The Malta Independent 25 June 2022, Saturday

Maltese marine conservation research efforts extend in time and space

Sunday, 1 March 2020, 09:00 Last update: about 3 years ago

Over 20 years of work by the UM’s Conservation Biology Research Group

Dolphins, whales, turtles, sharks, rays and other marine biodiversity have been under the dedicated long-term and year-round research focus of the Conservation Biology Research Group (CBRG-UM) at the Department of BiologyProf. Adriana Vella, lead researcher of CBRG-UM, has seen her 100,000km2 research area around the Maltese Islands expand over 20 years of research to areas in Greek waters and southern Italy where projects have been possible through her supervision.  


Though most of these animals are not seen easily by the general public and necessary conservation work on these species is very costly in time and funds, they still deserve being protected as essential part of marine life and the much-needed resources and functions they contribute to.

CBRG-UM researchers are out there themselves for hours and days on end to gather the much-needed data and this has been carried out by Prof. Vella and her team of researchers, including Bicref NGO volunteers using boat and plane surveys. Through this extensive experience, she has also managed to inspire and supervise work in other Mediterranean regions where no previous conservation research on cetaceans had been carried out before. Additionally, being asked by foreign students to come over to the University of Malta for their MSc/PhD research work or internships under her supervision also reflects the spreading interest in acquiring the scientific skills for this demanding but useful conservation research. 

Locally various sea-users have been of support in this work by forwarding their own sightings out at sea and additionally contribute toward long-term and focused conservation efforts that have been ongoing since 1997. Thanks are therefore also due to fishermen, yachtsmen, AFM, maritime Transport Malta and the general public.

The valuable work being achieved by the Conservation Biology Research Group at the Department of Biology may effectively address conservation plans and measures for endangered species through scientific knowledge based on thorough long-term data sets. The integrative research methods adopted, where relationships between genetics, ecology, fisheries and environmental conservation management are considered, allow the disciple of conservation biology to pick up the vital momentum necessary for the current urgent needs.

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