Lady Elliot Island EXTREME field trip with Earthwatch

We have just come back from one of our field trip at beautiful Lady Elliot Island, although the weather conditions made this trip pretty extreme, we had a very good time and are delighted to have met seven new Earthwatch volunteers, Adele, Lea-Anne, Aki, Laura, Corrinne, Brad and Sophie. Your help was invaluable during this trip, and we got so much work done. Also a big thank you to Richard, the Earthwatch coordinator who always add this little bit of extra fun and support.

During that trip we identified 11 mantas, including 3 new individuals, collected lots of plankton and oceanographic data. In addition, about 2 months worth of manta photographed taken by Chris, one of the instructor on the island, were sorted and IDed. This represents about 90 different manta rays to identify.

Our two next Project Manta trip to Lady Elliot Island will be in February 2011 and June 2011. If you would like to come and be part of the project during those field trips you can contact us or Earthwatch Australia for more information:

Email: volunteers@earthwatch.org.au
Website: http://www.earthwatch.org/australia/exped/townsend.html

If you want to follow our adventures, share your manta experience(s) or ask us questions you can also visit on our facebook fan page: PROJECT MANTA_ The manta rays of eastern Australia.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, we will be more than happy to help you out.

We are looking forward to hearing from you and seeing your photos!
All the best,
The Project Manta team

Lydie Couturier
Fabrice Jaine
Kathy Townsend
Scarla Weeks
Anthony

Project Manta Updates November 2010

Satellite tags pop out!

Great news!! The two sat tags deployed at Lady Elliot Island last June recently popped-out and started transmitting data (recorded for the last 4 months). We have been lucky enough that someone found one of these tags on the beach and contacted us so we can get it back (Thanks again Anita!). We are still trying to recover the second tag with the help of the military and marine park as it washed off a beach around Shoalwater Bay Military training base near Cape Clinton, between Yeppoon and MacKay in eastern Queensland.
These tags were deployed on PawPaw (#309), a young female, and Cousteau (#394), a mature male that were sighted and tagged at Lady Elliot Island in June 2010. Unexpectedly, the two tags popped up around the same region (around Yeppoon coast) meaning that the two mantas have moved the same direction at the same time. Cousteau was also tagged with an acoustic transmitter from which we know that he stayed around Lady Elliot Isl until late September. Data from the sat tags are not yet available, but we will keep you updated as soon as we get any interesting results on where Cousteau and PawPaw have been between June and October. These data will be one of the first obtained from the inshore manta ray species, Manta alfredi, so we are very excited and keep our fingers crossed for good results.
IF YOU THINK YOU CAN HELP US TO RECOVER THE TAG PLEASE CALL FABRICE AT 0415644643 we offer a $500 reward for the recovery of the missing tag

The mantas are moving south!
Manta rays have been sighted and photographed in numbers at North Stradbroke Island indicating that they have started moving south! So get your cameras ready for some belly shot action. We are also deploying this month our acoustic receivers (or listening stations that will pick up the signal of acoustic tags when the tagged manta is within 500m from the receiver). Those will “spy” tagged mantas that made the trek back to Nth Stradbroke Isl. More acoustic tags should also be deployed soon.
Please, share your manta photos with us! Our current knowledge on the east Australian mantas largely comes from photo-identification and your support by sending us the photos and sighting info.
If a new individual is identified from your photos, you get to Name Your Own Manta!

PROJECT MANTA: How to take a useful photo
Manta rays have a unique pattern of dark markings on their belly surface used to identify each individual
Take photos of manta rays, share them with us and be part of our exciting research Project Manta!
3 keys areas:
1: Between the gill slits
2: The belly
3: The pelvic fins: sex of the ray.
Perfect photo = 3 key areas clearly visible on the photo
If your photo has only 1 area visible, send it anyway!
Dorsal shots are also useful

If a new individual is identified from your photos, you get to NAME YOUR OWN MANTA!
SEND your photos with DATE, LOCATION and PHOTOGRAPHER’s name to:
Email: project.manta@uq.edu.au or
Post: Project Manta
Moreton Bay Research Station
Cr of Flinders and Fraser St
Dunwich QLD 4183

Lost tags and shark bites:
We have now confirmed that two of our formerly tagged animals: Pokey (#224) and Evadne (#251) have lost their acoustic tags. They both seemed to have healed very well from the tag dart hole. This is unfortunate for us as we won’t get any more data from those mantas and we don’t know how many of them have actually lost their tag. On the good side, at least these two mantas won’t have to drag their unwanted “piercing” anymore. In addition, Pokey, a large mature female got herself a fresh shark bite, but she seems to have recovered very well and was very interactive with us when we saw her again this October at Lady Elliot Island.

Lady Elliot Island EXTREME field trip with Earthwatch
We have just come back from one of our field trip at beautiful Lady Elliot Island, although the weather conditions made this trip pretty extreme, we had a very good time and are delighted to have met seven new Earthwatch volunteers, Adele, Lea-Anne, Aki, Laura, Corrinne, Brad and Sophie. Your help was invaluable during this trip, and we got so much work done. Also a big thank you to Richard, the Earthwatch coordinator who always add this little bit of extra fun and support.
During that trip we identified 11 mantas, including 3 new individuals, collected lots of plankton and oceanographic data. In addition, about 2 months worth of manta photographed taken by Chris, one of the instructor on the island, were sorted and IDed. This represents about 90 different manta rays to identify.
Our two next Project Manta trip to Lady Elliot Island will be in February 2011 and June 2011. If you would like to come and be part of the project during those field trips you can contact us or Earthwatch Australia for more information:
Email: volunteers@earthwatch.org.au
Website: http://www.earthwatch.org/australia/exped/townsend.html

Database
We now have 440 manta rays identified and still a lot of photos to go through. From those 211 were resighted at least once at Lady Elliot Island (LEI), North Stradbroke Island (NSI) and/or Byron Bay. Thirty mantas have been identified at both LEI and NSI, which support our idea that we have the same population of manta rays that migrate between these two locations. In addition, we have 4 individuals identified at LEI that were resighted at Byron Bay and two animals that have been travelling between NSI and Byron Bay. All those data were collected thanks to the photos you sent us! This is an amazing effort and we can’t wait to get more photos and know more about these giants in eastern Australia.
Doco crew and Kathy went to the Maldives
Kathy and the documentary crew went filming the mantas rays in the Maldives Islands during their amazing and unique cyclone feeding event. They also got the chance to meet with the local manta expert and scientist Guy Stevens. We will send you more details soon!
The footage will come out soon in Project Manta documentary...

Japanese devil ray dissection
Several Japanese devil rays were found stranded on beaches along Queensland coast between August and September. These rays are very much like manta rays, they feed on plankton and have about the same body shape. However, devil rays have smaller body, their head is more prominent and narrower compare to mantas. They also have their mouth placed underneath the chin instead of in front of the head like for mantas (see figure).
Four of them were found along the ocean side of North Stradbroke Island, with no obvious cause of death. We brought one back to the research station and performed a necropsy on the animal. We didn’t find the cause of death as the animal seemed in pretty good health, but we managed to collect some tissue sample for genetic analyses, gill rakers (used as a sieve to filtrate the plankton out of the water), the stomach content (full of small crustacean larvae) and the jaws (with very tiny teeth). We will give you more details about what we found when we get the chance to look at those properly.

Stickers!
We finally got our Project Manta stickers to be given away to all our wonderful contributors; they will be distributed to all our partner dive clubs along the coast. Get one of those to stick on your car or wherever you want, as long as everybody can see it!

Facebook page
If you want to follow our adventures, share your manta experience(s) or ask us questions you can also visit on our facebook fan page: PROJECT MANTA_ The manta rays of eastern Australia.
Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions, we will be more than happy to help you out.
We are looking forward to hearing from you and seeing your photos!
All the best,
The Project Manta team
Lydie Couturier
Fabrice Jaine
Kathy Townsend
Scarla Weeks
Anthony Richardson
Mike Bennett