2014 - Grant Awarded - £1000

The Thames harbour porpoise project: The life and times of the UK’s smallest cetacean in our busiest urban waterway

The project focuses on the presence of harbour porpoises, Europe’s smallest cetacean, in the Thames Estuary, the UK’s busiest urban waterway. Once severely polluted, the Thames Tideway is now a diverse and thriving ecosystem, home to over 100 species of fish, and seals. Regular sightings of harbour porpoises are reported but there has never been a survey to assess the local population, and there is very little public awareness of this enigmatic species within the Thames Estuary. MCR and partners will conduct the first dedicated surveys for harbour porpoises there to provide information to inform their conservation. The team will also conduct outreach and educational activities to inspire local people to connect with their environment and wildlife. Surveys will be conducted from W London to the outer estuary, in winter and summer 2015, and will investigate the species' seasonal distribution, as well as quantifying threats (e.g. from underwater noise, fishing activities and litter). Outreach activities will include virtual ‘lessons’ for school pupils, public open days on board the research vessel, lectures for A level students and a participants scheme for individuals who would benefit from the unique insight into and experience of field research by joining the team to work along-side them.

We now have provisional dates for the first vessel survey – which are 6-13th March 2015. We are also hoping to have land based volunteer observers conducing watches at various points around the Thames estuary to coincide with the vessel based survey.

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