Naima Andrea Lopez
Thesis: Understanding spatial and temporal patterns of oceanic sharks: implications for management and conservation.
Oceanic sharks are apex predators and play a critical role in marine ecosystem health and resilience. Globally, oceanic sharks are amongst the most threatened of vertebrates with documented declines up to 92% in some species. These declines have knock-on ecosystem impacts, causing major structural and functional changes that can reduce ocean health. Effective management policies and conservation planning are vital to halt and reverse the declines in oceanic sharks and further research is needed. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a key strategy to address these population declines. Australia has established a network of MPAs throughout its marine territory and the Galápagos Marine Park has redefined its zonation.
The aim of my research is to evaluate whether these MPAs include key habitats for the conservation of oceanic sharks and whether there is a difference in the abundance and diversity of oceanic sharks in different management zones within these MPAs. Additionally, I will examine the ecological drivers of aggregations of oceanic sharks in shallow coastal ecosystems in Western Australia to assess the importance of such habitats to these species. To examine these key questions, I will use two main non-invasive sampling methods: stereo baited remote underwater video systems (BRUVS) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV, commonly referred to as drones). The outcomes of my research will help assess the role of Western Australian and Galápagos MPAs in the protection of threatened oceanic sharks, with wider applicability to conservation planning on a global scale.
Why my research is important
This project will enhance our knowledge on the spatial ecology of oceanic sharks and will help assess the role of Western Australian MPAs in the protection of threatened oceanic sharks, with wider applicability to conservation planning on a global scale.