Project proposal details

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Project title
Elasmobranch (shark, skate & ray) conservation in Cameroon – analysis of market survey data
Contact name
Joanna Barker
Project based at
Zoological Society of London
Project description
Elasmobranchs (sharks, skates and rays) are an extremely diverse group of animals but are at particular risk to over-fishing due to their low reproductive rate (maturing at large sizes and producing fewer young that other fish) (Dulvy et al. 2014). Elasmobranch research and conservation in Cameroon is in its infancy; few studies have been completed to identify which species are present in Cameroon waters and legislation does not exist for fishers to document which species they catch and/or land. However, global analyses have revealed that the Gulf of Guinea is a hotspot for elasmobranch species richness and endemism (species with very restricted ranges) (Dulvy et al. 2014); suggesting research in this area is of global importance.

ZSL Cameroon initiated market surveys in June 2018 at two major fish markets to better understand elasmobranch species presence and changes in catch over the year. Following five surveys (June 18, August 18, October 18, December 18, March 19) completed in the two fish markets, 20 different species and 1,340 individulas were identified. This included four guitarfish species, an endemic freshwater stingray and juvenile scalloped hammerhead sharks. This is the largest elasmobranch-focused survey conducted in Cameroon to date.

This MSc/MRes project will explore the database, with support of ZSL Cameroon and ZSL London, to evaluate the species present and trends over the period through statistical analysis. Specifically, the project objectives include
1. Develop understanding of what elasmobranch species are found in Cameroon, with a focus on the Douala-Edéa region
2. Investigate temporal changes in elasmobranch occurrence (ie. change over months and/or between the wet and dry season)
3. Identify key ecological stages through market catches (e.g. pupping season, mating season)
This project would need a supervisor from the student’s home institution to support statistical analysis /choice of statistical methods suitable for this data.
Recommended reading:
• Dulvy et al. 2014. Extinction Risk and Conservation of the World’s Sharks and Ray. eLife. 3:e00590
• Last et al. 2016. Rays of the World. Cornell University Press
• Last et al. 2016. A revised classification of the family Dasyatidae (Chondrichthyes: Myliobatiformes) based on new morphological and molecular insights. Zootaxa. 4139:(3). 245-268
• Moore and Grubbs. 2019. Shark and ray conservation research: Absent where the need is greatest. Aquatic Conservation Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems. 1.1
Additional requirements
The student will need to have experience in using statistical software (preferably R). They will also need some quantitative experience of analysing large datasets and an interest in elasmobranch species identification. Ability to speak French would be desirable (but not necessary). The student would need a co-supervisor at their home institution to support them in statistical analysis and/or modelling.
Available support
A desk to work at ZSL could be provided when needed. Benefits of this would include: peer support from the student community at ZSL and regular connect with supervisors, experience working in a large NGO environment; opportunities to attend regular scientific talks by professional researchers and practitioners in science and conservation; access to ZSL facilities including the Library and both zoo sites.
Date uploaded
2020-01-17

Project proposal limitations

The project proposer has indicated that there are some limitations to the availability of this project. It may only be available at certain times of year or suit a specific project length. It may also need skills taught to students on a particular course or courses.

Research project proposals are usually part of an active research programme. If supervisors have stated limitations to a proposal, then they are unlikely to have any flexibility. If you are very interested in the topic but have problems with the stated limitations, the supervisor may still be happy to talk to you about other options around the proposal, but you should not expect that any alternative arrangements can be made.

Project length limitations
3.5 months, 5 months
Available date limitations
Spring (April-May)