Wild Otters with Katrine: Month 2

Tourist season is right around the corner, so to ensure we make the most of it, a marketing team has been created. By being a member of the team I get to see how this side of an organisation functions. Social media is the most effective way of advertising, posts can be viewed by a plethora of people that could not be reached by any other means. I have been given the Twitter handle; here I am regularly updating the page with information about the company and making connections with other conservation organisations. We are in the process of creating a campaign against plastic straws; this is perfect timing as during tourist season a vast amount will be used. Many of the premises’ here are not aware of the environmental impact plastic has. To combat the problem Wild Otters are creating a campaign to raise awareness. A leaflet will be given to establishments highlighting the key problems surrounding plastic straws. If a premises stops using plastic straws, they will be given a sticker that they can display to show they are plastic straw free. I am in the process of designing the sticker which will be given to the businesses. When approaching each place we need to ensure that we have a list of alternatives and where they can source them from, which will make the switch from plastic to a substitute easier.

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Wild Otters team.

On October 14th the Wild Otters shop was opened. Ensuring the shop was ready for the opening required a large amount of effort from all members of the team. I took part in decorating the shop, for example I created stencils of various animals to be used on the outside, and took part in the overall design of the interior. The shop is located at the Madel ferry point on the island. Around this area there is a great amount of litter, we spent a significant amount of time cleaning it up, ensuring it did not enter the river and nearby mangroves. A significant amount of time has been taken discussing the type of opportunities the company offers, such as internships and volunteering. I have been involved in these discussions, deciding on the style of programmes and factors surrounding it, such as the price and length of programmes. The process of creating the shop and watching everyone’s ideas come together has been fun.

I attended a book launch for ‘Tea with Tigers’ by Dr AJT Johnsingh. He is an Indian vertebrate ecologist, his study on the Dhole was the first study conducted by an Indian scientists on a free ranging animal, making his work ground-breaking.  After introducing his book, four different people spoke who are large influencers in conservation within India. Once they each gave their own talks, they took part in a discussion. It was fascinating to see how people interested in the same area have various opinions. Topics spoken about included how the tiger population within India is on the increase. Whilst this is good news, there are concerns as to whether there is a sufficient amount of land for them, as tigers cover a vast range during their life. Conservation problems in Goa were also discussed, such as concerns over local fishermen surviving with the presence of commercial fishing activity.

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One of the eDNA sampling sites.

All living organisms leave traces of DNA within their environment, reflecting their activity and presence. This DNA may be in the form of faeces, gametes, urine alongside many other potential sources. Environmental DNA (eDNA) can be intracellular or extracellular, due to it being characterised by a complex combination of mitochondrial, nuclear or chloroplast DNA. Therefore, this means eDNA can also result from decomposing dead organisms, as well as living ones. Species can be detected regardless of their stage of life. Biotic (fungi, bacteria, etc) and abiotic (temperature, acidity, etc) factors can degrade the DNA once it is released in the environment. The degradation of eDNA is slowed down by cold and dry conditions. Environmental DNA can be stored in the permafrost for hundreds of thousands of years. The persistence of eDNA in marine sediments, depending on environmental conditions, varies from months to thousands of years. Aquatic environments do not provide good conditions for eDNA to persist, causing it to only be detected for a few days.

A project is being carried out here using eDNA to detect if otters are present in an area. I am assisting the researcher in carrying out this investigation. The focus is on two habitats, one is fresh water whilst the other is saline. My role includes helping with the collection of samples in the field, alongside the decontamination of equipment. Ensuring that each piece of equipment is decontaminated properly is essential for the project. Otter DNA could be present on an item, if we do not decontaminate the item correctly, then it will be taken to a new site. This would then create incorrect data as otter DNA will be identified in the sample, when there might not have been any present.

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Common Palm Civet (Paradoxurus hermaphroditus) caught on the camera trap.

Over the final weekend of the month we held a workshop called ‘Wildlife Research Techniques’. Here participants learnt various skills that are essential when working in the field with wildlife. The first day focused on camera trapping, after a talk on how to use camera traps, they practised using them outside. This gave everyone a chance to understand which settings are best for different scenarios, and how each angle captures a different view point. Once they felt confident using the camera trap, each group chose a species that they aimed to capture, and they set up the camera trap in the jungle. On the second day, they learnt the skills behind using a GPS. A survey simulation allowed them to understand how a GPS device is used in the field. On the final day they collected their camera traps and analysed the footage that had been captured. The group that I was supervising were focusing on wild boar, due to their correct placement they managed to get footage of a wild boar. Alongside this, a civet cat was also caught on camera.

 

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