Tuesday, 29 August 2017

A Marine Biologist in 'Seabird Central'

Hello there!

My name is Jake Taylor-Bruce and I am the other half of the Long Term Volunteer duo (see last weeks blog for an introduction to Joe). I have just finished a four year degree Applied Marine Biology from Bangor University and am currently on Skomer until the very end of September. As you may have guessed from my degree title, I am hugely passionate about the ocean and the great variety of life that can be found within it. Luckily for me Skomer Island is in a brilliant location for marine life, situated off the west coast of Wales and (of course) surrounded by the Irish Sea. Not to mention the tall cliffs, which offer panoramic views out to sea, where on many days harbour porpoise and common dolphin can be seen in quite high numbers feeding or simply swimming by. If you’re really lucky there is also the possibility of seeing much rarer species like minke whale, bottlenose dolphin and even ocean sunfish! All three of which have been seen in the last few weeks. This isn’t to mention of course the fantastic views of sea birds both on and off the island. Truly Skomer is a marine biologists paradise!

Me, myself and I

As part of my time here on Skomer I am running a research project that is taking place in North Haven (one of the sheltered bays on the island). Of particular interest here is the sea grass bed, a disappearing habitat that can be home to many rare species, such as seahorses. My project involves placing an underwater camera alternately in the seagrass bed and in the kelp forests at the base of the cliffs. This camera is then left to run for around 45 minutes and when I return to pick it up I review the footage and identify the fish species that swim past when there is little human disturbance. The results so far have been great, with large sea bass and various wrasse species being abundant. In addition to this, both adult and juvenile pollack are regulars, along with large shoals of minute two spot blennys. While the camera is left running I follow along the cliff edge recording species that I have seen and I must say, the underwater world here is just beautiful! With shining jewel anemones, armies of long legged spiny spider crabs, large ballan wrasse drifting lazily through forests of kelp and multi coloured sea slugs like animated sweets hidden amongst the kelp fronds. To say nothing of the bizarre fan worms, sponges and star ascidians that litter the rock walls. Perhaps my favourite encounter so far involved following a beautiful orange snake pipe fish through the kelp forest, before spotting it spiraling about in an underwater glade.

Janolus cristatus, a crystal sea slug found off Skomer Island 

In my spare time here I am also working to improve my photography, a real passion of mine and something which Skomer provides the perfect opportunity to improve on. The combination of awesome seabirds, cetaceans and the frankly ludicrously beautiful sunsets and sun rises, as well as the ever-shifting light, create an environment that is perfect for photography improvement.

Common toad, trying to get into my house! 

Thanks for reading!

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