Rocky Shores: an interview with John Archer-Thomson and Julian Cremona

Rocky Shores is the seventh installment of the popular British Wildlife Collection.

Image result for rocky shores bloomsbury

The exciting environment of the rocky shore receives a space in the limelight with this new volume. The authors guide the reader through all aspects of the rocky shore including geology, ecology and natural history. It would make a fantastic addition to any naturalist’s book shelf.

 

 

John Archer-Thomson

John Archer-Thomson and Julian Cremona have spent their lives in environmental education and conservation. They are a former deputy head and head respectively of the Field Studies Council’s Dale Fort Field Centre in Pembrokeshire. John is now a freelance coastal ecologist, photographer, writer and tutor, while Julian is the author of several books on exploration, nature and photography.

Julian Cremona

To introduce the authors and their book, we took the opportunity to talk to them about their inspiration for this volume and ask for tips for how we can get involved with rocky shores. Both authors will be signing copies which are available to pre-order on the NHBS website.

What drew you both to this habitat and inspired the production of this fascinating book?

©John Archer-Thomson

As we say in Chapter 1, we were both born near the coast and grew up loving the sea and so were always drawn to the intertidal, especially as many of the inhabitants are quite weird. From the earliest days with the Dorset Wildlife Trust John enjoyed communicating his love of the shore and the importance of its conservation and the need to respect the natural world. As a child Julian collected all manner of natural material from the shore and after graduation taught seashore ecology in Dorset. We see Rocky Shores as an extension of this mission.

How did you even begin to write this book on such a wide-ranging topic?Forty years of running inter-tidal field courses tends to focus attention on making shores accessible to newcomers, we approached the book from a similar standpoint. John particularly likes molluscs, seaweeds and lichens; Julian, all types of invertebrates especially insects, and as ecologists we love the way the component parts of the system interact, John is also particularly interested in how humans are affecting the shore while Julian has spent much of his life travelling the coast of the British Isles. Thus certain chapters suggested themselves!

What was your most exciting find on a rocky shore that people should look out for in the future?

©Julian Cremona

For John it has to be echinoderms in general and Julian likes the more microscopic life living amongst seaweeds in rock pools. We don’t quite know why, but the little pseudoscorpion called Neobisium maritimum always causes excitement for both of us. They are tiny, only a few millimetres long, quite uncommon and may be found by observing the Black Lichen Lichina pygmaea in which they sometimes hide.

I recommend this book as a fantastic in-depth overview, but what would you suggest readers do to further their rocky shore learning?

John runs a “Rocky shore invertebrates” course for the Field Studies Council at Dale Fort Field Centre. This looks at the ecology of the shore, zonation patterns, adaptations of organisms to this extreme environment and of course the ‘plant’ (and planktonic) life that supports this biodiversity: come on this. Alternatively, there are fold out (FSC) keys for a more do-it-yourself approach, in fact, two of these have been produced by Julian’s daughter Clare Cremona including the Rocky Shore Trail. In 2014 Julian produced a large book called Seashores: an Ecological Guide, which has a huge number of photos to help with the identification of commonly found species and explains how they interact on the shore. A Complete guide to British Coastal Wildlife by Collins and the excellent A student’s guide to the seashore by Fish & Fish. For a more academic, but still very readable, account try The Biology of Rocky Shores by Little et al, Oxford Press.

Although adaptable, rocky shore inhabitants are not invincible, what do you think is the biggest threat to the rocky shore ecosystem and are some species more at risk than others?

©John Archer-Thomson

That’s easy: us. There are too many human beings gobbling up habitat, consuming resources, changing the climate, raising sea levels, acidifying the ocean, over-fishing, polluting with plastic, agricultural and industrial chemicals and so on. Stressed ecosystems tend to be species poor but there are often large numbers of a few fast growing, tolerant species that do well. Northern, cold water species are already suffering range contractions as the climate warms, whereas the opposite is true of southern, high temperature tolerant forms, including invasive species from warmer climes.

Staying on the theme of the future, what is next for you both – another book perhaps?

For John this would be intertidal and sublittoral monitoring and photography. Running courses for the FSC. Talks for local natural history groups. Magazine articles and an update of “Photographing Pembrokeshire” by John & Sally Archer-Thomson, Apple iBooks. Julian has a trio of specialist photography books being published by Crowood press. The first two on extreme close-up photography have already appeared and the third will be published at the beginning of April. He continues to develop new ways to photograph wildlife, especially the “very small”. Coupled with this 2019 includes running further workshops, lecturing and travel – for the wildlife!

Other books by Julian Cremona

Extreme Close-Up Photography and Focus Stacking – Julian Cremona

Beyond Extreme Close-Up Photography – Julian Cremona

Rocky Shores is published by Bloomsbury Publishing and signed copies are available for pre-order, while stocks last.

Introducing new microplastics nets from NHBS

The destruction of aquatic ecosystems is a major issue facing conservationists globally – causes include microplastic pollution, acidification, global warming and over-fishing. The manufacturing team at NHBS have produced a series of new survey nets designed to help researchers gather data on microplastics and to sample plankton more efficiently. This blog describes the sea trials performed using our prototype nets to establish the optimal towing speeds and sea conditions as well as whether the nets worked effectively and were robust enough to withstand exposure to the marine environment.
Three new nets were tested – the Manta Trawl Net, which is designed to sample microplastics in calmer inshore waters and on rivers and lakes. The Avani Trawl Net, which is designed to sample microplastics in rougher, offshore environments and the Bongo Net (a pair of 300mm plankton nets joined in the middle and weighted with a depressor vane) which is designed to allow researchers to use two different mesh nets during a single trawl. Plymouth Sound was an ideal location, as we had both inshore and offshore designs to test and the breakwater provided us with easy access to both sheltered water and the open ocean.

The first design tested was the Bongo Net. The net performed very well. The sampling depth was easily adjusted by modulating the speed of the boat and the depressor vane kept the net level in the water.  In our tests the Bongo Net performed best at towing speeds of between two and four knots.

Bongo Net

Next, we tested our inshore Manta Trawl Net. The Manta Trawl Net is designed for microplastics sampling in calm inshore waters and on rivers and lakes. The Manta Trawl Net has a post box shaped aperture and twin ‘wings’ (manta wings) mounted onto the frame which serve to lift the net frame so that samples are efficiently collected at the top of the water column. This net was tested at a variety of towing speeds and performed best at speeds of between two and four knots.

Manta Trawl Net

The last net to be tested was The Avani Trawl Net. The Avani Trawl Net is designed for offshore microplastics sampling. The vertical orientation of the aperture of the net ensures that samples are collected from the top few centimetres of the water’s surface in slight to moderate swell conditions. To test this net, we ventured out beyond the breakwater where the swell was approximately 1-2m. The net stood upright and performed as expected at speeds of between four and eight knots when exposed to smaller waves of approximately one metre in height. When approaching larger waves, we found that the net had a slight tendency to cut into the side of the wave at speeds of between six and eight knots and that the net performed best at slightly lower speeds.

Avani Trawl Net
All of the nets functioned properly, and our haul included both microplastics and icthyoplankton (fish eggs and larvae). Both the frames and the nets also withstood the sea conditions well and we could find no faults with their design or build – all told a successful trial.
If you are interested in these nets look out for them in our 2019 catalogue, find them on nhbs.com, or contact us on customer.services@nhbs.com and we will send you more information as soon as it becomes available.

 

Manta: Interview with Guy Stevens

With their horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, gaping mouths, manta rays have long been the source of mariners’ myths and legends. Today, we know much more about these curious creatures, although many features of their lives and behaviours remain a mystery.

Marine biologist and co-founder of the Manta Trust Guy Stevens has spent many years researching mantas in an effort to understand their lives and to promote conservation practices that will ensure their continued survival. In Manta he has joined forces with National Geographic photographer Thomas Peschak to create a visually stunning and informative tribute to these animals.

To coincide with the re-release of the book, we recently spoke to Guy about his work with Mantas and the conservation challenges that they face.


Your life as a researcher and CEO of the Manta Trust must be incredibly varied and exciting. I’m curious what a typical day in the life of Guy Stevens looks like. Or, if a ‘typical’ day is unheard of for you, can you describe a recent day for us?

My days tend to be dictated by where I am. When in the field I am usually diving or freediving with manta rays on a daily basis, collecting data or guiding tourist expeditions. However, increasingly the majority of my time is spent on my computer behind a desk responding to emails, having Skype calls, writing papers, applying for grants and managing an ever increasing manta team.

Setting up an NGO must require an immense amount of work and passion. What did you find most challenging about the process and, as an extension of this, what advice would you offer other conservationists who are hoping to travel a similar path?

The most challenging part of the process, which still remains the main challenge today, is ensuring there are funds to enable the charity to carry out its mission. My advice to anyone wishing to follow a similar path would be to ensure you diversify your revenue streams.

Manta: Secret Life of Devil RaysThe work conducted by yourself and other researchers around the world has contributed a huge amount to the body of knowledge about manta rays. What do you think are the next big questions that need to be addressed and how do you think new technologies (e.g. satellite and acoustic tagging / genetic techniques) will contribute to these?

From a conservation perspective one of the next big focus areas is to try and quantify the extent and impact of bycatch fisheries on the high seas (such as purse seine tuna fisheries) to manta rays and their close relatives, the devil rays; how many are being caught, which species, where, when and how many survive release after capture? Using post-release mortality tags can help us to estimate how many of the rays are likely to survive being captured after release, while the implementation of better management practices can hopefully reduce bycatch.

It is clear from your book that the problems facing mantas are incredibly complex and, as such, will require complex solutions. The final message I took from your book, however, appears to be one of hope. What significant changes would you like (or hope!) to see happen within the next five years in the arena of manta ray conservation.

I would like to see a world shifting away from industrial fisheries which employ unsustainable fishing practices; such as drift nets, long-lines, gill nets, etc. The oceans are rapidly being depleted and we need to protect much greater areas of this common resource from fishing if we want to stand any chance of safeguarding the world’s charismatic species like manta rays from extinction in the next few decades.

Finally – and I appreciate that you must have hundreds to choose from – is there a single encounter with a manta ray that really stands out in your memory and that will stay in your heart forever?

Yes, certainly the encounter which stands out the most is the one I describe in the book with the manta Slice, who I rescued from fishing line back in 2008 in Hanifaru Bay….there are lots of detail on this encounter in the book and here’s a link to the story on our website (although it is a bit outdated now); http://www.mantatrust.org/amazing-experiences-entangled-manta-rescue/


Manta: Secret Life of Devil Rays is available from NHBS.

To find out more about the work of the Manta Trust and how you can support them, go to www.mantatrust.org

 

The NHBS Guide to Whale and Dolphin Watching

Public sighting records are important for UK cetacean conservation. Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphins by Jo Garbutt is licenced under CC BY 2.0

Catching a glimpse of a whale or dolphin whilst visiting the coast is a uniquely memorable experience and a few hours spent whale and dolphin watching is fun for all age groups. Plus, your sightings can really make a difference and will add to the growing body of survey data collected for the UK coastline.

Keep reading for some tips on when and where to watch whales and dolphins, how to get started and where to report your sightings.

When and where should I watch cetaceans and what am I likely to see?

The best time for spotting cetaceans is between April and October when visitors to our coastal waters are at their highest. Some areas are undoubtedly better than others for catching a glimpse of these elusive animals: Devon, Cornwall and Cardigan Bay in Wales are good places to go, as well as the coasts of northern Scotland.

Twenty-nine species of cetacean have been recorded in UK waters, and some areas of our coastline are home to permanent populations of dolphins. The most commonly reported species are bottlenose dolphins, harbour porpoises and minke whales, although rarer visitors have included killer whales, humpback whales and striped dolphins.

Of course, cetaceans aren’t the only things you will see. Keep your eyes peeled for seals too and enjoy the seabirds and beautiful views at the same time!

How do I get started watching whales and dolphins?

For most people, watching cetaceans from the land (rather than from a boat) will be the most convenient and economical option. Any place where you can sit comfortably with a good view of the sea will suffice, but if you can make your way to a cliff top then this will provide a better vantage point. Calm, overcast days tend to be the best for spotting cetaceans as the combination of swell, choppy waves and surface reflections can make fins all but impossible to see. For the same reason, the hours following dusk and prior to dawn are the best times of day to go.

A watch is conducted by scanning the surface of the water with the naked eye, switching to binoculars periodically or whenever you notice a disturbance at the surface. As soon as you see something that may be a whale or dolphin, concentrate your binoculars in that area, making sure to scan a little way around in case it surfaces again nearby. Another good technique is to look out for seabirds circling or diving as this may indicate cetaceans feeding just below the surface.

Any binoculars (or a scope and tripod) can be used for sea watches. If you are looking for binoculars specifically for this activity, however, make sure to go with a model that has a large objective lens diameter as this will improve the light transmission and will help with viewing in lower light conditions.

For researchers studying marine mammals, items such as thermal imaging scopes and hydrophones are useful additions to the surveying toolbox and will allow them to find and identify cetaceans in a greater range of conditions as well as enabling more detailed investigation of behaviour.

Where do I submit my sightings?

Several organisations in the UK offer online sighting forms where you can submit information about whales, dolphins and porpoises that you have confidently identified during your watch. Take a look at the Sea Watch Foundation, the Whale and Dolphin Conservation, or the Cetacean Research & Rescue Unit websites for sighting forms. Other regional groups such as the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust and Norfolk Cetaceans also collect local sightings so it might be worth finding out if there is an active recording group near to where you live.

Check out the NHBS website for a great range of binoculars and scopes, as well as other handy field kit such as waterproof clipboards and notebooks. Also have a look at these two field guides to help with identifying whales and dolphins.

Guide to the UK Cetaceans and Seals
Guide to the UK Cetaceans and Seals
Whales, Dolphins and Seals: A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the World
Whales, Dolphins and Seals: A Field Guide to the Marine Mammals of the World

 

The NHBS buyer’s guide to Plankton Nets

Following the acquisition of EFE & GB Nets earlier this year, NHBS now manufactures a wide range of plankton nets at our workshop in Devon. Nets are available with an opening diameter of 250mm, 300mm or 500mm and with mesh sizes ranging from 10µm to 500µm.

250mm and 300mm diameter nets
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250mm diameter plankton nets are available with 10µm to 250µm mesh

250mm and 300mm diameter nets have a stainless steel frame to which a 500mm long bag is attached. They are supplied with a harness and seven metre long towing line which can be used to tow the net behind a boat or from a suitable bank or jetty.

The standard cod end is fitted with a filter in the same mesh size as the main part of the bag. However, various alternatives can be selected at the time of ordering. Options include a clear extension tube, collecting bottle, tap valve or large filter fitted in place of the standard filter. It is also possible to have weight loops added to the end of the net (weights not included) or a stainless steel swivel to be used on the harness in place of the standard nylon ring.

The heavy duty upgrade uses heavy duty nylon for the net collar and cod end collar and also includes fully taped seams.

500mm diameter nets
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500mm diameter bags have industrial nylon collars and reinforced seams

500mm diameter nets have a stainless steel frame and 1900mm long bag and a three point harness with swivel connector. All seams are reinforced and the collar is made from industrial nylon for added strength and durability. The cod end of the bag is fitted with a heavy duty screw-on filter in the same mesh size as the bag. This net is not supplied with a towing rope and so users will need to supply their own rope or chain which can be fitted to the harness.

As with the smaller plankton nets, various adaptations are available in order to create a net which is suited to your sampling needs. A flexible cod end extension allows a greater sample volume to be collected and also lets you connect a different filter type. A replacement cod end cap provides a closed ended option and results in a sample size of 700ml and a quick release bag is ideal for collecting fry or elver or for when a rapid changeover of bags is required.

Net bags and the educational plankton net
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Educational plankton net

As well as standard plankton nets, we also stock a range of plankton net bags designed to fit onto the professional hand net frame. These fit onto the frame in the same way as the standard hand net bags, and have a detachable screw-on filter in the centre. An educational plankton net with 150µm mesh is also available for school use or for those who require an economical net for trial sampling.

 

 

 

Browse the full range of plankton nets at NHBS

The Week in Review – 12th December

Dragonfly
Dragonfly use neurological calculations which allow them to actually predict the movements of their prey. Photo by John Flannery.

News from outside the nest

This week…we learned why pufferfish build sandcastles and how it has taken us such a long time to observe this particular behaviour.

A study published this week in Nature showed us how dragonflies go beyond mere reflexive responses and actually predict the movements of their prey as they are hunting.

This short guide helped us to address the most common questions posed by “climate change challengers”.

We discovered the OceanAdapt website which lets members of the public search and download geographic data of more than 650 species of fish and invertebrates and track how these have changed over time…a hugely valuable resource for fishermen and scientists.

Camouflage in the natural world is incredibly common and well understood. However, a paper published this week by the Royal Society revealed a new kind of camouflage exhibited by the beautiful harlequin filefish: smell camouflage.

And finally…we were amazed by this extraordinary bird that disguises itself as a caterpillar.

New arrivals at the warehouse

Useful and fun: these cute animal head torches are a great stocking filler for young outdoor enthusiasts.

 

 

The Week in Review – 5th December

Trawler
The Global Fishing Watch Project has made satellite data from fishing vessels freely available online to raise citizen awareness of overfishing. Image by Winky.

 

News from outside the nest

This week…we read a great article about the “Send us your Skeletons” project and learned about the power of citizen science in gathering valuable data.

We also learned about the importance of citizen awareness in the Global Fishing Watch project. This amazing new scheme uses satellite data to make global issues of overfishing much more transparent, as well as making huge quantities of fisheries science data available to researchers.

These beautiful images hosted by Rough Guide showed us some incredible views of forests around the world.

With temperatures in 2014 now reported to be the hottest on record, we took a look at how different places around the world have experienced these heatwaves.

We learned about the feeding behaviour of the aptly named killer whale – and discovered why they are suddenly preying on humpbacks.

And finally…Martin Litton, one of the great pioneers of the environmental movement, sadly died on Sunday. In this article from the National Geographic we read about his life and legacy.

New arrivals at the warehouse

The 5th edition of the Field Guide to the Dragonflies and Damselflies of Great Britain and Ireland contains stunning illustrations and photographs. It also features descriptions, distribution maps and site guides alongside a whole host of other great information.

The Barnacle Goose, the new Poyser Monograph, contains more than 25 years worth of research on these fascinating and sociable birds.

These Haglof Increment Borers are made from high quality Swedish steel – just the job for all your tree core sampling needs.

 

The Week in Review – 28th November

SNOWstorm - a research project monitoring the breeding grounds of snowy owls
Project SNOWstorm has been monitoring breeding snowy owls in the Canadian Arctic since the 1980s. Image by Erin Kohlenberg.

 

News from outside the nest

This week…we were fascinated by the intelligence and dexterity displayed by this octopus gathering and storing a coconut shell to use for protection.

We caught up on project SNOWstorm – a research endeavour which monitors the summer breeding areas of snowy owls in the Canadian Arctic.

We discovered how the flight of hummingbirds is more similar to that of insects than that of other birds.

November was Manatee Awareness Month: This vulnerable species, long time provider of fuel for mermaid myths, now number less than 10,000 in the wild.

The mystery of large numbers of dead porpoises washing up on the Netherlands coast was finally solved, with grey seals proving to be the surprising culprit.

A PhD student at Brunel University, London, created an ingenious DIY microscope to measure cell motility, saving himself hundreds of thousands of pounds.

And finally…a unique way of dealing with invasive species: The first beer made from invasive pond weed and zebra mussels went on sale in Minnosota.

New arrivals at the warehouse

Irish Bats in the 21st Century summarises the considerable body of bat research and surveillance that has been undertaken in Ireland in the 21st century, much of it by citizen scientists.

Mammals of Mexico is the first English language reference on the 500+ species of mammals found in diverse Mexican habitats – from the Sonoran desert to the Chiapas cloud forests.

The Ridgid SeeSnake CA-25 is an affordable endoscope with a 17mm waterproof camera head.

This Ultra High Resolution Nest Box Camera from Gardenature comes with a nestbox designed to BTO and RSPB guidelines and contains everything you need to start watching straight away.

 

The Week in Review – 21st November

Sea turtles
Six of the world’s seven species of sea turtle are now endangered, making rehabilitation of injured individuals extremely important. Image by Dominic Scaglioni.

News from outside the nest

This week we learned all about…

The importance of protected areas for conserving the planet’s diversity. Many of our reserves are failing to live up to their promised potential through poor management

The strange wasting syndrome that is affecting many important species of starfish and the scientists that are working to manage this problem.

Rehabilitation of sea turtles over 400 miles from the ocean. At the Second Chance Program, located in Pittsburgh, injured turtles are prepared for reintroduction to the wild.

A new theory which suggests that life could exist on planets in the absence of water, thriving instead on supercritical carbon dioxide.

Flying under the influence: A drunk tank for birds, situated in the Yukon territory, opens for business.

And finally…the UK’s first number two bus (quite literally). Powered entirely by human sewage and food waste, this bus is now in service between Bristol and Bath.

New arrivals at the warehouse

This new Programmable Heated Bat Box lets you set maximum and minimum daily temperatures for each month of the year, as well as letting you set up and monitor up to four boxes remotely via an online interface.

The Nest Box Camera Starter Kit contains everything you need to start filming birds in your garden. It includes an FSC timber bird box pre-fitted with a camera and 30m cable. Simply plug into your TV and start watching the action.

The long awaited new addition of Docks and Knotweeds of Britain and Ireland features additional hybrids and adventives, new distribution maps and keys, as well as 67 outstanding illustrations by Anne Farrer.

Animal Weapons by Douglas Emlen lets us take a look at the extreme weapons of the natural world: teeth, horns and claws, alongside the weapons developed by humans since battle began.

 

Book of the Week: Field Guide for Sharks of the Genus Carcharhinus

Continuing our selection of the very best titles available through NHBS:

Field Guide for Sharks of the Genus Carcharhinus

by Matthias Voigt & Dietmar Weber

What?

A full-colour identification guide to members of the genus Carcharhinus, notably difficult to distinguish by species.

Why?

We are always really impressed by the books published by Verlag Friedrich Pfeil, and this is no exception. TheField Guide for Sharks of the Genus Carcharhinus jacket image excellent drawings by master technical artist Weber, carefully indicate the relevant anatomical distinctions between the 33 species covered, and the research is immaculate, providing all the facts required for identification. In addition there is plenty of information on the biology and natural history of the genus, plus a glossary of technical terms and many maps, tables and plates.

As well as appealing to marine biologists and shark enthusiasts, this volume has further application in the fields of fisheries, diving and other aquatic sports – in other words for anyone to whom positive species identification would be relevant.

It is hoped that this book will go some way to providing clearer records about threatened shark populations.

Who?

Dr Matthias Voigt studied marine biology at the University of Rostock (2000-2004), received his PhD from the University of Karlsruhe and now works at the University of Konstanz in the Department of Biology, Human Environmental Toxicology Group. He has had many experiences with sharks while diving, and as a member of the German Elasmobranch Society (D.E.G.), he tries to impart his experience, knowledge and fascination with sharks to the general public for increased understanding and protection.

Dietmar Weber is likewise a member of the D.E.G., and has a passion for the lifelike portrayal of animals, an art form which he has perfected over the last forty years. He is currently focused on sharks, skates and rays and his work has been featured in many publications. A graduate professional Technician for Biology i.e. Ecology, he has worked at the Research Institute for Forest Ecology and Forestry of Rhineland-Palatinate in Trippstadt since 1989.

 

Available Now from NHBS