By Renske Lauterbach
An exciting event is coming up in spring 2017: the Philippine Siren will be assisting the LAMAVE team in monitoring tiger shark and gray reef shark behaviour on our 29 March- 4 April 2017 6-night Tubbataha liveaboard! Join us for exploratory dives to deploy new acoustic receivers to track individual sharks, manta rays, and turtles, analyse the gathered data from existing receivers, and help with identifying tagged individuals to count their numbers.
LAMAVE - Large Marine Vertebrates Research Institute Philippines - is the largest independent non-profit non-governmental organisation dedicated to the conservation of marine megafauna and the protection of their habitats in the Philippines. They have been working with the Tubbataha Management Office and its rangers since 2015 to assess the biodiversity, monitor shark/ray (elasmobranch) behaviour, and study the whereabouts of these species in the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park. You can find out more about LAMAVE on: www.lamave.org.
One of the main goals of this expedition on the Philippine Siren is to retrieve and deploy acoustic monitoring stations and download the data for the first time to see how tiger sharks and gray reef sharks use the North and South Atolls of Tubbataha Reefs.
Working in close collaboration with the park rangers, LAMAVE applies several research techniques to gather their data. The divers will be trained in these data collection methods, especially in photo-identification. This technique aims to identify single individual animals based on the distribution of the unique spots and stripe patterns on their body. Divers will be able to match each of their photos taken during the encounter with the national and international catalogues to learn more about the history of each manta and whale shark and directly contribute to the conservation of the species. This citizen science does not stop with whale sharks and mantas. LAMAVE, in collaboration with the Tubbataha Management Office, uses divers’ photos and reports to assess the biodiversity of these amazing corners of paradise.
To date, LAMAVE’s research has shown the presence of 23 different species of sharks and rays within the park. Besides their research activities, an equally important part of their work is providing information, education and raising awareness. LAMAVE’s researchers visit local schools, offer film screenings, conduct community art projects and give lectures on plastic pollution, sustainability, coral reefs and sharks.
Whilst on board, Gonzalo Araujo, who is one of LAMAVE’s executive directors, will give several presentations on LAMAVE’s research. Gonzalo has been working in the Philippines since 2011 and joined LAMAVE in July 2012. Ever since, he has supervised whale shark research and conservation across different sites in the Philippines. He is interested in the movement and ecology of marine megafauna and how we can study them through minimal and non-invasive methods. This includes the use of photogrammetry, satellite and acoustic tags, remote cameras and new technologies involving DNA. Understanding a species' distrbution and whereabouts is essential to advise the authorities and ensure conservation efforts.