Thursday, 10 December 2015

Wildlife Photography Guest Blog - Billy Heaney


Sea-Changers is working in  collaboration with some of the UKs most talented wildlife photographers over the next few months. Part of this collaboration will be a series of Blogs which celebrate their talent, their work, the beauty of the sea.In the first of these blogs we introduced Billy Heaney.

My name is Billy Heaney. I am 21 years old and I’m about to start my masters by research at the University Exeter, Cornwall Campus. The marine world has fascinated me since I was a toddler. As such, whales and dolphins have been my passion, or obsession, since the tender age of just 2 years old. 
Photography came to me a bit later on in my mid-teens but I was soon hooked always searching for the next magical wildlife encounter. It wasn’t until I started my Zoology degree at the University of Exeter that my focus on marine photography took off. Fortunately, I had begun working for AK Wildlife Cruises, a local wildlife tour operator based in Falmouth, during my first year of study. Since then, I have continued to photograph and film the marine mega fauna which we encounter, ultimately documenting each unique trip along the way.  


It’s hard to narrow it down to just a single ‘best’ or ‘worst’ experience when it comes to photography as even during the best wildlife encounters there’s always something that I think I’ve missed. However, there is one moment that comes to mind, when I look back on all the amazing wildlife encounters which I have been privileged enough to enjoy. It was my birthday, the 24th June 2014, and I was  10 miles off the coast of Falmouth, working for AK Wildlife Cruises, surrounded by hundreds Manx Shearwaters and diving gannets. The sea and sky was a mass of avian diversity, a clear sign that there was a bounty of fish below, I just hoped that there was something bigger lurking beneath the surface. Could there be dolphins somewhere? Or something even bigger? Maybe a whale?



A fishy smell began to linger across the surface, pungent and oddly exciting. This fishy odour wasn’t just the smell of dead fish, it was the aroma of whale breathe. But which whale was it? Well, to my amazement the leviathan soon revealed itself. A large shimmering black back rolled in the near distance. It was a minke whale! Even though it is the second smallest baleen whale, with females reaching lengths of 8 metres, this minke whale dwarfed anything that I had ever encountered in British waters before. 


And with barely a trace, the giant soon disappeared again into the depths. How something so big could be so elusive astonished me. Several minutes had passed and I had no idea where the whale could be, until a friend of mine, sounding confused, shouted “what’s that?” as a large white whale shaped silhouette glided underneath us. It was the minke whale upside down checking us out! It continued to swim around for several minutes, surfacing right next to the boat. Nothing can quite prepare you for the moment when a large sentient being approaches you and interacts with you entirely on their own accord. 


During my time out at sea working for AK Wildlife Cruises, I have noticed several changes in the marine environment as the years have progressed. For instance, this year has been a poor year for basking shark sightings all over Cornwall. This lack of shark sightings has coincided with another mass occurrence of Barrel Jellyfish in British waters. Could the barrel jellyfish be out competing or preventing the basking sharks from feeding in our in shore waters? 

http://www.billyheaney.co.uk/

The sea is in need of protecting on large governmental scales as well as on an individual level. There’s so much that people can do to help the sea. For a start, if you spend the day at the beach take all your litter and rubbish away with you and participate in a 2 minute beach clean to help clean up your local beach. Secondly, use a fish guide when purchasing fresh fish to make sure that is has come from a sustainable source. In subsequent blog posts, I plan to address and discuss a variety of different threats that our oceans are currently facing as well as sharing more stories of my time documenting marine mega fauna in Cornwall.

To find out more about Billy and his work visit his website at: http://www.billyheaney.co.uk/

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Galapagos Whale Shark Project - What do the Big Ones Eat?

We are really pleased to introduce a guest blog from Rory Graham. Rory wrote to us recently asking for support for a great project he is involved in and we were happy to help. So read on.... 

More about Rory
"I am a MSc student studying Tropical Marine Biology and for my thesis I am working with the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) on their Galapagos Whale Shark Project (GWSP) using tracking data of pregnant whale sharks which are not found in other aggregations.Whale sharks are a vulnerable species which are often caught in fisheries based in Central America and south east Asia. It is believed they are part of a global population so this affects the total population.We are looking to increase awareness of this aggregation to increase overall protection of the species.Understanding the life history of this species is important to the overall conservation of them, especially these pregnant individuals".


Rory's Blog - What do the big ones eat?

During the summer months the British Isles hosts the second largest fish on earth, the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) growing to a maximum size of 12m. They come here following their main food source, plankton, which blooms in the waters surrounding Britain during the summer months.  This forms the basis of many trips to the Isle of Man and other hotspots during these summer months.  Basking sharks are among only 3 species of filter feeding sharks, the others being the megamouth shark, Megachasma pelagios, and the whale shark, Rhincodon typus.


 
Basking Shark 2011


While basking sharks are found in all temperate waters their larger counterpart, the whale shark is only found in tropical and subtropical waters. Very little is known about whale sharks which reach a maximum reported size of 20m yet somehow there were only 320 documented sightings before 1986. What we do know about the whale sharks comes from the 13 predictable aggregation found throughout the world annually the largest of which is found of the Atlantic coast of Mexico around the Isla Mujeres in early July . Yet all but one of these aggregations are comprised of immature (>6m) males. Yet in the Galapagos islands, where the Galapagos Conservation Trust (GCT) is involved in the Galapagos Whale Shark Project (GWSP) has access to the only pregnant female whale sharks found in the world.



Jonathan Green 2012-Pregant whale shark



This project has been running since the mid-90s and with new technology is now involved in tracking projects of these giants. Expeditions have taken place every cold season (June-December) since 2011 tagging individuals, the largest whale shark tracking project one earth. All in order to understand more about the largest fish on earth. Combining this data with tracking data GCT has begun to understand why the whale sharks are there. It may seem obvious but beforehand there was no evidence, but the main reason these pregnant individuals are passing through the Galapagos and into equatorial waters is food, zooplankton to be precise.


While we don’t know where these animals give birth it seems likely that it is in the deep Pacific Ocean, with the Galapagos acting as a sort of service station. So like the British Isles the Galapagos archipelago hosts some of the largest creatures on earth, eating some of the smallest.



For more information about the work GCT does please visit our website

and if you are specifically interested in whale sharks please visit the series of blogs detailing the recent discoveries of the GWSP and threats that they face click here.  
 

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

998...and Counting



Today I looked at the Sea-Changers Facebook Page and noticed we have 998 page likes. And it got me thinking about what a long way Sea-Changers has come. 

In 2011, Sea-Changers began with a simple vision. To harness the power and potential of all those who love the sea or run sea related businesses to raise money for marine conservation in the UK.  Four years later and we have now given out over 20 marine conservation grants to UK projects ranging from Newquay Marine Group​, National Lobster Hatchery, Surfers Against Sewage, Marine Conservation Society, and Craignish Community Group. This week we will announce who will receive our next round of funding grants.

We are on our way, with your help to creating sea change around our shores. We have done this through the fantastic support of some amazing people and, some amazing businesses such as Hebridean Island Cruises, ASAP Supplies, Mike’s Dive Store, Andark, Channel Yacht Sales. And we need your help to create more. You can help us grow, achieve more, create more Sea-Change right now. Here’s how:

Spread the word - Share this post on your Facebook page and ask your friends to like our Facebook page or follow us on Twitter. We are nudging 1000Facebook  likes so it would be great to see numbers sour this week.

Text for Change – If everyone of our Facebook family texted SEAS10£1 to 70070 today we could give that money directly to a vital marine project in the UK...a thousand pounds! Though we funded some great projects this Spring, there are always some projects we can’t fund due to lack of available funds. You can change that for us right now for less than the price of a cup of tea.

Get involved - We are a volunteer run organisation and we are recruiting volunteers right now. If you would like to know more or get involved we would love to hear from you. Please email info@sea-changers.org.uk for more information.  

Thank you

Helen
Sea-Changers Co-Founder  


Monday, 25 May 2015

Salty Sam’s Adventures


We love our guest blogs at Sea-Changers and this month I am thrilled to welcome a post from Christina Sinclair. Christina has developed her own blog site which tells the story of Salty Sam. In 2008 Christina created e Salty Sam in her children’s book Salty Sam and the Windy Day. The book is the story about a lighthouse keeper.Sam has a huge enthusiasm for life.  He is an animal-lover who cares about the environment.  He plants trees and is careful to recycle. Christina's blog is a lovely read for all children and a great educational resource and we would love to spread the word about it to increase readership.  - A mist for all kids who love the sea and want to learn more about it in a fun and educational way. So over to Christina:



"When you are a teacher you get asked some pretty random questions, like: ‘Why are tropical seas so clear when ours aren’t?’, ‘Are there sharks in the English Channel?’, ‘What did Shakespeare use for ink?’


I had a collection of these questions in my head when I wrote my fun blog for children.  So in a sense a lot of the topics in the blog posts were selected by children themselves.  I like to call it the ‘Salty Sam Syllabus’; maybe an alternative to the National Curriculum, but hopefully no less educational.

Salty Sam the Lighthouse Man was born as a doodle on a telephone message pad and quickly grew into a fully-fledged character.  My first book Salty Sam and the Windy Day was published in 2008.  I have been writing stories and illustrating them since I was six.

The website that was developed to promote my book has recently been updated and very importantly a blog has been added. Salty Sam was ready for a new adventure.

The Salty Sam Fun Blog for Children is unique.  It is a fantasy blog written by a cartoon character…

In a place far away there is a lighthouse set in a sparkling, blue sea.
The lighthouse stands high and proud on some ragged rocks, warning ships of the dangers beneath.

Inside the lighthouse where it is warm and cosy lives the lighthouse keeper Salty Sam, cute, cuddly and loveable.  Sometimes the hospitable host, sometimes the intrepid hero he has a zest for life and learning. 

Living in the lighthouse never gets lonely for Sam, he has Barney the Parrot as his constant companion and his lighthouse home is surrounded by many different sea creatures.  Sam has a special ability to communicate with all animals.

When Sam’s lighthouse was connected to broadband, his thoughts turned to blogging as a way to while away his evenings and connect with the rest of the World.  In his blog posts he talks about his life out at sea and his family and friends who live in the small town of Rocky Bay on the mainland.

Rocky Bay is the nearest town to the lighthouse.  It is a West Country fishing town nestling into a hillside with a harbour and a dockside pub called the Rusty Anchor Inn.  All the usual tourist attractions can be found there for anyone wanting a terrific staycation: tearooms, a theme park, safari park and funfair, etc.  There is a busy lifeboat station, a coastguard helicopter pad and police station.  Farmer Jenkins’ farm is behind the town.

Life in Rocky Bay is wholesome and family orientated.  The community is kind and supportive.

Salty Sam has two nephews Bill and Bob who love going on adventures with their uncle and keep him on his toes with their childlike enthusiasm and energy.

I had a liking for nature even as a child and I know there are children now who have that same interest so on the blog there is a huge emphasis on understanding and caring for nature and the environment both on land and in the sea.  This is something that is important for children to learn about, but I believe I am doing it in a subtle, accessible and entertaining way; the blog is teaching without preaching.

The educational elements of the blog are blended into the stories told by Salty Sam as he writes his weekly journal to share with his fans who now come from very nearly one hundred countries around the World.

There is a plethora of topics covered and the blog posts build up into a compendium that looks a little like a ‘QI for children’; education in digestible portions, delivered in a fun way! 

There is a children’s joke told by Bill and Bob at the end of each post to always lighten the mood and a picture gallery to help children further understand what Sam talks about in his posts.  There are added sound effects on the side bar too.

The blog posts are released every Fun Friday just in time for the weekend.  Each week there are activities for children to do, sometimes handicrafts or cooking and sometimes nature observation projects.  Parents are encouraged to help and get involved.

The craft projects match the theme of each post and use skills that when learnt can last a lifetime.  There are projects for all levels of ability. 

Creating the blog has been an enormous amount of work but very enjoyable.  Everything has been carefully researched and meticulously planned.  The blog is almost all original content which I have created single-handedly.  The drawings and craft designs are all my own creation.  There are many more posts in the pipeline. 

Salty Sam’s Fun Blog for Children is to be found at: www.christina-sinclair.com
New posts are released every Fun Friday and everything is totally free.