Written by Samantha Sherman
My name is Samantha Sherman and I am a PhD student at James Cook University in Townsville, Australia. I was fortunate enough to recently spend a month in Bau Bau, Indonesia working with Operation Wallacea and Wasage Divers. I work with the Global FinPrint Project (www.globalfinprint.org), a Paul G. Allen initiative that looks at global populations of elasmobranchs (sharks and rays) on tropical coral reefs using baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS). My part of the project specifically looks at rays in the coral triangle.
My team has already collected footage from many countries including Malaysia, Niue, Vanuatu, Philippines, Cook Islands, Taiwan, Japan, and other parts of Indonesia. We have seen many rays in some of these places, but Bau Bau has had the largest abundance of rays so far. Working in Bau Bau, I have seen rays on a large majority of the videos. This is an exciting result. Firstly, it’s exciting because rays are more endangered overall than sharks, but sharks get most of the love. It’s good to see that rays are thriving in places like Bau Bau. Another reason it’s exciting is that I will be returning to Bau Bau to work with Opwall again!
I will be sampling at the Bau Bau site, working with Operation Wallacea research assistants four times over two years, twice in the wet season and twice in the dry season. Rays are understudied so I am grateful that Opwall and Wasage Divers are helping with this project. This summer season, research assistants will help in finding if ray abundances change seasonally. Overall are they more abundant in Bau Bau during one season? Etc.
I am so eager to be returning to Bau Bau, not just to answer my ray questions but also to see the people. I arrived with my friend, Becky, who had worked with Opwall before and I left seeing why she keeps returning. The people were exceedingly helpful with the research and interested in the results. Having worked with many different groups in many countries, I know that having enthusiastic local helpers makes everything easier and more fun. Any research assistants joining this project will be sure to have fun while learning various survey techniques and analyses.
You can see a short highlight video of the past season in Bau Bau here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZtnrY9aukE
You can also follow updates on this project at @SammSherman27 and @globalfinprint or join as a research assistant by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.