From the 5th to the 9th April, cetacean scientists flocked from all over the world to attend the 28th annual European Cetacean Society Conference in Liege, Belgium. This year the focus of the conference was marine mammals as sentinels of a changing marine environment, presenting and studying the consequences of global change on these species as well as the principal dangers that threaten their future. The Aquarium-Museum Liege provided a perfect backdrop for this year’s conference, boasting an impressive collection of cetacean artifacts, ranging from a fin whale skeleton to historic, taxonomic texts.
The Sea Watch Foundation has traditionally had a strong presence at the European Cetacean Society Conference, not only Sea Watch staff members but also students and volunteers presenting their research at the annual conference. This year was no different with Sea Watch Foundation director, Dr. Peter Evans, Wales Development Officer, Katrin Lohrengel, as well as Research Assistant, Niki Karagouni, MSc student, Andrew Baylis, and Merseyside’s Regional Coordinator, Mathew Clough, all travelling to Liege to attend the conference, represent Sea Watch and discuss their research.
The conference commenced with a weekend of workshops, Dr. Peter Evans leading a workshop on noise in the marine environment. The plenary session of talks and posters followed during the week, with talks running throughout the day and poster sessions on Monday and Tuesday evenings. Our Wales Development Officer, Katrin was up first in the poster sessions, presenting her poster discussing the first confirmed sighting of Cardigan Bay dolphins in Liverpool Bay in Monday’s poster session.
Apart from learning about the latest news and discoveries in cetacean science, conference attendees were also treated to local culture and delicacies during the second poster session on Tuesday, with Belgian chocolates, local brews and organic apple juice being on offer while presenters milled, mingled and discussed each other’s posters. Tuesday’s session featured a poster on the perception of marine mammals and their impacts by our Regional Coordinator Mathew, a spatial analysis of the behavior of bottlenose dolphins in Cardigan Bay by our Research Assistant Niki Karagouni and a discussion of the relationship between reproductive success and home range size in Cardigan Bay bottlenose dolphins by our MSc student Andrew Baylis.
Several former Sea Watch volunteers and staff members also presented posters, including former Research Assistant Rachel Lambert who presented a new code of conduct for boat operators in the Maldives and our previous Monitoring Officer, Gemma Veneruso, who’s poster discussed the potential of developing whale watching tourism in the Faroe islands.
The conference drew to a close on a high note on Wednesday afternoon, with Dr. Nick Tregenza, the ‘podfather’, being honoured with the Mandy McMath Conservation Award for his outstanding contribution to cetacean conservation and his ground breaking research into cetacean acoustics through the use of c-pods.
We would like to take this chance to thank all the volunteers who have helped in the collection of data presented at this year’s European Cetacean Society conference, as well as the charity Sea Changers for help with funding our research. All poster presentations will be made available on the Sea Watch website shortly.