Just a quick note to update a few things relating to the expedition. We now have confirmation from the local vet that he will come out on Sunday to assist our three groups to dart and radio collar three individual oryx.
There will be a local photographer here while we are working (a friend of the scientist) who is going to make a short film of the expedition to put to music. He will use a GoPro camera and a drone to take action shots of us driving around the reserve and walking in the dunes in addition to filming the study animals in their natural habitat. He has offered to do this purely to support the conservation activities, so the film will be made available for Biosphere Expeditions to use.
Looking forward to meeting the team at 09:00 tomorrow morning for the start of the expedition!
Last night Malika and I spent our first night sleeping under the stars at our base camp in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (DDCR). We planned an early night and a lie-in after our long journeys and were woken by the loud dawn chorus at 6.30 – during the expedition this won’t happen because the expedition team will be the early birds!
Early morning is the best time to start our research work as we are more likely to see the study animals and we will need to free any animals that may be caught in our live traps as soon as possible to minimise any (heat) stress to them.
This morning the workers of the DDCR came to prepare an area for our Bedu and then they erected it in record time while we were away from camp collecting all the food for the expedition.
The car was so full of food I think we, like the oryx, will be well fed while we are in the reserve.
This year there will be no body condition scoring of the oryx because the last survey carried out a few months ago by the local scientists showed that they are now all in good condition. Still, we will have plenty to do with the new tasks I mentioned in the last diary entry and if we get time during the expedition, we may even get a chance to fly a drone – the latest piece of equipment to arrive at the DDCR for use in their research work.
The rest of this week we will be busy preparing our equipment and datasheets and setting up camp ready for the arrival of the team on Saturday – no more lie-ins for us!
Hello everyone, happy new year and welcome to the first diary entry for Biosphere Expeditions’ fourth Arabia expedition taking place in January 2015. My name is Kate Fox and I will be your expedition leader for this project along with Malika Fettak. We were both in Arabia almost a year ago and are very much looking forward to returning to continue with this valuable research work.
At the moment I am in West Wales (cold and windy), preparing paperwork and equipment, but next Monday I will be flying to Dubai to meet up with Malika for more preparation work in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve (currently 27°C and sunny).
On this expedition we will continue to survey and monitor the endangered Arabian oryx and other species in the reserve including sand fox and extremely elusive Gordon’s wildcat. Our survey techniques include setting live traps and camera traps and using GPS to navigate around the reserve by car and on foot – a good chance to burn off all those excess calories after Christmas, tramping up and down sand dunes for several hours a day! Live traps will be set up not only targeting sand foxes, but also a variety of smaller rodents since not much is known about their presence/absence in the DDCR and the behaviour of some of them. We will record everything we see, whether it is the study animals themselves or their tracks in the sand. For the first time during this expedition, we will also be darting Arabian oryx and attaching radio collars to monitor their movements. Three collars are waiting to do their job. The data delivered from the collars will help to build up a picture of their movements and behaviour, how far each herd ranges and what their preferred feeding places are.
Keep an eye out for our next diary entry from Arabia next week and in the meantime Happy New Year!
Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores):
Greetings from the Azores! Malika Fettak and I have been busy preparing for everyone’s arrival here in Horta, on the island of Faial. Working from Banana Manor, which will serve as our base camp for all three expeditions, we have been busy unpacking the expedition kit and preparing for your arrival. Today we are working with Lisa Steiner, our scientist, preparing the data sheets for the information we will be collecting in the field.
As you can see in the video (see below) it can be quite cool and wet (Lisa, who lives here, made fun of me today because I am wearing my hat!). While we expect to see some sunshine, be sure to pack your cool and wet weather gear as well as there is still a definite chill in the air!
Looking forward to meeting you
PS: The whales and dolphins are here! Lisa Steiner was out on the water yesterday collecting data, and she spotted one blue whale, one fin whale, and several groups of common dolphins and Risso’s dolphins.
Hello my Name is Alisa and I will be your expedition leader on this year’s Azores expedition – Fascinating creatures of the deep: Studying whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.
I am writing this from the airport, where I am waiting for my flight to Lisbon and then to Horta. The gear is all packed up and organised, and I am very excited. This will be my first time on this particular expedition and there to show me the ropes for the first group will be “old” hand Malika Fettak.
If you are worried about seasickness, you are not alone, as we both suffer from it too, so I look forward to sharing space on the side of the research vessel with you 😉
I look forward to seeing the first team next week.
Today we surveyed the reef around a spectacular forested rock a few kilometers out to sea off Tioman Island. From there we our yacht Araliya down the wild and convoluted eastern coast of Tioman to the settlement of Juara, the only inhabited point on this coast. The sea turtle project at the far end of Juara beach is a real outpost of conservation run by a team of passionate volunteers. We went on a turtle survey tonight after dinner and learned some sobering statistics in the process.
The team has now completed their three days of Reef Check training and are ready to begin their surveys. The first one is today and tomorrow we board the yacht “Araliya” to begin the real work. The diving skills in the team are all quite good. The identification skills have developed nicely and although there are distinct preferences within the team for the various ID tasks we’ll be set, some are “fish people” while others have their strength in invertebrates or substrate ID, between us we are in good shape to Check this Reef (and the beach – see below 😉
Team 1 has spent the morning in briefings and doing the paperwork that precedes the meat and potatoes of the expedition. They have just geared up and trotted (well, humped their gear at least) down the beach for their first training dive with Katie, who will assess and develop the all-important buoyancy skills, which will play a vital role in their effectiveness as research divers. Frank, who hasn’t dived in some time, did a refresher with one of the instructors yesterday, whom I overheard talking to his colleagues in very positive terms about Frank’s competence as a diver. If that’s the tone of our team, then we’re in good shape for the real work.
My name is Paul o’Dowd and I will be your expedition leader for the inaugural Malaysia Reef Check expedition. I am preparing for the expedition here in Queensland, Australia, quickly pairing down my kit and arriving at what looks like the right stuff to hit the ground with in Malaysia. I’ll be joining Kathy Gill (Biosphere Expeditions’ strategy director who will be with us for the first group) and Katie Yewdall (our scientist on Tioman) on that island on Wednesday and once we’re all on deck we’ll be getting things ready for your arrival and the coming weeks of marine research.
I’ll be writing again once we’ve all met on Tioman (watch the video below of Kathy starting her travels from the other side of the planet to meet near the equator in Malaysia) with details of our preparations.
Anyway, thanks in advance for choosing to leave a positive mark on the world with your travel.