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    Honourable Honours

    September 03, 2012 2 min read

    Honourable Honours

    After 3 years at Uni doing a Bachelor degree, I decided to continue down the academic pathway and do an honours degree. Prior to applying, we are all warned that an honours year will be one of the "most challenging and stressful years of your life this far", this sentence is usually countered by an enthusiastic "however, it will also be the most rewarding!".

    With this in mind, each honours student devises a topic based on gaps in our current knowledge base. Under the guidance of a supervisor this topic becomes your "baby" for the year.

    The title of "my baby" is Classifying and mapping inner-continental shelf reefs of South East QLD: Testing the utility of abiotic surrogates.

    So my task is to survey these deep sea reefs of the inner-continental shelf and compare the biological information to the physical (aka abiotic) factors of that reef. Currently, MPA's are classified and mapped by using broad scale abiotic factors to 'predict' the biological assemblages. However, the utility of these abiotic factors is rarely tested .. and that's when I come in.

    I'm using a flying camera array to survey the ocean floor. The array consists of 2 cameras for recording, lights for colour, and lasers so that I am able to quantify the area I am sampling. One camera is used to record the sea floor in HD quality and the other is attached to a 3-core cable thats provides a live feed to monitor on the boat (to avoid crashing into things).

    Sarah Shark

    From the video, I extract frames and identify species (which mostly consist of sponges, ascidians, gorgonians and bryozoans). Of course, there will be things that I can't identify from a picture, and possibly a few things that have not been discovered yet. So for the purposes of this particular study I just identify them down to morpho-species.

    Sarah Shark
    A frame grab from one of the deep sea reefs out from the Seaway
    Sarah Shark
    Monitor onboard the boat for live viewing
    Sarah Shark
    Deploying the camera array

    With little over 9 weeks to go before our final thesis is submitted, the race is on to the finish line, but I'm really enjoying it. However, talk to me 2 weeks before due date and I'm sure I will have a completely different opinion.

    Oh and on another note; episode 3 of Sarah Shark titled "Grey Nurse: The Endangered Shark" is looking incredible! :)

    Sarah Shark www.sarahshark.com