the Falkland Islands, Japan, California, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, the Canadian Arctic, and, most recently, Antarctica (Adelaide Island) and Ascension Island.

He has been a member of the Editorial Board of Marine Biotechnology from 2004-2010 and he currently is a member of the Editorial Board of Algae, the Peer Review College of the UK Natural Environment Research Council, and he was a member of the Council of the British Phycological Society from 2004-2007. Frithjof is fluent in English, Modern Greek, French, and German.

Within the framework of this project in Ascension, Frithjof (jointly with Kostas Tsiamis) is particularly interested in establishing an inventory of Ascension’s macroalgae and in understanding some of the major questions of algal benthic ecology around Ascension, including why coralline red algae (rather than corals) dominate much of the benthos, and whether deeper parts of the euphotic zone of Ascension’s benthos might harbour kelp populations.

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Guest — Journal of Biotechnology
Hearty Congrats.....It's great reading your article.
Friday, 27 July 2012 2:02 PM
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Team Member Simon Browning

[caption id="attachment_138" align="alignleft" width="274"]Simon Browning Lt Col. Simon Browning
British Forces South Atlantic Islands

Simon graduated from Swansea University in Environmental Biology, sharing a room, for one term, with Dave Barnes, before heading to Ireland delivering research support to Matt Murphy at Sherkin Island, where he led the Littoral Flora and Fauna survey team, red seaweeds his specialisation. Refocus set him towards the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst; successful commission sent him to far flung destinations with the Royal Logistics Corps including Belize, Kuwait, Iraq, Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Sierra Leone, Afghanistan and finally to the Falkland Islands.

His passion for marine biology never far from the meniscus; enthralled by the biodiversity of places such as Belize, Falklands and UK, diving is central to his core interests. Whilst in the UK he enjoyed contributing to Seasearch UK diving around the south coast recording worm casts, biodiversity and marine habitats.

A diver of over 24 years he is a BSAC Dive Leader and boat handler. Simon has been diving regularly with both the Shallow Marine Surveys Group and the Falkland Island Sub Aqua Club for the last 12 months, fascinated by the diverse marine life and enthralled by the Fur Seals and Sea Lions.

The opportunity to be part of an auspicious scientific diving project to Ascension Island will undoubtedly be a pinnacle event and leading the contribution to logistic planning professionally satisfying.

Simon’s philosophy logistics, the power behind the punch

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Team Member Sarah Browning

[caption id="attachment_132" align="alignleft" width="300"]Sarah Browning Sarah Browning
Falkland Islands Sub Aqua Club (FISAC)

Sarah has been living in the Falkland Islands for just under 12 months, coming here with her husband Simon in August 2011 on a 2 year tour. She is the Falkland Islands Sub Aqua Club (FISAC) Treasurer and Secretary.

Sarah has been diving since 2004, diving all over the world in wonderful locations such as the Maldives, Oman, Tobago, Malta and the UK from Scotland to Cornwall to the beautiful Pembrokeshire coast. A keen conservationist, Sarah has undertaken a number of dives with Sea Search UK around the south coast enjoying activities such as recording marine life and habitats and helping to mark out an artifical reef. She was also a volunteer with the Episkopi Turtle watch in Cyprus during a three year posting there where, amongst other things, she enjoyed the excitement of camping overnight on beaches waiting for turtles to come ashore to lay eggs.

Since arriving in the Falklands Sarah has been diving regularly with both the Shallow Marine Surveys Group and the FISAC, enjoying the pristine South Atlantic waters and diverse marine life, as well as slowly overcoming her fear of very large sea lions close up!

A BSAC Dive Leader, Assistant Instructor and Boat Handler she is looking forward to participating in this exciting project and getting some Ascension Islanddives in her dive log.

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Guest — Linda Foulkes-Stokes
Hi Sarah - was searching for something totally different and got you! Hi from everybody you know at Epi Turtlewatch and belated c... Read More
Saturday, 12 January 2013 7:07 PM
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Team Member Kostas Tsiamis

[caption id="attachment_124" align="alignleft" width="218"]Kostas Tsiamis Dr Konstantinos Tsiamos
Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR), Greece.

Konstantinos (Kostas) Tsiamis is a biologist, focusing on biological oceanography. He has recently gained his PhD diploma in the Biology Department of Athens University, specializing on macroalgae taxonomy and ecology. Currently, he is a Post-Doc researcher in the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research (HCMR, Greece). Over the past 9 years, he has been studying phycology, focusing on marine macrophytes: seaweeds (green, brown and red macroalgae) and seagrasses. Their biology, ecology, taxonomy and systematics are the main fields of his research. His PhD-thesis focused on alien marine macroalgae off the Greek coasts, with special interest in their taxonomy and impact to the indigenous flora.  In addition, studies of pollution impacts to marine vegetation as well as coastal management are also included in his research topics.

Within the framework of this project in Ascension, his primary research target will be to establish an inventory of Ascension’s seaweed flora. He will be working together with Prof. Frithjof Kuepper. Together, they have done similar phycological exhibitions during the last 3 years in several areas of Greece and Cyprus.

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Team Member Simon Morley

[caption id="attachment_110" align="alignleft" width="226"]Simon Morley Dr Simon Morley
British Antarctic Survey, Cambridge, UK.

Simon Morley is a marine ecophysiologist at the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) with nearly 20 years experience of physiology research. He has published 40 research papers and book chapters. During this time he has conducted marine surveys and collections in tropical, temperate and polar oceans, gaining a broad knowledge of  fauna in diverse assemblages from deep Antarctic walls to tropical reefs. He has published papers on the physiology of fish, bryozoans and molluscs.

Simon is an experienced dive instructor with over a thousand logged dives on all seven continents and hopes to bring this experience to the team.

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Latest Posts

Latest Comments

Dave John Hunting seaweeds around Ascension
31 August 2013
Great to see underwater photos of this very unusual submarine environment where the ubiquitous black...
Helen Marsh Team Member Stedson Stroud
03 July 2013
Great to hear more about Stedsons work, and how he got started, having met him on Ascension Island l...
Simon Plummer Volunteer Ecological Surveyors
10 June 2013
I can’t stop smiling thinking of what a brilliant time you are having. The fact that I can visualise...
Simon Plummer Black triggerfish anecdotes
10 June 2013
An enjoyable and funny read, thank you steve for making me chuckle.
Simon Plummer Ascension Island fish record
10 June 2013
The photos are brilliant, envious.


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