Emiliano wants to assess the importance of kelp forest ecosystems to sharks, and is using San Quentin Bay in Baja, California, to understand their value. He aims to show how changes in kelp forest communities might impact sharks under future climate scenarios. Using horn sharks and banded guitarfish as model species, Emiliano is analysing where sharks sit in the kelp forest food pyramid. He is also estimating the diversity and abundance of shark species, and hopes to show how a changing community structure in kelp forests as a result of climate change could affect sharks and rays.
I grew up in Veracruz, a coastal city in tropical south-eastern Mexico. As a child I looked for any excuse to go to the beach to see what the local fishers had brought in from the sea. It was there that I discovered sharks and rays, and from that moment I knew I wanted to study these species. That became my motivation to pursue a degree in marine biology. After I graduated, I moved to north-western Mexico to study for my Master’s and worked with blue shark fisheries in the region. While studying for my doctorate, I developed a project...
To understand the trophic importance of kelp forest for elasmobranchs (focusing on Data Deficient species) and to evaluate how changes to this habitat due to climate change could affect these species.
Kelp forest is one of the habitats most threatened by climate change. It is also used by elasmobranchs, but we do not fully understand its trophic importance to these species. We therefore do not know how the structure of the community within the kelp forest may change as a result of intensified impacts of climate change and how elasmobranchs in particular may be affected.
Kelp forest is a very productive and biodiverse habitat that is important for fishing, coastal protection, nutrient recycling and carbon sequestration. It is, however, also very vulnerable to warming events, which cause declines in the abundance of the kelp and changes in the structure, function and resilience of the forest. Recent studies have shown that kelp forests along the Baja California peninsula experienced significant changes in their trophic levels and community structure as a result of warming events, which are likely to intensify in the future. Some elasmobranch species use kelp forest, but its importance has not been explored fully, so we do not yet understand the effect that warming events have on the elasmobranchs in kelp forest. This project aims to evaluate the trophic importance of kelp forest in the San Quintin Bay area, using the horn shark and banded guitarfish as model species. We will estimate the abundance and diversity of elasmobranch species in kelp forest and use the results of our study to get a better understanding of how changes in the community structure of the forest caused by warming events may affect these species.
Anna is collecting genetic information from white shark fin clips to assess this species’ population size in South Africa. Using close-kin mark-recapture analysis instead of traditional methods, she hopes to provide an accurate account of South Africa’s white shark population size. She also aims to develop a monitoring protocol that can use genetic samples collected during shark net and drumline patrols by the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks Board. This information is needed in South Africa, where the conservation of a protected species is balanced against concerns about bather safety, and where sharks are caught in bather protection gear.
Faqih is filling the gaps in the scant knowledge of giant guitarfish in Java’s Karimunjawa National Park marine protected area (MPA). Karimunjawa is located near Northern Java’s main fishing grounds, but evidence of giant guitarfish caught in some of the use-zones of the MPA hints that the park may be a sanctuary for the species. Managing giant guitarfish in Karimunjawa requires species-specific information.
Faqih’s project is a socio-ecological one to help inform management and draws on new information about relative abundance and distribution, historical occurrence and fishing pressures to paint a contemporary picture of the species in the park.
Cindy wants to know if bonnethead sharks in the Eastern Pacific constitute a third, cryptic species. The Bonnethead complex need clarification in all its distribution range, and Panama is a key country to solve this question since we have the Caribbean sea and the Pacific Ocean. By collecting fin clip samples to compare species at the genetic level and collecting specimens to compare how they look (morphology), Cindy hopes to resolve the taxonomy of Sphyrna tiburo vespertina – that is, whether it’s a cryptic third species for bonnetheads in the region. Her information can help update the IUCN Red List for bonnetheads and improve fisheries policies in Latin America where bonnethead sharks are commonly caught.