Seahorse rescue in a race against time to reverse decline
Seahorse husbandry 101 isn’t in the degree outline, but for two UTS postgraduate students caring for endangered seahorses will be a summer job to remember.
As summer jobs go for aspiring aquarists, it doesn’t get much better than caring for seahorse couples and hundreds of “perfect, miniature replica babies” known as fry. UTS Science graduates Jillian Chambers, 24, and Taylah Starc, 23, are playing a key role in a unique breeding project led by SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, designed to save White’s seahorse, Australia’s only threatened seahorse species.
The conservation project brings together collaborators from the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Fisheries and the University of Technology Sydney.
The recent listing of White’s seahorse, also known as the Sydney seahorse, as an “endangered” species in New South Wales means the project is vitally important for reversing the decline in seahorse numbers in the Sydney region.
Aquarist and Seahorse Expert at SEA LIFE Sydney Aquarium, Robbie McCracken, says the project aims to “successfully breed, raise and release White’s seahorse back into the wild”.
I’m thrilled to have two fantastic masters research students that can support the project and contribute to the recovery of the beautiful Sydney seahorses as a long-term initiative.
UTS Professor of Marine Biology
Jillian and Taylah have been overseeing breeding pairs, including pregnant males, collected from Sydney Harbour in early November, now housed in a new custom built facility at SEA LIFE. Both say the highlight so far has been watching the births of the first baby seahorses.
“It has been amazing watching the fry grow and develop from birth to now. We feel like proud parents,” Jillian said.
Taylah recalls arriving in the morning to clean the tanks and “noticing two little babies in the tank.”
“I spent the next two hours waiting in anticipation of the birth. It was so exciting when it finally happened. I was quite surprised to see how long the birth actually took.
“The male seems to have contractions like a human for hours before finally giving birth to the brood,” she said.
UTS Professor of Marine Biology, David Booth, who is supervising the students while they study for a Master of Science in Marine Science and Management, said “We were excited to be invited to work on this important project.”
Read the full story at UTS Newsroom: Seahorse rescue in a race against time to reverse decline