International Marine Conservation Congress

Shirley Van de Voorde
3 September 2014

From 14-18 August the 3rd International Marine Conservation Congress was held in Glasgow, where I, Shirley Van de Voorde, gave my first presentation at a congress.

Marine Conservation Congress 1

I am finally here.

On the 15th August, 3.30 pm, was my moment of truth: presenting at an international congress! I was a bundle of nerves, but once I had started my presentation the nerves faded and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and the presentation was well received!

Marine Conservation Congress 2

Presenting work done with Nature’s Valley Trust in Glasgow.

The presentation was on the project that I ran, supervised by Mark Brown and Minke Witteveen entitled: Differential reactions to anthropogenic disturbance by two ground-nesting seabirds. Manipulated and unmanipulated disturbance trials were run throughout September 2013 to January 2014 on both breeding and non-breeding Least Concern Kelp Gulls Larus dominicanus vetula and Near Threatened African Black Oystercatchers Haematopus moquini. However, due to time constraints for the presentation I focussed on the results from the manipulated disturbance trials. Manipulated disturbance trials involved walking in a straight line to a bird (on a nest during breeding season) and dropped markers when behavioural reactions were displayed. I then measured the distance from the nest to each marker to get an idea of how far we (humans) need to be from the breeding birds to prevent disturbing them, I also recorded how long it took the bird to return to its nest. Results showed that the oystercatchers at Lookout beach stood first and took the longest to return to the nest compared to the breeding birds at Keurbooms Peninsula and Robberg. These results were similar for the Kelp Gulls yet all behavioural reactions were performed when I was much closer to the nest. During my presentation I explained that the difference in the areas result from the unpredictable nature of beach-goers at Lookout Beach where they are not restricted in their movements and frequently walk through the colony whereas at Keurbooms Peninsula the colony is clearly demarcated and the large breeding colony of gulls is a painful deterrent to people in the colony, and Robberg has specified walking routes. I also explained the differences in behaviour between the two bird species: the oystercatchers protected their nests through camouflage while the gulls protected their nests by being aggressive. Ultimately this research has shown that these birds are not unaffected by the presence of people and that it is important to be aware of our surroundings and considerate of the breeding birds that share our beaches.

After my presentation I was asked two questions: firstly, how we created awareness during the field season, and secondly, whether I knew if the European Oystercatcher had the same kind of reaction, because they appear to be less sensitive then their African counterpart. Both good questions and ones I could answer! To the first question I explained that during the fieldwork both Minke and I engaged with beach-goers on a day-to-day basis explaining the work that we did, the effect that human disturbance had on breeding birds and the importance of protecting them, articles on the project were published in local newspapers, 2 open days were held at Lookout Beach were I demonstrated the methods that I used during my fieldwork and we did a ringing demonstration and finally we had an information board made for Lookout Beach. My reply to the second question was that I also thought that the European Oystercatchers are less shy, than what I had observed in South Africa, but that anthropogenic disturbance also affects European Oystercatchers such that they decrease parental care to their young. I also told them that NVT will be starting a new project on the effects of human disturbance on African Black Oystercatchers and White-fronted Plovers along the garden route. That concluded my presentation which was placed in the Marine Tourism Slot which had 8 presentations of 12 minutes each.

Marine Conservation Congress 3

From the Netherlands, to Plettenberg Bay in South Africa, Glasgow Scotland, how awesome.

Marine Conservation Congress 4

What a privillage to share my work at international congress.

I did not only give a presentation, but also attended a variety of other presentations at the congress. I listened to so many interesting talks: corals in MPAs (Marine Protected Areas); 30 new MPAs in Scottish waters; Project Seahorse; Anchovis and Peru; Impact of ship noise on marine life; Marine Tourism; Interactions between birds and wind turbines; Assessing and managing data limited fisheries; Marine animals in conservation: ethics and welfare; Managing impacts of deep-sea resource exploitation; The other 95%: bringing marine invertebrates; and Complementing MPAs management of small-scale fisheries. There were also presentations about documentaries. One was done by the BBC, they explained how they make the documentaries and that they are working on a new BBC Oceans series, which will be released in 2017. I also attended a presentation by a local documentary maker who spoke about a project on a Scottish Island aimed at preserving the culture of this island for the next generations. There was also a discussion about the effects of fake documentaries from Discovery Channel, with the focus on the fake documentary ‘Mermaids’. In this documentary the makers tried to convince people to believe that mermaids do exist yet government agencies try to hide their existence. Of course mermaids do not exist, but due to the source of the documentary (Discovery Channel) and the referencing of government agencies many people believed that evidence had been found supporting that mermaids exist. I also attended some special student events, where students could learn important lessons regarding writing a job application letter, what to expect during a job interview and about the conservation work field.

I learned a lot during the IMCC3, it was a great opportunity to meet new people and learn from their work!