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 – 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.

 

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

At the EURASLIC Meeting, Lyon – about hard-to-find books in Marine Biology

A few weeks ago, I attended the 14th Biennial EURASLIC Meeting. EURASLIC is the European Association of Aquatic Sciences Libraries and Information Centres. This year’s meeting on the topic Caught in the “fishing net” of information was hosted by Cemagref, in Lyon, France. The weather was lovely, the food excellent, and it was a joy to spend a few days in the company of extremely knowledgeable librarians from many countries.

Among other things, I talked on the topic of hard-to-find books in Marine Biology (here is the Powerpoint Presentation of my talk). At NHBS, we have great experience in identifying and cataloguing specialist titles published by small publishers, and we know how much effort is involved in the process. In passing the information on to libraries through our Monthly Catalogue, our online catalogue, and topical newsletters, we hope to make these publications known to a much wider audience. Every week, we see new books that are not available to buy from mainstream booksellers.

Some examples of titles that should be on the shelves of every marine biology library in Europe, but are not always known to librarians, include:

Coastal PlanktonCoastal Plankton: Published by German publisher Pfeil who specialise in paleontological publications, but have lately published more books related to marine biology. Their latest title is The Field Guide for Sharks of the Genus Carcharhinus.

 

 

Subterranean Fishes of the World: The only book ever published by the International Society for Subterranean Biology, and not very easy to get hold of.

 

Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes: published by the author, this book is an essential reference for any marine biology library.

 

Subscribe to the NHBS Monthly Catalogue to stay up-to-date on all new publications in the natural sciences as they are published.

The meeting in Lyon was very enjoyable, I hope to be able to come to the next EURASLIC meeting in 2013 in Moscow!

Book of the Week #1: Coastal Plankton

We are always struck by just how varied and inspiring is the range of books we come across at NHBS, and challenged to give stand-out books their due. To this end, we’ll be highlighting a book every week here on the Hoopoe, as our Book of the Week. All books are chosen by us – no publisher’s endorsements! Simply our “what? why? who?” guide to the superb scientific texts, monographs, field guides or natural history books that we think you need to hear about…

So here’s our first choice:

Coastal Plankton: Photo Guide for European Seas, 2nd ed.

by Otto Larink and Wilfried Westheide

What?

This is an introduction to the most important and most common taxa present in the plankton. It is intended as a guide for students, marine researchers and even the interested lay person, and contains 930 micrographsCoastal Plankton jacket image (nearly three-hundred more than the first edition) allowing the identification of numerous common species, now including some from Mediterranean waters.

Why?

With its huge number of colour photographs it complements, and is recommended as a photographic supplement to, the illustrations of more comprehensive taxonomic keys – helping students and others without extensive taxonomic experience to gain a better grounding in plankton identification.

Who?

Prof. Dr. Otto Larink is a zoologist. During annual courses at the Biological Station on the isle of Helgoland in the German Bight since 1963 and during various visits at European coasts he has observed the diversity of plankton organisms and documented them with many micrographs presented here.

Prof. Dr. Wilfried Westheide is also a zoologist specialising in systematics and morphology of invertebrates, especially annelids.

Buy Coastal Plankton

You may also be interested in Coastal Phytoplankton

New Plankton and Aquatic Ecology Titles at NHBS

Avian InvasionsPlankton: A Guide to their Ecology and Monitoring for Water Quality is now in stock at NHBS – this practical book is a key reference for environment managers, water authority ecologists, coastal engineers and research libraries.

This book provides a comprehensive introduction to the biology and ecology of plankton and describes its use as a tool for monitoring water quality. All the major freshwater and coastal phytoplankton and zooplankton groups are covered and their associated environmental issues are discussed. A chapter on best practice in sampling and monitoring explains how to design, implement and conduct meaningful phytoplankton and zooplankton monitoring programs in marine and freshwater habitats, as well as how to analyse and interpret the results for effective management decision-making.

Browse other new and bestselling Plankton and Aquatic Ecology titles at NHBS, including A Mechanistic Approach to Plankton Ecology, Common Freshwater Algae of the United States and the CD of the classic Marine Plankton.

Browse our full range of marine biology titles in Aquatic Fauna and Flora and Marine Fauna & Flora

Browse our full range of algae titles in Fungi and Algae

Diversity of Fishes – and other New Marine Biology Titles

The second edition of the classic textbook The Diversity of Fishes has just been published and is now in stock at NHBS.
This new edition represents a major revision of the world’s most widely adopted ichthyology textbook. Expanded and updated, the second edition of The Diversity of Fishes is illustrated throughout with striking color photographs depicting the spectacular evolutionary adaptations of the most ecologically and taxonomically diverse vertebrate group. The text incorporates the latest advances in the biology of fishes, covering taxonomy, anatomy, physiology, biogeography, ecology, and behavior.

Order your copy of The Diversity of Fishes today – and save £5!

Other recent fishes titles include Fish Reproductive Biology and Recruitment and Early Life History of Marine Fishes.

Be sure to check out our expanding range of wildlife equipment, including aquatic nets, sampling trays and waterproof notebooks.

Browse other recent Fishes and Marine Biology titles

Browse Fishes

Browse Botany and Zoology