Understanding the impact of economic growth on biodiversity of harpacticoid copepods (Crustacea) in the Galapagos Marine Reserve (Ecuador)

Master Thesis subject (30 ECTS)
Oceans and Lakes
The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s best-conserved island ecosystems. This makes the Archipelago a living laboratory to study how nature works and to study species interactions in communities with fenomenal high biodiversity and endemism. However, human effects on wildlife focus researchers’ attention now. In recent years the growth of tourism has increased human pressure on the environment and the species of the islands. Economic growth in Galapagos is estimated to be close to 20% oer annum. The main sectors of activity are tourism, fishing, agriculture and construction. These activities are being developed under the framework of the new Ecuadorian constitution that includes the concept of the ‘right of nature’ and a national plan for Good Living. This constitution needs to be underpinned by solid scientific data. Therefore UGent researchers in cooperation with ESPOL (Escuela Superior Politecnica del Litoral, Guayaquil, Ecuador) and the Charles Darwin Foundation (Galapagos, Ecuador) started a biomonitoring effort to study marine communities (fish and benthos) in relation to environmental conditions and biochemical composition of the sea water. This thesiswork aims to study the biodiversity of smaller benthic fraction i.e. meiofauna with specific emphasis on harpacticoid copepods (Crustacea) in different intertidal habitats in the Galapagos Marine Reserve. Harpacticoid copepods are main food source (juvenile) fish and form therefore a pivotal link between primary producers and higher trophic levels. Next to characterising their diversity, this thesis will also aim to screen for trophic markers (fatty acids) in order to quantify the flow of energy in different coastal habitats. In this manner, structural and functional biodiversity will be documented and linked to environmental conditions (water quality data made available by the partners at UGent and ESPOL). The practical work of this masterthesis includes active participation in the field work, microscopic identification and biochemical screening of the collected organisms. We are searching for a student who is eager to go for this challenge, who is willing to work hard in the field, who is a teamplayer and who has the patience to identify the organisms back in the lab in Gent.
This thesistopic includes participation of the student in the field sampling (July-August 2017). Motivated students can contact the promotor for further information on practical issues and any further requirements including budget.
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De Troch
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copromotors: Peter Goethals (UGent), Jorge Rafael Bermudez Monsalve (ESPOL, Ecuador)
Reference Number: RP-49291