What goes on underneath the sea’s surface when no one is looking?
My initial fascination for visual observations in understanding oceanic ecosystems transformed into a research focus in the course of the 2022 Women in Conservation Technology (WiCT) Training Program. During the training, I was introduced to the fundamentals of camera trap surveys in monitoring ecosystems and species interactions. I became especially keen to adapt and explore a similar approach in researching underwater grasslands— seagrasses.
An underwater seagrass bed (Enhalus acoroides) from one of the study sites
Mapping seagrass meadows and deploying BRUVs
In my ongoing Master’s at Stellenbosch University, I am using baited remote underwater videos (BRUVs) to survey the seagrass habitats along Kenya’s North Coast. So far, one of the exciting highlights in my MSc journey has been my first field data collection activity which took place in October 2023. My fieldwork involved boat-based mapping of coastal vegetated areas (seagrasses and nearby mangroves) by using a mobile app and QGIS software. This was followed by submerging simply constructed BRUVs (using PVC pipes and an underwater camera) within the mapped zones and recording underwater footage.
I will use the captured footage to assess and characterise the seagrass beds together with any macro marine species that interact with the habitat. I believe that this visual approach to seagrass surveys can offer useful insights for marine conservation as well as communicating research findings for enhancing ocean literacy.
Retrieving a BRUV setup after recording visual data.
Applying best practices from WiCT training
As I progress with my studies, I am continuously applying the technical lessons and collaboration insights that I learnt from the WiCT program. I plan to share my findings upon completion of my studies soon and to integrate other technologies from the training into the seagrass research I conduct.