Guano records aid species data

15 October 2007

A new project targeting Southern Africa's guano trade between 1890 and 1950 will recover 'fossilised' biological and ecological data from guano records for incorporation into current species and systems modelling and conservation practice.

The data will be sourced from the guano islands' administration and stored in an online database. Southern Africa has as many as 33 guano islands, said historical studies' Dr Lance van Sittert.

This interdisciplinary collaboration between UCT's Avian Demography Unit and the Department of Historical Studies will be funded by the Marine Conservation Biology Institute with a Mia J Tegner Memorial Research Grant in Marine Environmental History and Historical Marine Ecology.

The project will also accommodate two postgraduate history students: Adin Stamelman, who will be doing his doctorate on seabirds, and Thierry Rousset, who will be doing his master's on seals.

Their supervisors include Rob Crawford at Marine and Coastal Management and Dr Jean-Paul Roux, Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Namibia, and Professor Marthan Bester, University of Pretoria.

ADU director Professor Les Underhill said: “As a seabird and seal biologist, we have long realised that there is a wealth of critically important biological information sitting in the archive records. Because the guano islands were delivering a valuable stream of income to the government of the Cape Colony, the official records are detailed and extensive.”

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