Last summer, a team of dedicated scientists and rowers embarked on a 2,000-mile course around the coastline of Great Britain. With the goal of completing the toughest rowing challenge in the world in record-breaking time, whilst also raising money for charity and collecting vital scientific material for research.
GB Row partnered with the University of Portsmouth, Harwin and Nature Metrics to create the “Row with a purpose” mission. Along the route, rowers gathered various samples of data sets including eDNA, microplastics, temperature, salinity, and underwater noise.
RS Aqua integrated one of our passive acoustic recorders, Porpoise, into a custom deck box, paired with a GeoSpectrum Technologies Inc. hydrophone, which was embedded into the rudder. The acoustic data related to noise pollution and marine mammal monitoring on board the GB Row boats was used to create a first-of-its-kind soundscape map around the British coastline.
“Working in collaboration with the team at GB Row on such a novel project has really helped us develop our products and techniques for passive acoustic recording. The team have provided great feedback which has allowed incremental improvements to our hardware and its capability.”
– Terry Edwards, Technical Director at RS Aqua
The acoustic data was analysed by marine scientists at the University of Portsmouth. Over 376 underwater marine sounds were examined in more detail; 97 of which were identified as boats, 27 being marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and porpoises, and 48 were recognised as snapping shrimp.
“It has been well documented that our ocean temperatures have been increasing over the last 50 years. A key indicator of this is warmer water species migrating northward to cope with the rising temperature. The data collected during this challenge provided evidence of snapping shrimp, typically a warm water species, located on the Scottish coastline – suggesting this northward migration is already happening.”
– Phoebe Chadwick, Ocean Scientist at RS Aqua
As well as acoustic data, the boats also collected eDNA (environmental DNA) samples. By filtering 1L of water twice a day, scientists from NatureMetrics, including their founder/GB Row crewmember Dr. Kat Bruce, were able to observe the unique identifiers that certain animals leave behind. From these samples, 82 vertebrates were identified including European eels, undulate rays, garfish, seals, and even Atlantic puffin!
As has been widely reported, water samples taken from the voyage also came back with some concerning findings regarding microplastics in Britain’s coastal waters. A 2017 Cefas (Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science) study found up to 1.5 microplastics were present in every cubic metre of water, whilst the 2022 GB Row boats, using innovative steel filters which could capture smaller samples, recorded up to 121 microplastics per cubic metre.
The 2023 GB Row challenge is set to take place on the 4th June, learn more about how you can get involved here.
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