Georgia Aquarium is an lively accomplice and participant in The Global Shark Trends Project which concluded its multi-year evaluation of extinction threat of 1,250 species of sharks, rays, and chimaeras. The Undertaking is a part of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and has come to a startling realization: these species’ populations have declined 71 % within the final 50 years.
This necessary knowledge sheds mild on a quickly rising downside in our oceans: lots of its species could also be headed in direction of extinction.
In a singular dedication to conservation by the Aquarium, researcher Katelyn Herman is a specifically educated Crimson Checklist Officer for the IUCN. The Crimson Checklist is essentially the most detailed, goal catalog of animal and plant species, documenting their threat of extinction and drawing an image of the world’s organic well being. She helps the IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group, working alongside main scientists who contribute analysis to the Crimson Checklist.
Georgia Aquarium is one among two amenities in the US to commit this approach to the IUCN, with Herman simply one among three Crimson Checklist Officers at amenities accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA).
Herman’s work additionally makes Georgia Aquarium one among solely 10 IUCN “Crimson Checklist Hubs” developed worldwide with skilled zoo organizations, the place extra Crimson Checklist Officers will probably be educated. Hubs are actually at ABQ BioPark in New Mexico, The Deep in England, Lisbon Oceanarium in Portugal, and one other 4 are in growth.
“Sharks weren’t initially a species I felt strongly about, however since getting concerned on this mission I’ve fallen in love with them. There are such a lot of cool and weird species of sharks, and they’re too usually neglected and misunderstood,” Herman stated.
She’s the one particular person on the workforce creating GIS (Geographic Info System) subject maps, exhibiting the place each shark and ray species might be discovered throughout the planet. Herman’s analysis work at Georgia Aquarium additionally includes dolphin and whale shark analysis and GIS spatial evaluation.
The maps additionally embrace lots of different data, together with species names, whether or not their vary is seasonal, what yr the evaluation was achieved, the species’ standing, and extra. These maps even have longevity. They can be utilized for future coverage planning and analysis research previous this mission. With the speed of environmental threats and extinction dangers, each Crimson Checklist species should be re-assessed each 10 years, and maps should be up to date.
The World Shark Traits Undertaking confronted powerful challenges. Fewer marine species have been assessed for the Crimson Checklist than terrestrial species as a result of it’s exhausting to rely animals within the depths of the ocean, particularly when many species journey over vast ranges.
“Marine animals are harder,” Herman stated. “You may’t wait by a watering gap to rely them or monitor them on foot. It’s not straightforward to tag them and even when you need to use picture identification on a species, it’s nonetheless a matter of whether or not or not that one particular person occurs to be within the precise place I’m, at that second.”
In 2018 and 2019, previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, Herman traveled to Brazil and Colombia to assist assess the southwest Atlantic Ocean with consultants and fisheries from different international locations, together with Colombia, Venezuela, Brazil, the Falkland Islands, and extra.
“It’s extra environment friendly to have the regional consultants in a single place,” Herman says. “They’ll share issues such because the identified habitat of a species, and the way fishing actions are affecting the species in every area.”
It was a busy time for her – they assessed 120 species and located that vary maps wanted to be up to date, or created, for 115 of them.
Along with Herman’s diligent work with the World Shark Traits Undertaking and IUCN, Georgia Aquarium has additionally been the scene for necessary analysis choices and collaboration amongst establishments. The Aquarium hosted a weeklong sawfish workshop in 2017, the place consultants got here collectively and talked about easy methods to greatest shield them.
“One of many coolest issues I’ve achieved is assist manage the sawfish workshop,” Herman says. “Earlier than beginning with the IUCN, I solely knew a couple of handful of shark and ray species however being a part of this mission has broadened my information and understanding to a number of the most obscure, fascinating species I continuously cited IUCN in papers throughout school, and to now be participating with this group professionally is a privilege.”
Georgia Aquarium’s dedication is a part of a partnership between AZA and the IUCN, which up to now has relied on tutorial consultants.
Scientists at aquariums and zoos are consultants in animal care and science, and have helped save species for years, each within the wild and thru breeding applications to forestall extinctions. But whereas they’ve lengthy used and contributed knowledge to the Crimson Checklist, they haven’t engaged in evaluation.
Most of Crimson Checklist is volunteer-driven, and that takes longer to gather knowledge. However zoos and aquariums can present devoted employees time, which lets us transfer ahead extra shortly. Additionally, employees in zoos and aquariums have totally different talent units in species conservation than teachers, so these partnerships supply a broader scope of consultants.
Now, the teachings discovered from the Aquarium’s hands-on analysis will grow to be a part of the information base. The IUCN hopes to create a radical snapshot of biodiversity on Earth, making the Crimson Checklist a extra full “Barometer of Life” by assessing 160,000 species, resulting in stronger conservation insurance policies and initiatives.
“I really like being a part of this mission, with the brand new strategy of making a worldwide image,” she stated. “It has been rewarding to look again after three years with this mission and know that I contributed to such an necessary world effort to save lots of these unimaginable species.”
Katelyn Herman is the Undertaking Supervisor for the cooperative settlement manta ray research between Georgia Aquarium and the Bureau of Ocean Vitality Administration. Prior, she was the Undertaking Coordinator for Georgia Aquarium analysis & conservation and assumed this place in 2016 to help with initiatives for the Aquarium’s analysis portfolio. Her job included knowledge assortment, knowledge administration, GIS, allowing, and fieldwork. Katelyn acquired her B.S. in Biology from the College of Georgia, and her M.A. in Marine Conservation and Coverage from Stony Brook College. For Katelyn’s full bio and headshot, click on here.