We are currently in the midst of preparing for another expedition to the beautiful Bijagos Archipelago in Guinea Bissau. With a core team of 6 researchers and students of the University of Groningen (RUG) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ) and two technicians and drone operators from The Fieldwork Company we will be working in the area for two months. This expedition is entirely focused on the ecology of small benthic ray species.
During this expedition we will study the trophic role and lifecycle of small Fontitrygon whipray species (Guido Leurs, PhD. candidate RUG and NIOZ), and the influence of these small rays on the biogeomorphology of intertidal mudflats (Janne Nauta, PhD. candidate RUG).
Based on our previous expedition, we will continue to try and map several intertidal areas to determine the feeding densities of these small rays. For this we will collaborate with The Fieldwork Company and use drones and artificial intelligence. We will also continue the environmental DNA study, and increase our fishing effort to collect more samples of the local shark and ray populations. Besides that we will be doing some new experiments on the mudflats to determine the intake rates and effect of whipray feeding on the mudflat systems.
We will be on expedition from the 20th of October until the 15th of December, and will update you on our progress whenever possible!
This research project is part of a large interdisciplinary project titled “The Waders of the Bijagos” funded by the MAVA Foundation and in collaboration with the local NGO IBAP. Within this project the Universities of Groningen (Netherlands), Aveiro (Portugal) and Lisbon (Portugal) and the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research (NIOZ; Netherlands) collaborate closely to shed light on the function of the Bijagos Archipelago within the East Atlantic Flyway for migratory shorebirds. In a series of blogs on this website we will keep you up to date on our expeditions and results on mangrove and mudflat dynamics, migratory bird ecology and the ecology of sharks and rays within this area.