With one week to go ’till our expedition sets out, we are nearing the end of our project blog series. Today we’re talking to our teammate, Lucy, about her project she’ll be starting in just 7 days as we arrive in the Red Sea!

Project title: Investigating Territory Size & Activity Levels of the Freckled Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri

What is the significance behind your project?

An organism experiences pressures throughout its life which ultimately shape its reproductive success and survival. Just as in humans, different personalities shape differential lifestyles in the animal kingdom. This can be seen in the freckled hawkfish, a fish studied extensively by previous Glasgow University expeditions to the Red Sea, hence, providing a detailed record of the population.

With increased boldness in personality comes increased opportunities such as venturing further for food, exhibiting stronger defensive performances & so on, albeit with greater risks. This is opposed to shy personalities taking less risks but with greater predation protection. This can be correlated with territory size – the area in which an organism resides & defends for exclusive feeding & breeding rights. By defining their territory, the males effectively monopolise their mating opportunities with females within their harem, hence, establishing their reproductive success. Territoriality has a strong authority over population dynamics and the trait is readily influenced by external factors such as density of competitors and resource abundancies. Hence, with fluctuating environmental conditions comes altered territoriality and consequently, uneven division of resources among the population, leading to differential life history traits. These may include growth, mortality rates and reproduction in the competitors. With different personality types exhibiting different survivability and success, research aims to determine the drivers behind these dissimilarities & how to manage them, particularly in light of the rapidly shifting environmental conditions of todays oceans.

How are you going to carry out your project?

Territory size will be determined by observing an individual for a set period of time, placing markers wherever they deviate from their perch, i.e. for feeding, defensive behaviour, etc. After this time, measurements of the territory will be taken either directly by scuba divers or by taking photos with known-sized objects in frame.

Activity levels will be observed throughout the course of the day to witness all possible behaviours exhibited by the hawkfish. This will provide a framework for data collection, allowing the observer to record the proportion of time each individual spends doing each activity. Photos of the individual’s unique markings can then be taken to compile with data from previous years.

What are you most looking forward to in the Egypt Expedition?

Having been to Egypt previously on holidays, I am really looking forward to learning more about the beautiful reefs of the Red Sea. I also assisted research projects data collection in Trinidad last summer, so I am excited to have the opportunity to carry out my own project this year. I’m also on a mission to spot a dugong and, of course, a bit of sun won’t go amiss either!


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