Press release Graham Edgard Visit

Press release Graham Edgard Visit

From February 17th to 24 th Dr. Graham Edgar of the University of Tasmania and his working group of ten scientists from Australia, Finland, New Zealand, Canada and the United Kingdom held a workshop at the Huinay Scientific Field Station in northern Patagonia, Chile. These investigators seek to address how climate change affects the abundance of marine life around the world. They are targeting elevated water temperatures, effects on reef species, and the role of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle.

In addition, Dr. Edgar revisited the Reef Life Survey sites he originally monitored in 2012. Reef Life Survey (RLS) is a worldwide citizen science program to monitor global marine biodiversity. Dr. Edgar previously used the RLS data in his investigation of the effectiveness of marine protected areas worldwide. The study, published in the renowned journal Nature, concluded that at least 4 of 5 key criteria need to be met for protected areas to have significant impact in comparison with unprotected waters: no-take area, well-enforced, large size (more than 100 sq. km), old (older 10 years), and isolated by deep water or sand.

The working group performed the nine transect dives for RLS with the staff of the Huinay station. Dives will continue to inform both regional (over the past seven years) and global studies of changing marine biodiversity. Throughout the week, scientists discussed findings, modeled data and outlined three future publications.

Researchers included Dr. Graham Edgar, Dr. Rick Stuart-Smith, Dr. Jemina Stuart-Smith, Dr. Ross Corkrey and Judy Corkrey from the University of Tasmania, Dr. Mike Burrows from the Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dr. Mark Costello, Katherine Kelly, and Lena Hartebrodt from University of Auckland, Dr. Laura Henriques Antao from University of Helsinki, and Dr. Amanda Bates from Memorial University of Newfoundland.

World of the Myofauna

The research station of Fundación Huinay in the Comau fjord (Lakes Region) delves deep into the unknowns of marine life in Patagonia. While scientists at the station continue to see and categorize potential new species, visiting scientists Dr. Andreas Rhaesa (Universitӓt Hamburg, Germany) and Matthew Lee (Universidad de Los Lagos, Chile) seek to explore and understand those creatures which cannot easily be seen. Each are experts in the little known world of the Meiofauna, the vast and incredibly diverse range of multicellular animals which occupy a murky, ubiquitous zone of life. Meiofauna are larger than simple cellular life, but are animals so complex and yet so small one can hardly conceive of their existence.

During a five day stay at the labs, the researchers collaborated to sample sediments from various environments in Comau fjord and extract the interstitial fluids in the sediment to observe life within these confided spaces. The interstitial space is the water moving between microscopic gaps in the sediment grains and it’s a habitat thoroughly occupied and utilized by a unique assemblage of Meiofauna. Describing these tiny creatures can be a daunting task, requiring delicate, tedious labor in the labs. Even one 50mL sample may take days or more of dedicated laboratory work to process. There are 20 known phyla branches in the Meiofauna group and just one, Nematodes, may be as diverse as all insect life. Examining the species living in the upper sediment means observing minute details, as well as careful handling of the fragile, often translucent organisms.

Dr. Rhaesa is particularly interested in discovering new species and observing what known species are present in the sediment, while Dr. Lee will focus on the ecological community of Meiofauna, such as dominant groups or community structure between different environments. Their range of taxonomic and ecological understanding provides a holistic approach to studying Meiofauna diversity. Together, their visit has started new partnerships and cracked open the door to an unseen world in Huinay. The researchers will study samples collected in the Comau fjord as well as in other parts of Chile; the discoveries they make are only limited to the diversity and strangeness of the Meiofauna studied.

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