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MUSANDAM EXPEDITION REPORT NOW OUT

It is with great pleasure that we can announce the publication of our 2013 Musandam project report. Thank you to everyone who has been involved in making this happen!

In the report

Our work in Musandam is an excellent example of how volunteer-led research can lead to the creation of protected areas (see news story on this) and help guide government in their management decisions.

The latest report confirms the good state of the reefs of Musandam and continues to argue for further protection and recognition right up to UNESCO World Heritage Site status.

Volunteer involvement continues to be the driving force behind it all by creating the fact-based, scientific basis for our arguments, so thank you again to all our volunteers, staff and supporters who make this expedition possible.

> more http://biosphereexpeditions.createsend1.com/t/ViewEmail/j/7EDC354AE4337275/87F98530754DB02144D0DD5392A9C75A
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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

With wind from the east on Saturday, the swell was large. We all bundled up into our Buffs and waterproofs and braced ourselves for it. As we crashed through the waves we encountered our first pod of Risso's dolphins with their distinctive beakless faces and white markings. Duncan, our reluctant photographer for the day, managed to capture an amazing photo of a Risso’s as it turned course towards the boat.

We then moved on to a pod of huge bachelor male sperm whales, and had a whopping 26 encounters with them! We identified six different individuals. It was really difficult to document them in the rough weather, but the team did an excellent job. We returned to port cold and wet, yet very satisfied. Well done everyone!

Sunday morning was spent at base camp learning how to make use of the software Lisa employs to catalogue and match the sperm whales. We then broke into teams and did data entry, brought all the spreadsheets up to date, and ran the matching software. Team 1 made five certain matches to previous years here in the Azores, and a sixth possible one.

A 'match', by the way, is when we can show by comparing fluke photos that a whale has returned to the Azores (or indeed any other place where it may have been photographed around the world and where its fluke photos have been added to an international photo database). This kind of matching information is crucial to tracing whale migration routes, which is crucial for conservation efforts - you can only protect them effectively if you know where they are and move about. And we know very little about their movements, even in this day and age of total control and data grabbing. In a way it's comforting to know that Big Brother NSA does not know everything - where a passenger jet has gone or where the whales go. We simply can't just ask a satellite to provide the answers - how many sperm whales are left on the planet, for example. Good, old-fashioned manual labour on the ground is required for this - taking photos, tracking movements, spotting blows, etc. And this is where you, our participants, come in. Without the input of your time and money, this work would not get done. The Physeteer would not be leaving the harbour and Lisa would not be collecting data at this time of year. No pictures would get taken, no matches would be made, no conclusions drawn, no additional piece of the puzzle would be added to the big picture. So thank you for your input everyone!

The remainder of Sunday was free time. While Cil and Ryan went diving (brrr again!), the rest of the team bundled into a hired van to tour the island together.

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Biosphere Expeditions diaries/blogs/pictures available on http://biosphereexpeditions.wordpress.com/. Excerpts on www.facebook.com/biosphere.expeditions1 | https://plus.google.com/103347005009999707934/posts | http://pinterest.com/biosphereexped/.
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Australia proposes banning environmental boycotts

What do you do when a company is repeatedly caught trashing the environment and refuses to change its ways? Boycott! Activists and campaigners often use boycotting a company's products when other methods have failed, yet in Australia such boycotts could soon become illegal.

> http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0407-hance-ban-boycotts-australia.html?n3ws1ttr
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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Team 1 has arrived, and yesterday was our first day at sea. We were quite successful even though the first day is only a half day. We caught and tagged two loggerhead turtles - a wee one and a larger one. Scientist Lisa obviously has had a great deal of practice netting these fellows, because they both were already diving before we could get close.

We also saw a sperm whale, a fin whale, scores of common dolphins and met the resident troupe of bottlenose dolphins. The sea was relatively calm yesterday, yet the overcast light conditions made spotting blows and spotting floating sperm whales quite difficult. We knew where the sperm whales were, and even put the hydrophone in the water to confirm it, yet somehow they eluded us. We heard at least four of them clicking away quite loudly, and yet we never saw them despite our intensive searching.

A great start, and the seas today are predicted to be the same as yesterday, so we’re off to the Physeter to catalouge whatever animals show themselves to us today.

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Biosphere Expeditions diaries/blogs/pictures available on http://biosphereexpeditions.wordpress.com/. Excerpts on www.facebook.com/biosphere.expeditions1 | https://plus.google.com/103347005009999707934/posts | http://pinterest.com/biosphereexped/.
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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Monday the sun smiled on us as we went in search of the baleen whales that our vigia (lookout) had spotted, and we were rewarded with three fin whales; a mother, its calf and another individual. Seeing them glide through the water, skins glistening in the sunlight, you could see how the ancient fishermen would liken them to massive sea serpents. After they left, we found a pod of rather uncooperative female sperm whales who refused to show their flukes. Eventually we got a few good ID pictures, and I can’t say it was a hardship to hang out and wait for them to behave properly.

Later in the day we encountered a loggerhead turtle, which we caught and tagged. We also saw a blue shark, a swordfish, a school of jumping tuna, a pod of bottlenose dolphins, and a rare random sighting of sperm whale! (Usually the vigias tell us where they are or we listen for them—we rarely stumble upon them during our transect work.) All in a day's work!

Tuesday we had a fantastic last day on the ocean with three more fin whales to add to our data collection. The water was perfectly calm with a spectacular cloudscape above us. Eventually we tore ourselves away from the fin whales and found a loggerhead turtle en route to a pod of sperm whales. After we tagged and safely returned it to the water, we encountered our second pod of Risso's dolphins.

Our sperm whales, at times eight abreast, were a group of females with calves, apparently too busy socialising to show us their flukes! We didn’t get too many ID pictures of that lot. On our return to the harbour we saw common dolphins, and another turtle too small to tag, so we let him drift.

Back in the harbour, Alison, our resident artist, started our traditional Biosphere Expeditions mural on the harbour wall, and we each signed our names in the blow of her painted sperm whale. Frances and Song embellished it with Chinese calligraphy, the symbol meaning “whale”. While we laid the base of the design, it’s up to teams two and three to finish the masterpiece.

The expedition ended this morning, and I just want to say a big thank-you to Group 1 for a job well done. Thanks to your contribution, we were able to encounter the following in a time of year when otherwise no research would be done:

Common Dolphins - 29 encounters totalling 432 animals

Bottlenose Dolphins – 5 encounters totalling 40 animals

Striped Dolphins – 1 encounter with 80 individuals

Risso’s Dolphins – 3 encounters totalling 36 animals

Fin Whales – 5 encounters totalling 11 animals

Blue Whales – 1 encounter with 1 individual

and…

Sperm Whales – 59 encounters totalling 131 animals

We documented 31 different individual sperm whales (many were seen more than once), and made 9 definite matches to previous sightings. We have a possible 2 more matches that Lisa will have to do further research on.

You did an excellent job of collecting data, Team 1. Safe travels home. Team 2? We’re looking forward to your arrival!

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Biosphere Expeditions diaries/blogs/pictures available on http://biosphereexpeditions.wordpress.com/. Excerpts on www.facebook.com/biosphere.expeditions1 | https://plus.google.com/103347005009999707934/posts | http://pinterest.com/biosphereexped/.
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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Wednesday we had good weather for our first full day at sea. The lookouts told us there were sperm whales to the north of Faial, and so that’s where we headed first thing. We stayed with 8 sperm whales at least half the day, cataloging at least 5 individual whales.

We then moved on to transect work, and were lucky enough to see a pod of striped dolphins doing their characteristic carousel thing. We got lucky and their course change brought them quite close to the Physeter, and we were able to see the wee ones flying through the air alongside the adults. Kasia got a great photo.

Thursday was a shore day; half the team went diving (brrrrr!) and saw octopus and moray eels for their pains, while the other half trekked around the rim of the caldeira, then free-wheeled down the mountain on bikes - great fun!

Today was an incredible day beginning with an hour-long encounter with a true leviathan - a blue whale! It graced us with its presence so close to the boat we could almost smell the blow. It was quite the surprise to have him surface only twenty meters away.

The afternoon was spent surrounded by sperm whales. Spaced quite far apart, we stayed with a set of whales until they showed us their flukes, and then race off to the next group. Cil captured a great double fluke. In all, seven obligingly showed us their flukes and we’ve got them in the North Atlantic sperm whale catalogue now. Lisa, our scientist, was very pleased!

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Biosphere Expeditions diaries/blogs/pictures available on http://biosphereexpeditions.wordpress.com/. Excerpts on www.facebook.com/biosphere.expeditions1 | https://plus.google.com/103347005009999707934/posts | http://pinterest.com/biosphereexped/.
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The enemy of your enemy is your ant bodyguard: spider uses one predator for protection against another

The notion of spiders using ants as bodyguards seems a bit contradictory, but that is exactly what occurs on the tropical forest floors of the Philippines. The jumping spider strategically nests within the vicinity of the aggressive Asian weaver ant as a defense tactic against its main predator, the spitting spider.

> http://news.mongabay.com/2014/0409-mark-spider-ant-bodyguard.html?n3ws1ttr
The notion of spiders using ants as bodyguards seems a bit contradictory, but that is exactly what occurs on the tropical forest floors of the Philippines. The jumping spider strategically nests within the vicinity of the aggressive Asian weaver ant as a defense tactic against its main predator, the spitting spider.
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Biosphere Expeditions

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Our taster /experience / sampler day season is about to start. Join us in Australia, Germany, the UK and USA for a day out in a National Park or protected area to find out what Biosphere Expeditions is all about, learn some new skills and meet some like-minded people > www.biosphere-expeditions.org/tasters.
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Update from our volunteer vacation / conservation holiday protecting whales, dolphins and turtles around the Azores archipelago (www.biosphere-expeditions.org/azores)

Greetings from Banana Manor, our base in Horta. Lisa, Catherine and I (left, right, centre) have been very busy preparing for your arrival. Base is now all set up, and we are eager to greet the first team on Monday.

You can start arriving at Banana Manor after 13:00 on start day. Training begins promptly at 14:00 so please be on time as there is a lot of information to take in during the first 24 hours of the expedition slot. (Please do not arrive at Banana Manor before 13:00 as you are likely to find it empty or in the process of being cleaned with no room for you to put yourself or your belongings in.)

Lisa, Catherine and I will be at Peter’s Café at 11:30 on Monday morning, so if anyone would like to join us we’d be happy to see you. This is an informal pre-expedition lunch and is self-pay, but since we are eager to meet you and we have to eat too, we’ll socialize there and then walk back to Banana Manor. We’ve organised luggage transportation from Peter’s to base camp, so feel free to come to Peter’s straight from your flight or other hotel if you’ve already been on the island and you won’t have to worry about rolling your luggage a couple of kms to base. Walkers get Alisa’s 2 cent tour of downtown Horta.

If we don’t see you at Peter’s, then we’ll meet you at the official meeting time between 13.00 and 14.00 at Banana Manor. Expedition briefing will start promptly at 14:00.

It’s not a cushy holiday, but if you’re still packing your things, it might be a good idea to bring some cushy house slippers. They’re not official expedition kit list, but they might make base camp life more comfortable since Banana Manor is a stone and tile building. If your slippers are in the shape of cetaceans, you’ll get a star for the day ;)

I hope you all have good journeys and if you need to contact me before we meet, I confirm that my Portuguese mobile number is xxx. Please call me if you are going to miss the assembly meeting at Banana Manor. I am eager to meet you all!
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Advancing wildlife conservation - for nature, not profit
Introduction
Biosphere Expeditions is an award-winning not-for-profit conservation organisation (and a member of IUCN and the UN Environment Programme). For us successful conservation is the collective effort of individuals. We invite everyone to join us on our wildlife and wilderness projects all over the world.

The foundation of our work is science and local need. We focus on sustainable conservation projects that target clearly defined, critical issues that humankind has the power to change. International volunteers work hand-in-hand with local biologists and communities to drive positive outcomes for biodiversity - the creation of a protected area for snow leopards in the Altai is just one recent example.

Biosphere Expeditions is a member of the IUCN (International Union for the Conservation of Nature) and of the United Nations Environment Programme's (UNEP) Governing Council & Global Ministerial Environment Forum. Achievements include the implementation of our conservation recommendations and species protection plans by numerous national and regional governments and NGOs, the creation of protected areas on four continents, scientific and lay publications, as well as capacity-building, training and education all over the world.