Saturday, May 26, 2012

Catch shares? A new approach the fisheries management

This sounds interesting.  Instead of trying to run around policing fishermen, why not give them give them ownership of the fish and let them police themselves?  I've got to read more up on this to see how it works.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Cichlid photo competition pictures of the Month

Click here to look at some awesome pictures of cichlids from the British Cichlid Association's web forum.  Every month they have this competition.  I'll be showcasing my favorite photos from it regularly from now on.  Here are a few from May's competition.


Friday, May 18, 2012

News from the Beach by Campbell!

Hi guys,

My name is Campbell Louw, I am the dive instructor at Aquanuts dive school and researcher at the Maru research centre alongside Justin Kraus and just want to tell you a little about life at Kande.
Malawi is not at the coast and is bordered by Zambia, Tanzania and Mozambique, diving here is done in the warm, clear, fresh water of Lake Malawi. The lake has about 1650km of coastline, with a maximum depth of 800m. Inland, freshwater diving brings up images of a dull, cold dive with rocky/bushy surroundings, but guys this is not die Vaaldam! Malawi has a very chilled out Caribbean feel, with long white beaches, warm water (24 degrees in June up to a scorching 30 degrees in December) and tropical climate and vegetation. Visibility is usually around 10m.
The diving is very interesting with several dive resorts stretching from Nkhata Bay in the North to Cape Maclear in the South. I am working at Aquanuts dive school at Kande beach, located in the North of the lake. The dive centre is right on the beach looking out on Kande island 800m off shore (a nice swim there every night!). Most of the diving is done on the reef surrounding the island which consists mainly of rocky formations. The fish life found in the lake is the most diverse found in any freshwater lake in the world, with almost a 1000 species of fish living here, most of these are endemic living nowhere else. This is more than the total number of species to be found in all the lakes and rivers of Europe and North America combined. Most of these fish are different species of cichlids (belong to the family cichlidae) and the diverse array in size, coloration and mating behavior results in every dive feeling like a dive in a tropical aquarium.
The mating behavior of the cichlids is fascinating to watch, with these fish taking care of their young. Craters varying in size from the size of a soup bowl to 1m deep dongas can be seen everywhere, these are dug by the males and the females lay their eggs in these nests. If you come to close and the mother feels threatened she swims up to her brood of little fish, opening her mouth, and in two or three sweeps all the young form a tight clump and swim into their mothers beckoning mouth for protection.
The Maru research centre operates alongside Aquanuts dive school and was the reason why I decided to start my dive travels in Malawi. Through explosive speciation all the different species in the lake evolved from a common ancestor in a relatively short time and the lake is thus a thus a live evolution “experiment”. At the Maru we study the biodiversity in the north of the lake and look at the impact of environmental changes and human influences such as fishing.
Life on the lake is awesome! I live in a bungalow next to the dive centre opening right on the beach. Most of our clients come from the overland trucks staying in the campsite next door and the mix of travelers from all over the world result in quite a party on a regular basis! I paddle out to the island with a canoe most mornings for an early dive or sometimes to spear something for the pot. We do all our fun dives from canoes, launching 1 of our 2 rubber ducks to take clients on dives.
Being Africa the diet is something to get used to with nothing processed and I have not seen dairy since being here, I basically live on avo’s, bananas, tomatoes and eggs. The coffee produced nearby in Mzuzu is top notch! Not solving my caffeine addiction but it keeps me smiling.

Safe diving

Cheers Campbell


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Thank God for Science?

This article argues that we should, a least a little bit, and says "Those who magnify recent controversies about science and religion, projecting conflict back into historical time, perpetuate a historical myth to which no historian of science would subscribe."

Not entirely convinced, but certainly the history of science, scientific discovery, and fact-making, is more human and less cold logic and scientific "method" than most people suppose.  Read Bruno Latour's "Science in Action" for more on that.  


Sunday, May 6, 2012

"I am Malawi"

Hat tip to Africa is a Country for this one.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Cool Graphs and other News from the Beach

-At the Maru we have been conducting underwater population and biodiversity surveys for the past 7 months.  Twice a month we have gone down and done line transect surveys at two different sites.  Below is a graph made from some of the data we have collected.  The Y-axis shows the absolute and relative abundance of target species during each survey which are arranged chronologically on the X-axis.  Next we will try and find any relationships between this survey data and the weather and water quality monitoring data that we have also been collecting.  Stay tuned.

-The Maru also just applied for a grant from the Paul V. Loiselle Conservation Fund of the American Cichlid Assoication in order to train up to Malawians from Fisheries Department of Mzuzu University in underwater observation techniques using SCUBA and cichlid fish identification.  Wish us luck!

-Male Mylochromis mollis (see the youtube video below) are just starting to get their flashy breeding colors out around Kande Island in preparation for wooing all their dull female counterparts into cozy little breeding craters.  It makes for quite a show.

- Our lazy Sunday afternoon Korean BBQ up at the Zoo in Mzuzu was a big success.  Thanks to all the people who showed up and to Bernhard from Chipungu Coffee for supplying us with two beautiful little pigs.  We roasted one on spit and buried the other one in ground cooking it Maori style. 

- We've put up a small photo gallery at the Maru's website.  Check it out at here