Interview by ROSE BOARDMAN
Want to learn more about the marine environment and conservation gain hands-on experience of research? Cape RADD has you covered! Based in Cape Town, South Africa, this research facility will teach you everything you need to know about our amazing oceans. This week on Into The Industry we caught up with Mike Barron, marine biologist and course director of Cape RADD. Read on to find out more about this amazing field course…
HEY MIKE, TELL US A BIT ABOUT CAPE RADD?
Cape RADD is a marine field station that serves as a platform for researchers in the Cape Town and False Bay area. We specialise in long-term projects that serve to monitor the biodiversity of the Cape Peninsula, a global hotspot with more than 3500 endemic marine species. We are spreading awareness in marine conservation.
Our research includes assessing the success of different management strategies within Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), monitoring the diversity and abundance of marine species, conducing white shark population estimates, testing shark deterrent strategies, and implementing some large-scale citizen science programs. Our research also utilises various techniques including Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV), SCUBA roving divers, line transects, quadrats, photo quadrats and drop cams, mark-recapture, and other novel techniques. At the core of our values is passing on our expertise to early-career scientists and those with a passion for the ocean.
Cape RADD also facilitates SCUBA and free-diving training courses for early-career scientists and conservationists who want to learn more about the marine environment. Our courses include training in data collection, field operation techniques, theoretical workshops and biological knowledge presentations from field biologists and dive experts.
SO, WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO SET UP CAPE RADD?
As a wildlife enthusiast and scientist, I have always wanted to find out more about the world we live in. After diving and working as a field biologist all around the world, and working in the student training industry, I wanted to spend time with early-career scientists. My goal was to share my knowledge and spread my passion for our oceans.
CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THE CURRENT PROJECTS AND RESEARCH RUN BY CAPE RADD?
We are currently monitoring the Cape Peninsula biodiversity through invertebrate transects, fish counts and egg case records. These studies all work collaboratively to determine the long-term diversity of species. Another project explores the distribution rates and density of the kelp forests along the Cape Peninsula area, looking at grazer species’ populations and if this is affecting kelp deforestation. We also collaborate with international universities and are currently working on a fish behaviour project. This project will look at the individual influence on shoaling behaviour in single and mixed-species shoals. Lastly, one of our principle scientists, Dylan Irion is investigating the South African white shark population for his PhD research. We intend to use all our data to support marine management decisions, including MPAs and permit controls.
HOW IMPORTANT IS DIVING IN THE SCIENTIFIC COMMUNITY, AND WHAT DIVING TECHNIQUES WILL PEOPLE LEARN AT CAPE RADD?
I personally believe that being able to dive as a field biologist is a very important skill to develop. Cape RADD offers scuba-training courses where we apply well-published sampling techniques, which can be applied in all marine ecosystems. We use a variety of techniques from basic ‘roving diver’ technique, which is used for more basic protocols, and often used in citizen science projects. We also use and train stationary point counts, belt transects and random quadrat placements.
HOW CAN THE PUBLIC GET INVOLVED WITH AND HELP SUPPORT CAPE RADD?
As well as our marine science field course, we also try and engage the public! Citizen science is very important and we aim to introduce non-biologists to the world of marine science! The public can spend time with our biologists, learning about marine life and how to identify key species. They will then join us on a dive where they get involved with collecting data as well as learning lots of information on the conservation issues.
We believe that marine conservation should be accessible and tangible to everyone. The opportunity to engage and make people care and bring out their passion for wildlife and conservation is what we aim to do!
Thanks to The Marine Diaries for the chat!