Reece Mills

A Behind-the-Scenes Report from our stellar Intern

At the beginning of February, the FjordStrong team expanded taking onboard new intern Reece and providing him with the opportunity to gain experience working for a marine environmental consultancy. Now equipped with three months practice, in which Reece worked closely with our expert marine biology team, he can now give a report on what he has been occupied with during his time at the consultancy. 

Welcome to my report, I’m Reece and I’m a marine biology student at Queen’s
University Belfast currently working with the FjordStrong team as part of my professional
studies year. My previous experience includes a 6 months’ placement within the marine
fisheries branch of Agri-Food and Bioscience Institute which provided me with an
understanding of fisheries monitoring and management.

While at FjordStrong, one of my main tasks has been assisting in the development and
refinement of the Stereo-BRUV system which will be used extensively in future surveys
as it allows us to measure the length of marine organisms to an astonishing level of
accuracy through just using two cameras with a slightly different point of view. From this
we can also estimate the individual’s mass and infer fecundity and condition based on these estimates. Before being introduced into any FjordStrong survey, our Stereo-BRUV
design had to be tested extensively; in late April, we completed field tests at the Maidens
and were even able to measure the length of our first elasmobranch, the humble lesser
spotted dogfish (Scyliorhins canicular), whos length was 55.98 cm. Below you can see
some of the footage we captured during these deployments.

Analysing the footage captured on surveys is another one of my job roles; this includes
identifying species, recording abundances, taking length measurements, and noting
down animal behaviour. I find the analysis side of the job very interesting, and I’m
encouraged on by the potential of coming across that next big discovery, like how the
FjordStrong team captured footage of a sixgill shark of the coast of Co. Clare in what
was a European first. There’s a thrill every time you deploy the camera system as you
just don’t know what it’s going to capture.

Another daily task of mine at FjordStrong has been researching and developing ways to
optimise our current BRUV setup for even more effective deployments. This has
involved designing experiments to test different light configurations, camera settings and
post-processing practices. From these trials we have been able to determine different
BRUV configuration profiles that produce the best results in a variety of environmental
conditions and thanks to the adaptability of the FjordStrong BRUV design, these profiles
can be changed in the field with ease. This task made me quickly realise how every
component of our BRUV design is built for purpose.

Much has been learnt at my time at FjordStrong and it’s hard to believe that three
months have passed already. With more surveys on the horizon and more footage to
analyse, I am excited for what’s in store for my next three months at the company and
who knows, there may even be that next big discovery.