Early last year, I was extremely lucky to have been accepted into a Ph. D. program in marine biology at the Bimini Biological Field Station - SharkLab ( www.biminisharklab.com) in the Bahamas, to commence this June of 2015. The only obstacle I’m currently facing: funding. That is why, through the gofundme website, I am asking for your support!
What’s the problem? Worldwide, shark and ray populations in coastal ecosystems currently face a number of anthropogenic threats such as coastal development (e.g., dredging, construction, deforestation), which has been linked to wide-scale habitat modification and destruction. Sharks and rays are keystone species that help balance the complex, yet delicate, food webs of the seas. Without them, whole marine habitats can collapse, in turn jeopardizing the lives and livelihoods of the humans who depend on the oceans. To prevent this, we must understand the relationships between sharks and rays and these changes in their environments. We need to be able to identify their critical habitats for sustainable management planning and conservation. Specifically, this requires the identification of factors that determine why and how these species move about their coastal habitats. Development in the Bimini Islands has led to severe habitat destruction, on and off-shore, with serious detrimental effects on local marine life. There are immediate concerns about the conservation and protection of critical habitats around these islands.
How will my project help? My PhD project will identify and study the ways in which species of shark and ray use their coastal environment during one or more life stages; this will help us define the structure, components and boundaries of their respective critical habitats. By capturing and tagging individuals with acoustic transmitters, I will be able to monitor the movements of these poorly understood animals around the islands. The data on their movements will tell me what habitats they choose, when they choose them and why. While the NBMPA was officially declared in 2008, and is the best hope for conserving these key species and their environments, it has not (yet) been implemented by the Bahamian Government.
Why should you care? The environment, particularly the marine environment, is critical for human survival on this planet. The oceans provide 36% of the world’s food; indeed, in some areas, the oceans provide the sole source of food and/or incomes for individuals. A breakdown in this ecosystem will devastate the ocean’s productivity, leaving millions hungry and out of work. With the help of studies like this one, we can better understand what we can do to prevent this collapse. Sharks and rays are indispensable in structuring and stabilizing oceanic food webs. As predators, they are responsible for the maintenance of the rich biodiversity found in marine ecosystems. However, these keystone species have been declining in numbers throughout the planet’s oceans. A recent study estimated the mortality rate to be about 97 million sharks in 2010, with a range between 63 and 273 million sharks per year—a rate that exceeds the ability of shark populations to recuperate!
How can you help and what difference will your support make? Conducting fieldwork for a PhD project can be expensive. My work will take 4 years to complete. Luckily, my acceptance at the SharkLab comes with a scholarship that covers my accommodation and food. However, since the SharkLab is a nonprofit organization, it cannot cover other expenses including my travel and scientific equipment e.g. acoustic receivers and transmitters. Acoustic transmitters can be very expensive, and I shall need to purchase transmitters for individual sharks and rays. I am seeking your help as I raise a minimum of 2750 euros to fund these elements of my project. What do you get? Donators will receive an invite to a folder in my dropbox account that I will regularly update with cool photos and videos of sharks and other amazing marine wildlife!
Thank you in advance for any donations; your support and generosity is truly appreciated. Feel free to get in contact with me and if you have any questions regarding my project please don't hesitate to ask, I would love to hear from you.
Kindest regards, Maurits van Zinnicq Bergmann, M.Sc.