Have you missed us? It’s been a bit quiet the last 18 months. We’ve been hard at work getting results together and doing our best to deliver our aims and ambitions, and the online presence has faded a bit. Fear not! The website and blog are coming up for a refresh, and we’ll be using them to release interesting and cool information about European eels and the eeliad project work.
Eels face a number of dangers during their lives- like all animals. Quantifying these dangers, be they natural or anthropogenic, is not always easy or straightforward. Recently, we have been looking into eel mortality in the early phase of their oceanic migration. This is arguably the most dangerous time for silver eels: they are vulnerable to fisheries, to predators, to barriers across rivers or estuaries.
If you are interested to know more about this, click here: http://www.alphagalileo.org/ViewItem.aspx?ItemId=94661&CultureCode=en, where you will find a summary of some recently published research into the cause of mortality in the early migration phase. This is important work, because it helps to define our expectations for those eels that are allowed to escape from rivers and enter the sea- the eels that have a chance to reach the Sargasso and start the next generation.
In October and November of last year, we again attached drift tags to migrating silver eels. The tagging took place in Sweden, Ireland, Spain and France, requiring the coordination and enthusiasm of many of the eeliad team. The returns so far have been very encouraging, coming in from Sweden, Spain, Orkney and France. The data, like that from previous years, has proven to be interesting and revealing. Perhaps the most amazing thing is that the tags get found at all, and I’m constantly amazed by how helpful and interested those that find our tags are. Every time I see a message in the eeliad mailbox, I wonder immediately if we have another tag recovery, and from where and whom.
To all those people who have returned a tag, and who continue to search the tideline for our data-recording flotsam, we thank you!
The last year or so has just flown by, and it has been hard to keep the blogging habit. That’s not to say that we haven’t been making progress. We’ve been tracking eels across the Atlantic, finding out about the pollutants that eels carry, and working hard to make sure that our interpretations of our results are robust and will contribute to eel management and conservation.
I made a New Year resolution to keep the blog updated this year. Keep checking back for news and views as we head deeper into 2011!
I haven’t updated the site in a while- things have been super-busy with fieldwork and following up. This year’s tagging has been a great success in Ireland, Sweden and Spain (thanks to all involved). There were many highlights, from perching in the middle of the Corrib river being interviewed for the Discovery Channel, meeting Japanese eel expert Katsumi Tsukamoto to talk about our respective work programmes, the quality of the facilities in every location. Most of all though, meeting up to work again with friends and colleagues- it never gets tiring.
The eel quality sampling programme has also been underway and is almost complete. This has been a fantastic team effort across Europe, and although the results will take a little while to emerge, the scale and quality of the sampling work is a great achievement and a testament to the commitment of all involved.
Meanwhile, in labs in Denmark, Sweden and France, we’re inching closer to understanding population structure through the analysis of genetic and otolith signatures of glass and adult eels. These techniques are complicated at the best of times, but the eel life-cycle makes it more challenging than most species.
Well, if you want to find out about what eels do all day, click this link: http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/325/5948/1660
I hope you enjoy it. Remember, you can get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
We heard today that our paper on eel behaviour in the ocean will be published in Science very soon. It’s been a long journey from first looking at the data to it actually getting published, but then again, our findings are something that scientists have been trying to find out for decades. We shouldn’t have thought it would be easy!
As soon as it’s published, I’ll link it here.
We’re now finalising our plans for eel sampling for this coming autumn. It’s going to be quite an effort, with institutes in at least seven countries going out and collecting silver eels in sufficient quantities that we can assess their vital statistics: length, weight, sex, fat content, pollutant load, diseases carried, how ’silver’ they are etc. All of these factors will affect how likely they are to achieve a successful migration to the Sargasso.
Of course, it is not quality of the eels alone that will determine their migratory success. There are lots of other things that might get in their way: barriers to migration, such as dams or hydropower stations, predation, by marine mammals, birds, or sharks, or maybe failure to find the way. The relative importance of these problems is something that we will aim to quantify, as well as the quality of individual eels themselves.
It’s tough being an eel.
At the moment, the eeliad team is meeting to discuss the progress we’ve made in the project so far. We’re one year into our four year mission to uncover some of the fundamental mysteries that surround eel biology.
The last 12 months seem to have gone really quickly, but we’ve also done a lot. Maybe those facts are related! Our first publications in science journals will be published soon, and we are almost ready to start telling the world a bit more about what we’ve found out and why it is significant.
It is certainly an exciting time in the project, and it’s really inspiring to think about what we hope to achieve over the next few years.
It’s been a few months since we released eels with tags attached or implanted. According to perceived wisdom, they should be arriving at the Sargasso Sea and spawning right about now. So are they?
So far, we’ve heard from a significant proportion of the pop-off tags we deployed, and only a couple of the implanted tags. These are the tags from eels that didn’t make it all the way to the Sargasso and from eels that only made a short journey before the tags were released.
We’re still waiting for a lot of data to be returned. It is frustrating because we want to know what is happening, but these kinds of studies take a long time to come to fruition. Often, the most important data are the data that are returned at the very end of the data collection period. We won’t be able to assess the success of our tagging, at least in a preliminary way, until the start of the 2009 tagging season in October. Keep checking back for updates!