Meet The Manx Basking Shark Watch Team.
Manx basking shark watch is run by volunteers with the exceptions of Duncan Bridges and Eleanor Stone who are employed by the Manx Wildlife Trust. There is a basking shark steering group and the indispensable public sighting scheme volunteers who help with the website sightings.
The Basking Shark Steering Committee: Jackie and Graham Hall, Duncan Bridges, Fiona Gell, Richard Hartnoll and Eleanor Stone.
Jackie Hall, the Manx Basking Shark Watch Coordinator is a Marine Biologist with an MSc in Tropical Coastal Management, a BSc (hons) in Marine Biology and a BA from the OU. She was at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne 1991-2000. Having been a keen diver for 20 years she is particularly fond of sharks, coral, intertidal rockpools and very big bits of kelp.
She has been the voluntary Marine officer for the Manx Wildlife Trust (MWLT) since 2001. She set up the MWLT’s Manx Basking Shark Watch in 2005. Having written the website and run the public sighting scheme by herself for the first two years she was extremely grateful when other volunteers and then the official Basking Shark Steering Group came on board.
As well as coordinating MBSW she and her husband Graham run their own small research boat ‘Happy Jack’ from where they tag basking sharks, study basking shark courtship behaviour and help other basking shark scientists and wildlife film crews to find the sharks.
Graham Hall has an MSc in Engineering. He is the secretary of the MBSW steering group as well as being the technical and boat officer. He was born in Northumberland and spent most of his working life in engineering and manufacturing in many places around the world. He moved to the Isle of Man 10 years ago in search of a less hectic and more rewarding lifestyle.
He has a long interest in basking sharks born from a few close encounters as a youth. Watching sharks breeching off Aran was particularly inspiring. On one occasion on Luce Bay he fell asleep in a small boat whilst fishing only to awake among a huge shoal of courting sharks. He is unlikely to forget the very close encounter whilst swimming in the Firth of Clyde (just after watching jaws in the seventies). He was unable to sleep for a week. Given this long association with basking sharks it was inevitable that when his wife Jackie took up an interest in the basking sharks he was drawn into working closely on the project.
His ability to spot a fin in impossible visibility won a place with the team and his skills in developing inexpensive solutions to very expensive problems dragged him into an almost full time engineering role with the project. Apart from being the Engineering Department (voluntary and unpaid) he is the secretary of the Steering Committee and the Manx Wildlife Trust’s Marine Committee and the co-organiser of the Queenie Festival, a week long celebration of the sea.
Given his excellent hand-eye coordination it is his responsibility to tag the sharks from the very small but wonderfully manoeuvrable Happy Jack for which he is the Skipper and Chief Engineer (especially when anything goes wrong).
He believes the sharks to be truly awesome (yes he has spent some time in New Zealand) and wonderful animals and is wholly committed to playing his small part in their global protection and management.
The photograph shows him rowing out to the MBSW research boat "Happy Jack".
Eleanor Stone, Marine Officer, Manx Wildlife Trust: Eleanor is a Biologist with a BSc (Hons) in Biological Sciences from the University of Edinburgh and an MSc in Marine Mammal Science from Bangor University. She spent a lot of time doing whale and dolphin research during her studying years, before taking an interest in Basking Sharks when she moved to the Isle of Man in 2007 - with so many of these amazing creatures around they are pretty hard to ignore!
Having volunteered for the Manx Basking Shark Watch in 2008, analysing all the public sightings data, she took up the post of Marine Officer at the Manx Wildlife Trust in 2009, with one of her main responsibilities being the basking shark work.
Richard Hartnoll, Chair of the Basking Shark Steering Committee, and of the Manx Wildlife Trust Marine Committee. A retired marine biologist, and a long-term staff member of the late Port Erin Marine Laboratory.
His research interests have included Crustacea (particularly crabs, where work is still proceeding), and shore ecology. Work in the tropics has become a major focus. However, marine environmental quality has been an ongoing concern, and the Basking Shark Project is a flagship programme which focuses public opinion on the seas of the Isle of Man.
He is involved in the management side of the Project, but enjoys the hands-on aspect of working with the website. That is the public face of the Project, and the public is what makes it all work. Through the project they can appreciate the problems facing our waters, and the benefits of protecting our marine heritage.
Dr Fiona Gell sits on the basking shark steering group and issues the scientific and filming licenses for all basking shark work on the Island.
Fiona is the Marine Wildlife and Conservation Officer with the Wildlife and Conservation Division of the Isle of Man Government. She did her PhD research on seagrass fish and fisheries in Northern Mozambique and has worked on fish ecology and fisheries projects in the Indian Ocean, Caribbean and Irish Sea. Much of her work has focussed on Marine Protected Areas and their role in protecting the marine environment and potential for fisheries management.
In 2003 Fiona returned to her native Isle of Man to work at the Port Erin Marine Laboratory and in 2004 she became the first Marine Conservation Officer with the Isle of Man Government. Since then she has been involved in a wide variety of marine conservation and management work, including setting up the Manx Marine Nature Reserve Project and having an active involvement in basking shark conservation and research with Manx Basking Shark Watch.
Fiona loves working with Manx Basking Shark Watch and really values her involvement in a project which combines community participation, exciting research, active conservation and the opportunity to work with the most amazing fish species in the world!
Please contact Fiona for information about licences for basking shark filming and research: firstname.lastname@example.org
Volunteer Team 2010 - 'The Dolphineers'!
2010 has been the first year we have recruited volunteers to help with all aspects of Manx Basking Shark Watch work. The team has come from all over the British Isles to dedicate themselves, full time. They also help the Manx Whale and Dolphin Watch (hence their team name!). Here is a bit about them.
Kerry Froud - Graduated from the University of Chichester in England with a
BA (Honours) degree in adventure education. During her work placement year as
part of her course, she volunteered for a humpback whale-watching and sea
kayaking company in the Kingdom of Tonga, South Pacific. This experience
instigated her passion for conservation science and she then went on to complete
her undergraduate dissertation on swimming with humpback whales in Tonga and
operator compliance to the whale watch guidelines. Since then she has been getting involved in as many aspects of conservation
as she possibly can. This April she joined the Manx Basking Shark Watch team as a research
assistant on both boat surveys and land watches.